Europe is undoubtedly one of the best cultural treasures in the world where you can discover the world’s greatest museums. Whether your passion is science, history, art or any other aspect, you can rest assured to find something you like, no matter which city you visit.
It is the rich history Europe is known for, mainly which is centered on fine art. Whether it is hanging on a wall, painted on a ceiling, or locked in a glass case, you can always find some of the best artistic artifacts in art museums in Europe. We have listed some of the best art museums in Europe which exhibit everything from ancient civilizations to world-leading artists and imposing architecture.
So, without further ado, let’s check out some of the best museums in Europe which house the world’s famous European paintings, sculptures, frescos, artifacts, or modern European art installations designed by the best European contemporary artists, representing every art movement, culture, and era.
Table of Contents
- Top 12 Museums in Europe (For Arts, History, and Culture)
- Louvre Museum, Paris, France
- Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
- British Museum, London, UK
- Vatican Museums, Vatican
- Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Tate Modern Museum, London, UK
- Museé d’Orsay, Paris, France
- Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain
- Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Peggy Guggenheim Collections, Venice, Italy
- Altes Museum, Berlin, Germany
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Top 12 Museums in Europe (For Arts, History, and Culture)
Louvre Museum, Paris, France
The Louvre Museum of Paris is unquestionably one of the most beautiful museums in Europe and the most popular in the world. Stretching around 650,000 sq. ft: Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world. Even the grounds have had great importance in the history of France since the late 12th century.
It was initially a fortress on the site built by Philip II. Later on, the building kept on evolving as a grand palace that held a royal family (until Sun King Louis XIV chose to move his home to the Palace of Versailles in the year 1682). Later on, the building served as a place to showcase the royal collection, including the vast selection of Roman and Greek sculptures, apart from the most popular item in the museum, the Mona Lisa painting.
The building was declared to be used as a museum of European history by the National Assembly during the French Revolution. In 1792, the royal collection here was announced public property when Louis XVI was imprisoned, and the museum opened officially next year.
Over the years, the collections have kept on increasing, and today it has around 380,000 objects from prehistory to modern age by the famous European artists. The iconic element of the classic building, i.e., the controversial glass pyramid designed by Ieoh Ming Pei, the renowned American architect, was finished in 1989 as an entrance to this museum.
→ Best tour for this museum: Paris: Skip-the-Line Louvre Tickets with Lunch and Cruise
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
Uffizi Gallery among the oldest and best art galleries in Europe. It is the best attraction in Florence, Italy. It is also one of the beautiful art galleries in Europe, both outside and inside. It is located at the center of Florence on the banks of Arno River.
Some of the best works you shouldn’t miss in its art collection include The Birth of Venus and Botticelli’s La Primavera, Laocoon and his Sons and Medusa, and Bandinelli’s stunning sculpture.
After the great reorganization in the 17th century, during which some collections of scientific instruments, arms, modern and ancient bronzes, and architectural findings were being transferred to other sites, and new museums were being established, Uffizi became one of the famous art galleries in Europe, showcasing thousands of works from the 13th to 18th centuries.
Read also: Day trips from Florence
→ Best tour for this museum: Ultimate Uffizi: Priority Entrance Small-Group Tour
British Museum, London, UK
The credit of building the British Museum in London goes to one man – the famous naturalist and physician Sir Hans Sloane, who collected a great range of over 71000 artifacts, antiques, and famous European paintings in his lifetime. He left his collection to King George II as he never wanted to get his collection lost after his death.
King George and Parliament created the British Museum in 1753 with two library collections – the Royal Library and one assembled by Sir Robert Cotton from Elizabethan times, and Sloane.
Initially, the museum was opened in Montagu House, an old manor of a wealthy family in 1759. The building had been dilapidated, and the museum required more space by the 1800s. The Montagu House was knocked down, and the New Greek Revival structure was built and designed by Sir Robert Smirke.
While the museum no longer has natural history items or books, the collection keeps on growing, and it now has up to 13 million works showing the history of human culture from the prehistoric era to today. Only 1% of the collection is being displayed. It is one of the most visited art museums in Europe.
→ Best tour for this museum: London: British Museum Guided Tour
Vatican Museums, Vatican
The Roman Catholic Church has a range of antiquities and art collected over the centuries, so they have a very fantastic museum collection. Now, the museum turned around 500 years old. It was officially opened in 1506 for the public when Pope Julius II put a sculpture of Laocoon & his Sons on exhibition.
Since then, the Vatican has added several buildings one by one to hold their vast collection. This museum of European history has two most famous works in its collection – the Stanze della Segnatura by Raphael and the Sistine Chapel which was well painted by Michelangelo.
The museum also houses several significant Egyptian and Etruscan artifacts, along with some world-famous artwork revealed in the excavations held by the Vatican.
→ Best tour for this museum: Skip-the-Line Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Tour
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
This European history museum in the Netherlands was founded in 1800 in The Hague, but it was moved soon to Amsterdam.
This building features both renaissance and gothic aspects designed by Pierre Cuypers, and it was opened officially in 1885 for the public. Both the outside and inside of the building were adorned by W.F. Dixon and B. van Hove J.F. Vermeylen, who have references from the Dutch art history.
Many museums in the world were forced to move and expand again and again over the centuries, but Rijksmuseum is one of the few museums which still looks almost the same as it was in 1895.
Other structures have been added to this museum to hold the collection of millions of objects and the main complex needed to undergo several renovations over the past few years, just after ten years of restoration.
The museum has up to 8000 items in its overall collection on display, including the best works by Dutch artists like Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Jan Steen.
→ Best tour for this museum: Rijksmuseum: Skip-the-Ticket-Line Entry and Booking Fee
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Located in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the Van Gogh Museum is one of the best art museums in Europe, appealing visitors from each corner of the world.
In large part, the museum naturally houses the most extensive art collections by Vincent van Gogh, including over 500 drawings, 200 paintings, and 700 letters written by him. Initially opened in 1973 on Museumplein, the Van Gogh Museum has been renovated and expanded year by year, and it now has excellent visitor space and high-end exhibition.
Visiting the Van Gogh Museum is indeed an inspirational and refreshing journey for both far-traveling visitors and locals.
Apart from the legacy of impressive arts by Vincent van Gogh, including his self-portraits, still lives, and landscapes, the museum allows you to track the development of the artist and review his paintings with works by other famous European artists in the 19th century, who inspired him and got inspired by him.
→ Best tour for this museum: Van Gogh Museum Ticket
Tate Modern Museum, London, UK
Tate Modern Museum is a modern art gallery in London. It is the national gallery of global contemporary art, and it is developed by the Tate Group (along with Tate Liverpool, Tate Britain, Tate Online, and Tate St. Ives).
It is located in the Bankside area where Bankside Power Station was originally located at the London Borough of Southwark. Tate houses the national British art collection dated back to 1900 to the present day and the international contemporary and modern art.
Tate Modern falls under the largest museums of contemporary and modern art in the world. Like other museums and national art galleries in the UK, there is no admission fee charged to access the collection displays, which take most of the gallery space. But you have to buy tickets for major temporary exhibits.
Here, the collections have works of contemporary and modern art from 1900 to today. It has gallery space in levels 2, 3 and 4. Each of the floors is divided into large west and east wing with up to 11 rooms in each wing. Smaller galleries are placed on spaces between these wings on levels 2 and 4. You can witness the art from 1900 to today in the Boiler House.
Museé d’Orsay, Paris, France
Museé de Orsay Museum is located in Paris, France on the Left Bank of Seine. It is placed in a Beaux-Arts railway station former Gare d’Orsay built from 1898 to 1900. The museum mainly holds French art from 1848 to 1914, including sculptures, paintings, photography, and furniture.
It contains the vast collection of post-impressionist and impressionist masterpieces by European contemporary artists like Manet, Monet, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, Seurat, Gauguin, Sisley, and Van Gogh. Before the museum opened in 1986, a lot of these works were housed at Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume.
It is among the most beautiful art museums in Europe. It had recorded over 3000 million visitors in 2017 alone.
→ Best tour for this museum: Musée d’Orsay Reserved Access 1-Day Admission Ticket
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain
Designed by Frank Gehry, a legendary architect, the Guggenheim Museum is well regarded as the best contemporary art museum in the world. Architect Philip Johnson described this museum building as the ‘greatest building of our time.’
Opened in 1997, this 256,000 sq. ft. the museum is still entirely new, but it is well regarded due to its great permanent collection, including works by Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, and Richard Serra.
It also attracts great exhibits of the well-known Guggenheim Foundation. The museum is even more spacious than Guggenheim museums in Venice and New York combined.
→ Best tour for this museum: Bilbao: Guggenheim Guided Tour with Skip-the-Line
Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
The Anne Frank House is a biographical museum and a writer’s house devoted to Anne Frank, a Jewish wartime writer. The complex is located on a canal, the Prinsengracht, near Westerkerk, in the heart of Amsterdam. Anne Frank managed to hide with her family and four other people in secret rooms from Nazi prosecution during World War II at the rear of canal house of the 17th century, which was also called the Secret Annex.
Anne Frank couldn’t survive the war, but her wartime diary was published in 1947. The Anne Frank Foundation was constituted in 1957 to protect property against developers who were aimed to demolish the same. On May 3, 1960, the Anne Frank museum was opened again.
It has a permanent art exhibition on the times and life of Anne Frank, hiding space, and exhibition space with all forms of discrimination and persecution. The museum gathered 1.2 million visitors in 2013 and 2014, and it became the third most visited museum after the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands.
→ Best tour for this museum: Amsterdam Walking Tour: The Fascinating Story of Anne Frank
Peggy Guggenheim Collections, Venice, Italy
Located on the Grand Canal of Venice City, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a museum that houses modern art collections. It is among the most visited museums in Venice. The collection is stored in an 18th-century palace, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, where American heiress Peggy Guggenheim lived for over three decades.
She started exhibiting her collection of modern artwork in 1951 to the public seasonally. Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation took her collection after her death in 1979, which opened it all year-round from 1980.
The collection has the works of American modernists and well-known Italian futurists working in genres like Surrealism, Cubism, and abstract expressionism. It also consists of sculptural works.
→ Best tour for this museum: Venice: Peggy Guggenheim Collection Ticket
Altes Museum, Berlin, Germany
The complex was initially built from 1823 to 1830 in neoclassical style by the famous architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel to house the art collection of the Prussian royal family.
The protected historic building counts are some of the most distinguished counts in neoclassic style, and it is also the high point of the career of Schinkel. It was known as the Konigliches Museum or the Royal Museum until 1845.
→ Best tour for this museum: Museum Pass Berlin: 3-Day Entry to Over 30 Museums
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