World's Most Beautiful Museums
No big city vacation is complete without a visit to a beautiful museum. Our favorite collections combine great locations—like Central Park, central Paris, or the Pacific Coast—with iconic, inspiring works of art.
Gift-shop grab: "Vermeer" Silk Scarf, inspired by the colors of The Milkmaid ($73).
Learn more: rijksmuseum.nl/en
And while you're in Amsterdam, also visit: The Van Gogh Museum.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Masterpieces of southern Europe, way up north
What if Catherine the Great founded a museum that eventually took over the emperor's palace and grew to be the largest collection of paintings in the world? The result would look a lot like the Hermitage, Russia's preeminent museum. Including major works of antiquity, the Italian Renaissance, and the Impressionist and Modern periods, this is a must-stop for visitors to Saint Petersburg, whether you're there as a port of call or for a longer stay.
Must-see masterpieces: Michelangelo's Crouching Boy, two Madonnas attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, and Antonio Canova's The Three Graces.
Gift-shop grab: Faberge-style pendants (from $50).
Learn more: hermitagemuseum.org
Michelangelo and Raphael in the heart of the Holy See
Sure, each of the beautiful museums on our list boasts a handful of iconic pieces of art. But the Vatican Museums pull out all the stops with an unforgettable ceiling painted by Michelangelo (bring binoculars, but put away your camera—photography is not allowed in the Sistine Chapel), whole rooms dedicated to Raphael, and an overall unrivaled wow factor. As Budget Travel has reported, one way to bypass the crowds is to opt for a Friday evening visit, starting May 3rd.
Must-see masterpieces: Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Raphael Rooms, and the Pio Clementino Collection.
Gift-shop grab: The book Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection ($27).
Learn more: mv.vatican.va
The sun never sets on this collection of antiquities
The British Museum first welcomed visitors in 1759 to a building on the site of the present-day museum. While some visitors may find the globe-spanning holdings here an unpleasant reminder of Britain's dominance of its former colonies, there's no denying that the opportunity to come face-to-face with works of art steeped in myth and legend is utterly jaw-dropping.
Must-see masterpieces: The Rosetta Stone, the marble reliefs from the Parthenon, the mummified remains of Cleopatra.
Gift-shop grab: Egyptian Carnelian and Gold Bracelet ($101)
Learn more: britishmuseum.org
And while you're in London, also visit: The Victoria and Albert Museum.
To see Egyptian art in Egypt, visit: Cairo's Egyptian Museum.
Art Institute of Chicago
Spend a Sunday in the park with Georges Seurat—or a late night with Edward Hopper
The second largest art collection in the U.S., after the Met, the Art Institute, located in Grant Park, touches on all major time periods and movements but is especially known for its 19th- and 20th-century holdings, including works by French Impressionists and American modernists.
Must-see masterpieces: Georges Seurat's A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, and Vincent Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles.
Gift-shop grab: Rainbow Ribbon Silk Scrunch Scarf ($47).
Learn more: artic.edu
The J. Paul Getty Museum
Old-world wonders overlooking the Pacific Ocean
A relative youngster among the world's most beautiful museums, the Getty was founded in the '70s in a villa in Pacific Palisades. Now with a major building in Los Angeles as its headquarters, the Getty offers a collection to rival any in the world in a decidedly unique location in Tinseltown.