Top 10 European Museums
There are plenty of museums to see when you travel through Europe. Each country has multiple museums, each one interesting in its own way. While you could probably spend an entire lifetime touring all the European museums, we’ve narrowed the list down to the top 10 must-sees. It’s a rather eclectic bunch, but that’s part of the point.
Louvre (Paris, France)
Even without the 1989 addition of the glass pyramids by I. M. Pei, regarded as his masterpiece, the Louvre Palace is as beautiful and historic a building as the painting it houses within. Likely the world’s most famous museum, it houses, amongst others, Da Vinci’s majestic Mona Lisa, The Venus De Milo, Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa and thousands more.
The British Museum (London, UK)
The immensity of The British Museum’s collection, over 8 million pieces from every corner of the planet, means that one visit couldn’t ever do it justice. The fruits of Britain’s long empirical status, the comprehensive nature of the collection, from antiquity up to the modern, makes it the Earth’s best repository of humanity’s collective culture.
Vatican Museums (Vatican City, Rome, Italy)
There is no “off” season at the Vatican, but considering the art held within, it’s always worth the wait. Between Michelangelo’s David, the Sistine Chapel, The School of Athens, it becomes easier to list the classic works of Christendom (and antiquity) that aren’t within its breathtaking walls. The famous Gallery of Maps is definitely not to be missed.
Sex Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Nestled in the heart of Amsterdam’s infamous red light district, what the Sex Museum lacks in grandeur it more than makes up for in irreverence, fun and, well, sex. Running first-class exhibitions while never taking itself too seriously, the Museum is a cornucopia of sex, deviance and the attitudes, activities and impulses that have governed our bodies throughout history.
Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum (London, UK)
London’s famous house of pop, you can spend hours admiring the collection of surprisingly, and oddly lifelike legends of history and cinema along side politicians, royals and football heroes. If you’ve ever wanted to get a picture with the Queen and Whoopi Goldberg in the same afternoon, this is the place. Just resist the urge to buy Picasso a drink.
Guggenheim Museum Bilboa (Bilboa, Spain)
The Guggenheim is deemed by most to be the most important building in to world, and in the 15 years since it opened, Bilboa has essentially rebuilt their city around it. Just as impressive, the art and constantly rotating exhibitions the Guggenheim plays host to is on the forefront of promoting challenging, diverse and boundary pushing art to the world. It is a space, and a mentality, that wants to change the world.
Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Sure, it’s home to the largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings the world over, but the Van Gogh museum boats a lot more than it’s famous namesake. Year round there are rotating and visiting exhibitions from all the notable 19th century masters, and the museum’s prestige punches well above it’s weight in regards to attracting the best speakers in the world.
Deutsches Museum (Munich, Germany)
The “German” Museum was founded at the dawn of the 20th century as home for science and technology, and today houses dozens of permanent exhibits that touch on all humankind’s breakthrough technological advances. From textiles to agriculture to computers, the amazing exhibits celebrate our advances, and the pioneers who made them.
The National Museet (Copenhagen, Denmark)
A Beautiful Danish institution built in central Copenhagen, the National Museet looks at the Danish contributions to world culture and history, as well as the story Denmark and its people through the highs and lows of it’s history. Some highlights includes archeological finds from the ice age and a wonderful exhibit on the age of Vikings, and a comprehensive history of the Danish resistance during WW2.
Museo del Prado (Madrid, Spain)
Mardid is a city of marvels, but none as visited or as beloved as the Museo del Prado. Constructed in the 12th century (making it one of the oldest on the continent), what this institution does better than anyone else are the European masters. From Titian, to Rembrandt, to Matisse, even short visits are transcendent.
For a more sober history, Europe is littered with museums and monuments dedicated to the world wars and their accompanying atrocities. Passendale, the beaches of Normandy and Dresden all have testaments to the horrors and heroisms of that era, and the concentration camps, notably Auschwitz-Birkenau and Belzec in Poland, stand as a testament to the what men are capable of when seduced by baseness.
Top 10 European Landmarks
Europe is littered with more than their fair share of the world’s most famous landmarks. Some are architectural marvels, others simply mark the place of a famous event, but they’ve all carved out a place in human history and our imaginations. Putting to paper a list of ten isn’t easy, and there’s certainly dozens of dozens worth mentioning, but if what you’re after is the big fish, we’ve got the very best of what the European experience has to offer.
Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)
You can make a strong argument that the entire city of Paris is one big monument, but nothing states plainly her elegance, her grandiose, her adventure, like Le Tour Eiffel. It’s location is perfect, it’s simplicity and deceptively massive size, it’s calm beauty in the face of all the art, love and life that happens in the city it calls home. If you’re lucky enough to see it at night, then you know just how much it’s loved by Parisians and visitors alike.
The Colosseum (Rome, Italy)
With an infrastructure that’s stood the test of time, and a grandiose that remains to this day the most thriving symbol of the once great Roman Empire, it’s no wonder it stands as one of the wonders of the ancient and modern world. From its pillars to its seating, every inch of its construction was infused with genius. It’s easy, sitting there today to imagine the great games and countless dramas that have unfolded there over thousands of years.
Buckingham Palace (London, UK)
The changing of the guard happens every morning at 11:30, and if the pomp of the British royalty is what you’ve come to London (Westminister) to see, it is not to be missed. Even if you don’t get invited to tea, the grandeur of Buckingham is not to be missed, and the surrounding gardens, royal exhibits, and absolute pristine condition the 300-year-old building is kept in is easy to appreciate.
Leaning Tower of Pisa (Pisa, Italy)
It took almost 200 years to construct this icon of Italian beauty, and it had been slowly sinking for more than 600 years bfore it was stabilized in our lifetime. It’s a human testament to frailty, perseverance, and the world’s most perfect opportunity for a Facebook profile pic. It’s easy to forget, but there’s also a beautiful Cathedral and Bapistry right next door, all perfectly straight.
Palace of Versailles (Versailles, France)
A quick train ride from downtown Paris, The Palace of Versailles remains a mixed symbol both of aristocratic decadence and French pride. It’s played host to some of modern History’s greatest moments, as a catalyst of the first French Revolution, to the Napoleonic era, to the ill-fated treaty of Versailles. Its vision, extravagance, art collections and simply massive size are without peer the world over.
Red Square (Moscow, Russia)
(Moscow, Russia) For a country as vast and varied, heaped with a history of tragedy, commotion and confusion, Red Square stands as a symbol of elegance, unity and hope for Russia and the world besides. A functional marketplace, city centre, federal headquarters and Massive Cathedral have juggled their juxtaposition for centuries. This is truly a world center, even if at times it might be a stretch to call it “European”.
Anne Frank House (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
The most modest, and perhaps most powerful landmark on the list is the sometimes home and hiding place of Anne Frank, the life lived in and cut short by the Nazi occupation and holocaust. The humble building is at once hopeful and horrible, and stands as a reminder of the power of human spirit even in the midst of so much chaos.
Park Guell (Barcelona, Spain)
Barcelona is a painfully beautiful, if sometimes underappreciated European center, and the jewel of the city is easily Park Guell. There might not be more perfect incorporation of vegetation, gardens and architecture in the world. The park is home to a massive ecosystem of birds, from parrots to hawks, and boasts a panorama of Barcelona that is beautiful beyond any description.
Berlin Wall (Berlin, Germany)
At its longest, the Berlin Wall, constructed by the Soviet powers in Germany, stretched over 140 km, separating East and West Germany as divided by the USSR and the United States after WW2. It’s destruction at the hands of protestors and the following reunification of Germany remains one of the most shocking and inspiring moments of the 20th century, though sometimes it’s difficult to reconcile modern Berlin to the militarized version that persevered until 1989.
The Alhambra (Granada, Spain)
Built in 889 AD, and then massively upgraded by the occupying Moorish kings, then taken over by Christian rulers in the 16th century, The Alhambra is truly a “Pearl set in Emeralds”. The history of the building, its renovations and sometimes neglect, is one of a region in massive transition, and remains to this day the best example of Muslim architecture in Europe.