And now that the same is being done for whole collections, plus there are virtual reality experiences, and broadcasts of exhibitions (like the British Museum’s Pompeii and upcoming Vikings) it seems we are headed towards being able to see all the culture we need right from our living room. But DV believes that great museums are a destination in themselves and should be experienced in the flesh, if at all possible, especially since many – including our Top 5 below – are in the best cities in the world. Let’s get packing!
The Louvre is the most visited art gallery in the world, and with its scale (60,600 square meters) and sheer wealth of treasures it’s no wonder. It is housed in the palace that was home to the French royals from the 12th century until 1682 when King Louis XIV moved the throne to the Palace of Versailles. At its (comparatively) humble beginning in 1793 it housed a mere 537 paintings, but this has now exploded to a whopping 35,000 pieces from prehistoric times to the 19th century, including some of the world’s most iconic objets d’art.
This year is a big year for the British Museum, celebrating 255 years since first opening its doors. Boy has it changed a bit since then! In the BM’s early days, visits were by invitation only; even if you did make it through the front door, you wouldn’t be trusted to wander unsupervised but would instead be shown around in groups of 15. Today the museum welcomes over six and a half million visitors per year – up from 5,000 in 1759 – and houses around eight million objects. The BM has been called a ‘museum of the world’, and is home to several of the objects that can be considered as defining moments in the human cultural experience. This year also marks their first Viking exhibition in over 30 years, which we were lucky enough to visit! (read about our review here!)
When the grounds of a museum are so important they’ve been granted city status, you know you’re on to a winner. The Vatican Museum’s first acquisition in 1506 awas the sculpture of the Laocoön, the priest who supposedly warned ancient Troy against accepting that dastardly hollow horse. It is now home to a huge collection of masterpieces, manyof that have never been on public display, and culminating in the utterly breathtaking and superhuman feat of artistic endeavour, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Our only complaint – expect to leave with a serious crick in your neck!
Anyone who has ever visited Egypt will know that you simply need to walk through the streets to feel like you are strolling through a world-class museum.When sun-stroke starts to set in, however, take a visit to the Egyptian Museum. Step inside and you’ll find the greatest collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts in the world, with the 107 different halls guiding you on a chronological journey from Prehistoric times to the Roman periods. A collection of such opulence and grandeur leaves the viewer quite breathless when considering the might of the culture that created it; and of course, there is the star piece, the golden death mask of king Tutankhamun, which has become an icon for not just Ancient Egypt, but archaeology itself.
Been there? Done all that? Why not try somewhere a bit different and try the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico! Considered to be one of the finest archaeological museums in the world, it is a prime location to admire the relics of the fascinating Olmec, Maya and Aztec civilisations, among others. IThe collection’s main crowd pleasers are the Aztec Sun Stone, a 25-tonne, intricately carved basalt slab found under Mexico City’s main plaza,which describes Aztec life, and the Aztec Calendar – one of the most recognised images in Mexico.
Next stop… Mexico!
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