You don’t have to be an art expert to enjoy a visit to the world’s greatest art galleries. As well as showcasing works by the world’s best-known artists, a really good gallery can give you an insight into the cultural heritage of the destination you’re visiting. We’ve put together a list of some of the most beloved galleries around the world.
Fronting Fifth Avenue and surrounded by Central Park, “the Met” is the largest art museum in the United States, and with more than seven million visitors last year, it’s also second most visited art museum in the world. Its classical façade, with its Greek columns flanking the front entrance, is instantly recognisable, but it’s for its extensive collections ranging from Ancient Near Eastern Art to the American Wing, which showcases American art over the past two centuries, that it is most beloved. It is also home to special collections including the Costume Institute, which is the scene of the celebrity-studded Met Gala each year. If you’re visiting during the summer months, be sure to head up to the rooftop garden bar for a cocktail and incredible views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.
From 1420 to 1912, the Forbidden City was the seat of China’s Imperial Dragon Throne. In 1925, the Palace Museum was established here, and today more than fifteen million visitors come each year to admire more than a million works of art, including paintings, ceramics, bronzeware and more. The museum is just one part of the Forbidden City, which itself is the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world, and as such was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Among the highlights of the museum is a 30,000-strong collection of jade pieces and paintings that date back as far as the thirteenth century. Despite its size, visitor numbers are capped at a mind-boggling 80,000 per day, so arrive early if you want to avoid the worst of the crowds.
Home to so many amazing museums, from the vast former Beaux-Arts railway station that is now the Musee d’Orsay to the high-tech architecture and modern art of the Centre Georges Pompidou, but there is one art museum that stands above even these on any art-lovers bucket list. The Louvre is housed in a building that was the Royal Palace until Louis XIV decided he preferred the Palace of Versailles, leaving the Louvre as a place to display the royal collection. Today, highlights include its collection of Egyptian antiquities, its Greek, Roman and Etruscan collection, and of course, its superstars: Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. It’s best to avoid visiting on the weekend when the crowds are greatest, and get there early to beat the crowds. The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum, so it’s a good idea to wear comfy shoes and be prepared for a lot of walking.
Set on the bank of the Neva River, this museum is made up of six buildings including the most famous, the Winter Palace, which was once a residence of the Russian tsars. The collection was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, and has been open to the public since 1852, but despite its status as the world’s largest collection of paintings, only a small proportion of the artworks are ever on display. The museum is closed on Mondays, but entrance is free on the first Thursday of every month. Its treasure collection, consisting of both Western and Eastern jewellery, is well worth seeing but can only be visited as part of a guided tour.
The National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate, the Tate Modern, the Victoria & Albert: London has so many wonderful art galleries and museums to choose from. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the grandeur and you’re longing to escape the crowds of the big city, head to the Lake District for a visit to a gallery that is far smaller in scale but just as worthwhile of your time. The gallery itself is housed in a seventeenth-century stone house that was once the law offices of Potter’s husband within the village of Hawkshead, and within the building you will find a collection of sketches and watercolour paintings that formed the basis of her many and much-loved stories. And since you’re in the neighbourhood, it’s well worth following the road south along the shoreline of Esthwaite Water to Hill Top to explore some of the settings for her books.
If you prefer your art al fresco, there are some incredible outdoor galleries, sculpture gardens and art parks dotted around the globe. From the riotous colour of Gaudi’s mosaic masterpieces in Barcelona’s Park Güell, to the vast, specially commissioned works on Gibbs Farm just out of Auckland, there’s plenty to choose from. If you’re headed to South America, Brazil’s Instituto Inhotim is at the top of the list: a one-hour flight inland from Rio de Janiero, it is considered one of the world’s top open-air museums. It was founded by a former mining magnate, and many of the works of art were commissioned for the site, which is also a vast botanical garden which now sprawls across 5,000 acres – you’ll need at least a day to explore. There are plans for hotels, restaurants, and even residences: this is definitely one to watch.
If you’ve been inspired to include some art and culture into your next holiday experience, contact your local personal travel manager here.