The 18th of May is International Museum Day, and to celebrate, here is a list of five of the top museums I’ve visited. I chose the museums below based on different merits, in order to avoid over-lapping in geographical areas or museum types.
1.Musée du Louvre – Paris, France
It really should be no surprise that the number one spot goes to the Louvre Museum, one of the world’s biggest collections of international history artifacts, housed in a beautiful historic monument.
The Louvre receives over 8 million visitors every single year, making it the most visited museum in the world. With over 35 thousands artifacts from all through history, including some of the world’s most valuable pieces of art (including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa), the museum is impossible to cover on a single visit.
Aside from the significance of the items housed within the museum, the building of the Louvre is fantastic: from the 12th Century initial structure to the modern glass pyramid entrance built in 1989, the building is a work of art in itself.
2.Museo Nacional de Antropología – Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico’s most-visited museum, the National Museum of Anthropology, opened in 1964 within the realms of Mexico City’s famous Chapultepec Park. The museum contains one of the most impressive collections of pre-hispanic artifacts in all of Latin America, and is one of the world’s most impressive museums of anthropology.
The architecture of the museum is impressive in itself: 23 exhibition halls surround an open-air patio covered by an enormous squared concrete ‘umbrella’ supported by a single column. From the ‘umbrella,’ a circular waterfall falls multiple metres down into a large pond in the courtyard.
The exhibition halls include archeological and anthropological artifacts from over 50 different pre-Hispanic cultures around Mexico, as well as post-Hispanic textiles and artifacts. Perhaps the most famous piece of history found at the museum is the “Stone of the Sun,” known as the Aztec Calendar.
3.Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA
Popularly known as “The Met,” the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest museum in the USA, and one of the largest collections of art in the world.
The main building of the Met (the one I visited) is located in New York City’s Central Park. The museum contains an impressive amount of art from all over the world, separated into various halls, by geographical area.
The most dominant permanent exhibits at the Met represent Ancient Egypt, classical Rome and Greek sculptures, European art (including famous works of art by the Masters of the Renaissance), as well as a large collection of American art. There are also large permanent exhibits dedicated to Oceanic, Oriental, and Islamic art, as well as a significant amount of modern art.
The vast amount of art from so many different places in the world and different periods in time, make a visit to the Met entertaining. There is so much to see that it is virtually impossible to see everything in one go. Definitely a must visit place on any trip to New York City.
4.Musei Vaticani, Vatican City, Italy
Italy is home to many of the greatest art museums in the world, but one of the most impressive is the Vatican Museum, within the walls of the Vatican City.
My main reason for choosing this museum out of any other museum in Italy is because of the impact it had on me, due to a large concentration of incredible works of arts (both paintings and sculptures) packed within the walls of the museum. To make the experience even more overwhelming, the art pieces are housed within beautifully decorated rooms and halls that are as impressive as the art itself.
The halls of the Vatican museum allow visitors to move in one direction only (there are too many visitors to the relatively small museum, to allow otherwise), guiding them from room to room; the final part of the museum is the Sistine Chapel, with its famous wall and ceiling murals by Michelangelo.
The Sistine Chapel is much smaller than I imagined, and will be crowded in any visit; nevertheless, the mural paintings are beautiful. Even without the Sistine Chapel as a finale, the Vatican Museum is impressive, and well worth the 2-hour line up to enter.
5.Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.
Located in the beautiful waterfront area in Wellington’s Central Business District, Te Papa Tongarewa – Museum of New Zealand, is a great museum that delves into the history of New Zealand.
The Te Papa museum covers everything from the geographical formation of New Zealand, to Maori culture, to history, to modern life. There is also a large exhibition room teaching about New Zealand’s endemic plants and animals, both those that have now become extinct, and others, like the iconic kiwi, which are still part of today’s fauna.
Surprisingly, the Te Papa museum is free of charge, although a non-compulsory donation is recommended (and very well-earned). The museum Is well worth a visit to get a good introduction into everything related to New Zealand, in a short time!
International Museum Day is here, so let’s celebrate the importance of museums to our education and understanding of other – and our own – cultures.
Which are your favourite museums?