NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - If you’re heading to Paris, you’ll stop in at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, in Washington the Smithsonian is a must-see and the Vatican in Rome should be on every museum-lover’s bucket list. With that in mind, online travel adviser Cheapflights (www.cheapflights.com) offers its top 10 museum destinations. Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. Washington, D.C., United States
If you’re interested in history, architecture, art, religion, aerospace, or even wax, Washington D.C. has a museum - or 12 - that will pique your interest. The 19 Smithsonian museums, including the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History and the National Air and Space Museum, may appear to eclipse other institutions in the mid-Atlantic city, but other niche museums do just fine holding their own. Spend a morning reflecting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum and an early afternoon at Ford’s Theater - where Lincoln was shot - before strolling the National Mall and other outdoor hotspots like the spectacular National Arboretum.
2. Cairo, Egypt
It goes without saying that if you’re heading to museums in Cairo, you’re into history. And you’ll get plenty of it at the renowned Egyptian Antiquities Museum, which properly holds the world’s largest collection of Egyptian antiquities. The most popular exhibit is the Tutankhamen collection, but be sure to make time for the Mummy Room. The breathtaking spectacle is one-of-a-kind, though you’ll have to join the crowd - and turn your camera flash off. Other museums are lesser known, but stand out nonetheless. The Egyptian Ethnological Museum beautifully details daily Cairo life through the city’s long history, while the Military Museum is a trip back in time to study ancient warfare in the region.
3. Barcelona, Spain
It’s almost unfair how much amazing art is housed in Barcelona’s museums - the works of Picasso and Miró, not to mention the largest collection of Catalan art in Spain. Any trip to Barcelona requires paying homage to the strange architectural genius of Antoni Gaudi. Start with La Pedrera. One part apartment building, one part Gaudi museum, La Pedrera is a good primer on the naturalistic forms he preferred. Finish with La Sagrada Familia. The unfinished masterpiece church, under construction since 1882, resembles a drizzled sand castle and embodies the brilliant eye of the great Gaudi. Speaking of paying tribute to offbeat Spanish geniuses, the Dali Museum in Figueres is worth the 90-minute car ride from Barcelona. The museum houses one of the largest collections of surrealist painter Salvador Dali’s work - and is a work of art itself.
4. New York, United States
Even New Yorkers who live downtown are willing to venture above 14th Street when the long haul means a visit to the finest mile of museums in the world. Along Fifth Avenue and Central Park’s east side, ten museums are densely packed into 22 city blocks, creating the infamous Museum Mile, home to powerhouses like the Frick, the Guggenheim, and grandfather to them all, the Met. The Metropolitan Museum of Art contains more than 2 million works of art, from ancient sculptures to 19th century portraits like Washington Crossing the Delaware. Work your way to the other side of the park if dinosaurs and science are more your speed: the American Museum of Natural History is a guaranteed favorite for museum-goers of all ages.
5. Vatican City, Italy
Italy’s holiest of cities houses wonderfully extensive collections of the Catholic Church in some of the greatest museums in the world - the Vatican Museums. Open to the public for free on the last Sunday of each month, the museums feature works by prolific Italian artists like Raphael, Botticelli, Caravaggio and - of course - Michelangelo. Spend time admiring papal thrones, sculptures, and paintings before immersing yourself in the grandeur of the Sistine Chapel. Art critics today revere Michelangelo’s four-year project, including The Last Judgment, as his finest life’s work.
6. Paris, France
The Musée du Louvre is the world’s most visited art museum and The City of Light’s pride and joy. Visitors to Paris’s paragon, which houses nearly 35,000 works of art, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, can spend hours, days - even weeks - exploring the beloved trove. After winding your way through the Louvre, cross the Seine to the intoxicating Musée d’Orsay, which boasts 19th and 20th century art by impressionist masters like Monet, Van Gogh and Cezanne. Perhaps your passion lies with modern art? The Center Pompidou - commonly referred to as the Beaubourg - is Europe’s largest modern art museum and hosts consistently spectacular exhibitions.
7. Toronto, Canada
Begin a weekend in Toronto by finding half-priced inspiration at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), a fabulous hodgepodge of thousands of artifacts featured in more than 20 exhibits. Friday nights are half off, and the museum welcomes visitors, from students to seniors, to admire its dinosaur, Indian and textile exhibits - and, of course, the magnificent Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, a spectacular entrance constructed of glass and aluminum to resemble an intricate crystal. For visitors with foot fetishes, or just a love of history, consider the Bata Shoe Museum. The downright fascinating museum is committed solely (get it?) to shoes, footwear, socks and all things feet. Pay what you can get to get in, and learn all that you’ll ever need to know about the history of footwear. The ultimate destination to celebrate Canadian art, though, is the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Housing the largest collection of Canadian art in the world, AGO underwent a $250 million-plus renovation in 2004, developed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry.
8. Berlin, Germany
Berlin’s dynamic history and the preserved monuments to wars, political strife and cultural relief leads visitors to sometimes feel like they’re walking through a museum just by strolling the German capital’s streets. Twenty-seven museums have opened - and re-opened - in the past decade, helping to establish the city’s Museum Island as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and pave the way for international artistic respect. The Anti-Kriegs-Museum is the world’s first anti-war museum and - after a temporary relocation to Belgium - re-opened proudly in 1982. For something a tad spicier, check out the Beathe Uhse Erotik-Museum and take a 2,000-year exploration of eroticism and sex through pictures, painting, illustrations and figures in over 5,000 exhibits.
9. London, England
London has every type of museum you’d expect - art, science, history - but it’s the quality of these museums that makes them stand out. Start with the Museum of London and learn about the city itself from prehistoric times through Roman conquests, medieval London and present day. Or, if you want another type of look at the city’s evolution, head over to the London Transport Museum where you’ll find vehicles and artwork representative of 200 years’ worth of London commuting - including the world’s first underground steam-powered train. But if it’s the cutting edge of modernity that you want, look no further than the Design Museum. Located on the River Thames, the world-class exhibits here illustrate the bravura of 20th and 21st century designers of all mediums, from fashion furniture, to graphics and architecture.
10. Vienna, Austria
The Habsburgs single-handedly positioned Vienna as an art mecca for eternity after ruling over Austria - and its art production - for more than 600 years until the beginning of the 20th century. Visit Wien’s Museum of Fine Arts and admire the vast majority of the ruling family’s collections, from Ancient Greek preservations to pieces by Rembrandt. For a more contemporary vibe, pay admission to the Kunsthalle Wien, which features contemporary international art and works by Klee and Picasso, or the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK), which focuses more on Austrian art and revolutionary artists like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
Edited by Paul Casciato