While fine food, stately architecture, unique shopping opportunities, and rich histories are among the biggest attractions that draw travelers to Europe’s most renowned cities, the continent’s great art museums still head the list. In fact, according to many surveys, top museums are sometimes the only reason many European travelers will add another city or two to their list of “must see” destinations. For many, this is often that rare chance to see firsthand what Michele Perry of TripAdvisor has called the “finest artwork in the world.”
If you’re an art lover, you probably have a good sense of Europe’s most popular art museums already. But, even if you do, we thought you’d enjoy hearing the combined perspectives of people from TripAdvisor, Reuters, and other sites who’ve offered their thoughts on the subject.
Of all the famous museums that dot the continent, which ones draw the most visitors each year? These are the top 6:
- Musee du Louvre, Paris. Of all the world’s great art museums, the Louvre is probably the most famous. Once home to the kings of France, its enormous collection includes some of the best-known works of art in the world including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. In recent decades, the Louvre has also been the center of controversy over its glass pyramid entrance designed in the 1980s by American architect I. M. Pei. At the very least, plan on spending a day at the Louvre. Many art lovers spend 2 or 3.
- Vatican Museums, Vatican City, Rome. A close second in both popularity and renown is the Roman Catholic Church’s Vatican collection. Spanning nearly 9 miles and drawing more than 4 million visitors each year, this network of museums features the art of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and, of course, Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Again, the enormity of the collection can be overwhelming. Plan on at least 1 full day (and maybe 2) to experience it.
- Musee d’Orsay, Paris. It’s back to Paris for Europe’s third most popular art museum, the Musee D’Orsay. Smaller in scope than the Louvre and the Vatican collections, it is no less spectacular. A renovated train station with a dramatic glass roof, it features perhaps the world’s best collection of Impressionist paintings by masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh.
- Uffizi Gallery, Florence. One of the world’s oldest art museums, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence is also one of the world’s finest. Located on the banks of the Arno River in the heart of the city, it is home to such iconic masterpieces as Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and works from Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. For most visitors, a half to a full day is a good amount of time to allot to this wonderful space.
- Tate Modern, London. The most popular modern art museum in the world and sporting spectacular views of the Thames River and the Millennium Bridge, the Tate Modern houses an especially eclectic collection of modern art. A highlight is one of the world’s largest collections of Surrealist works, including many from Salvador Dali.
- Prado Museum, Madrid. If the art of Spain intrigues you, the Prado is a “don’t-miss” destination for any visitor to that country. The museum has the world’s most comprehensive and compelling collection of works by such classic Spanish artists Goya, Velasquez, Murillo, and El Greco. In addition, it features hundreds of works from other 12th to 19th Century European artists from Titian to Rubens.
While these are Europe’s 6 most popular art museums, they are only a few of scores of remarkable museums and galleries scattered across this very cultured continent. If you would like to add a European museum or 2 to this list that you especially like, please do so. And please tell us what you like about it. We’d love to hear from you.