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15 of the World’s Most Famous Art Galleries + Museums

What makes a great art gallery? Is it the prestige of the work? The feeling you get being surrounded by centuries of fascinating history? Perhaps there’s a multitude of reasons why some galleries rise above the rest. From The Louvre in Paris, France to the MoMA in New York City, let’s explore 15 of the world’s best art galleries!

Located in the heart of Paris, The Louvre is the world’s largest and most-visited art museum with an annual visitor count of almost 8 million. Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is arguably the museum’s most famous work, attracting tourists from around the globe. Of course, the 652,300-square-foot museum houses many more pieces, educating and inspiring both artists and non-artists alike. “Formerly a royal palace, the Louvre embraces eight centuries of French history. Intended as a universal museum since its creation in 1793, its collections – among the finest in the world – span thousands of years and a territory that extends from America to the confines of Asia,” writes the Paris Tourist Office.

Founded in 1753, The British Museum boasts a collection of over 8 million objects. Despite the museum being the largest in the United Kingdom, not all of the objects are on-display, but nonetheless it’s an impressive collection. “It was the first national museum to cover all fields of human knowledge, open to visitors from across the world,” explains the institution. It’s important to note that the museum has faced scrutiny over contested objects.

The “Rosetta Stone” is by far the most-seen artwork in the museum, boasting around 6 million annual visitors. The ancient Greek architecture of the museum’s exterior is certainly a sight to behold, giving visitors a look into the museum’s cultural past.

With over 3.2 million visitors each year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or simply “the Met,” is one of the United States’ most-visited museums. Located in New York’s Central Park, the Met holds nearly 1.5 million works of art, a pretty impressive collection if you ask us. From ancient Egyptian sculptures to modern American paintings, there’s something for all visitors to appreciate at the museum. According to tourists, you will need to set aside around 3-5 hours to see the museum’s full permanent collection.

Did you know that with a population of just 524, Vatican City, an enclave of Rome, Italy, houses some of the world’s most impressive religious works of art? The Vatican Museums are vast, taking up over half a million-square-feet of space. Some of the works you will find there are Raphael’s “Transfiguration” and Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment.” Gallery opening hours differ throughout the many museums, so be sure to check ahead of time so you get to see your favorite pieces. In addition to looking at schedules ahead of time, be sure to bring your walking shoes, as Vatican City has no major roadways!

Speaking of famous painters and sculptures, Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” is widely accepted as being the most-famous piece of work in Russia’s State Hermitage Museum. “Founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great as a court museum. It adjoined the Winter Palace and served as a private gallery for the art amassed by the empress,” explains Britannica. Did you know the exhibitions within the museum house over 3 million objects? The State Hermitage is the world’s largest museum by how many pieces it exhibits.

Florence, Italy, known as the capital of artists, is home to the historic Uffizi Gallery. Founded in 1581, you can find works by Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo. Those interested in art education will find this gallery fascinating due to its extensive collection of sculptures and paintings dating back hundreds of years. “The Uffizi was designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 for Cosimo I de’Medici to house the Granducal Magistratures of Tuscany,” explains the gallery.

MoMA, short for the Museum of Modern Art, is another New York staple on our list, located in Midtown Manhattan. The museum opened its doors in 1929 and has since risen to fame, housing pieces such as Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and Salvador Dalí’s “The Persistence of Memory.” Nearly 2 million visitors were welcomed in 2023, making it one of the United States’ most-visited museums.

Pro tip: Did you know that many museums and galleries offer memberships to allow easier access to the arts? Museum membership benefits at the MoMA allow for thousands of locals to enrich their art experience all year.

The Prado Museum, recognized in Spain as Museo Nacional del Prado, houses many types of art, but is well-known for its “Egyptian mummies, Greek ceramics and sculptures, and European paintings.” The museum’s collection sits at over 9,000 artistic works on over half a million square-feet of property. Those visiting will appreciate the grandeur of the building’s architecture featuring skylit ceilings and large scale paintings on almost every wall. The museum’s art education program for kids, “Deslizar,” was one of Spain’s first programs of its kind, leading to increased support of art education in schools.

Shifting gears 1,000 miles north to London, you will find The National Gallery. This free-to-visit gallery, located in central London, houses over 2,300 works. The most common art you will find here are paintings, sculptures, and ancient artifacts. The museum was founded in 1824 and welcomed over 3 million visitors in 2023. “The National Gallery in London is probably the most famous art museum in the country. It has art pieces from famous artists like Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Van Gogh,” writes tourism organization Let Me Show You London.

Birth country of painter Vincent Van Gogh, the Netherlands is no stranger to quality art. The Rijksmuseum is Amsterdam’s most notable museum, displaying over 8,000 objects on its grounds. The pinnacle of the Rijksmuseum’s collection is Rembrandt van Rijn’s “The Night Watch.” “Not only is it the museum’s largest and most important work, but the entire collection is literally built around it, with the Night Watch Gallery at the core of the museum opening into the Gallery of Honor,” explains ARTnews.

Looking for additional exhibitions that didn’t make our top 10? Consider adding these to your list of must-visit galleries around the world.

Founded in 1879, the Art Institute of Chicago boasts an impressive collection of nearly 300,000 pieces. Perhaps the museum’s most-famous painting, Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” was acquired by the museum in 1930 and continues to impress art enthusiasts today.

Heading to “The City of Love?” The Musee d’Orsay represents a small but mighty gallery in the heart of Paris. There, you can view incredible works and painting exhibitions by artists such as Van Gogh and Claude Monet.

Located in Washington DC, The National Gallery of Art is a gallery we just couldn’t forget. Visitors can explore the 271,000-square-foot gallery for free where they can view detailed works of western art.

Tokyo National Museum was founded in 1872 and is a must-visit for those in Japan. Welcoming over 2 million visitors a year, Tokyo National Museum resides in Ueno Park in Tokyo, Japan. Those that flock to the institution often leave with a deeper knowledge of Japanese culture and history from the perspective of artists. 

The National Museum of Korea is home to many artifacts and traditional artworks that highlight the country’s fascinating history. Established in 1945, the museum serves as South Korea’s historical hub that over 4 million people visit annually.

Whether you’re intrigued to learn more about art history, the Louvre in Paris, or the historic arts of South Korea, advancing your education in art and design can lead to a lifelong appreciation for these museums and exhibitions. Consider earning your BFA at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design on-campus or online today.


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