Fine art or folk art? Sculpture or skis? Antiquities or the avant-garde? European museums display more precious art and artefacts than you can imagine. Treat yourself to a wonderful European history and art appreciation course by roaming their galleries!
They are improving and increasing all the time too. In France for example the Pompidou Centre and the Louvre are too small for the collections, so they are building extentions in places like Lens and Metz. Brand new galleries are springing up all the time, while older museums are being updated and extended. It’s all good news for the art fan.
Museums in Europe will astound you when you see some of the world’s most famous art from just inches away. Imagine Winged Victory at Paris’ Louvre (France); Egyptian, Greek, and Roman archaeological treasures at London’s British Museum (United Kingdom); Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (Italy); works by El Greco, Goya, Bosch, and Van Dyck at the Prado in Madrid (Spain); the Albertina’s Albrecht Dürer’s collection in Vienna (Austria); The Night Watch in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum (Holland), or incomparable treasures at Berlin Museum Island (Germany).
These high-profile European museums are just the beginning - there are equally amazing collections in smaller museums dedicated to a particular artist or period. As you seek out these jewels, you’ll enjoy the added benefit of exploring different neighbourhoods and discovering what may become your favourite hidden corners of Europe!
Is contemporary artistic expression more your speed? Europe is bursting with modern art. In Spain, visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao, in an eye-popping modern structure, and the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. In Austria, Vienna’s Museum of Modern Art is as famous for its collection as for its architecture. In the United Kingdom, the Tate Modern in London, housed in a former power station, must be on your agenda. Paris’ (France) Centre Georges Pompidou has ever-changing installations of the most avant-garde art, as well as one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary art.
The Kobarid Museum in Slovenia displays World War I from the Soška fronta (Isonzo Front). The events described are related to the adventures and memories of celebrities, among whom are Ernest Hemingway and Erwin Rommel. Kobarid Museum was reclaimed Best European Museum and won the Council of Europe Museum Prize in 1993.
Norway’s Fram Museum chronicles the adventures of intrepid North Pole explorers. You can board the Fram, the ship used to reach the top of the world. The Ski Museum is inside the Holmenkollen Ski Jump! Investigate 4,000 years of skiing history while enjoying a superb view of Oslo. Follow the daily life of the Vikings at Iceland’s Sagamuseum.
At Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Wattens, Austria, people from all over the word enjoy the wondrous beauty of Swarovski’s multi-faceted creations.
If antique clothing and textiles intrigue you, enjoy the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (United Kingdom), the National Museum of Clothing and Fashion in Portugal, and the lovely Sadberk Hanim Museum in Istanbul (Turkey).
Greece, an archaeology lover’s dream, has dozens of antiquities museums throughout the country. The Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology (Turkey), one of the world’s foremost in this field, is located in a 15th century castle. It holds an extensive amphorae collection and an underwater exhibit showing how archaeologists recover items from the deep.
Germany pays tribute to items from daily life at the Toy Museum in Nuremburg, the Wallpaper Museum in Kassel, and the Museum Jeans and Kult in Buttenheim, the birthplace of Levi Strauss, inventor of blue jeans!
The cutting edge Design Museum in Helsinki (Finland) dazzles with its innovative exhibits.
Lisbon’s (Portugal) Museu Nacional dos Coches houses a superb collection of richly adorned, 17th--19th century royal vehicles used by various European courts up until the advent of the motor car.
Kids may roll their eyes at art that’s “good for them”, so check out Hands On Europe. This international association is dedicated to the development of the children’s museum concept, and includes museums from 21 European countries. For child-friendly exhibits in the United Kingdom, visit Show Me; many of Europe’s larger museums have special programming and exhibits for children – be sure to ask what’s on.
Arts in Europe is your gateway to art and architecture in Belgium, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Romania, Spain, and Switzerland, and publishes an electronic monthly newsletter. The European Museum Guide is helpful for finding temporary exhibitions in 27 European countries. ArtCyclopedia lists museums from all over the world, searchable by different variables so you can pinpoint those of interest to you.
International Museum Day takes place around May 18th—although in Britain, where many museums have no admission fee, it lasts for the entire month! Originally conceived by the International Council of Museums and now in its 20th year, scores of countries participate with special events and exhibits.