Museums house some of the most beautiful and thought-provoking works by artists throughout modern and ancient times alongside artifacts from societies prehistoric and current. Most people are split on visiting museums because the experience isn’t for all tastes: the pace can be slow, the experience not always interactive, and some people just aren’t much interested in art or history. These are all totally valid points that any museum lover can argue against… but I’m not here to do that.
What I want to talk about isn’t so much the art and artifacts inside the museum but the architectural style of the building itself. The last few museum visits have had me staring at the stunning atriums, clean and modern lines, and gorgeous landscaping in and around the museum, enough to distract my attention from the contents! Here are just a few of the most beautiful, serene, eye-catching and interesting museums around the world as seen by a few travel bloggers (and yours truly).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA
The Met is a must-see when in New York, for more reasons than one. The art and history housed in The Met is what brings people in, but the buildings that make up this gigantic museum had me ogling the architecture when I visited. Every room is decorated to complement the artwork within, making each hall a piece of art on its own. The Sculpture exhibition is where the architecture – and location – of the museum really shines. The sculptures are located in the museum’s atrium which floods the space with natural light. Being located along 5th Avenue means you leave the city behind as you enter the museum and the Atrium is where you get the green views of Central Park.
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
“The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia is housed inside many buildings. The most beautiful one is the Winter Palace, where the Russian royal family used to live. My favourite part of the museum is the Jordan Staircase, which has white marble handrails and red carpets. Ornate gold decorations line the surrounding walls. The Hermitage also has other lovely rooms, such as the Small Italian Skylight Room, which has vibrant red walls and elegantly patterned flooring.”
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
The Musée d’Orsay is famous for housing the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist artwork in the world but what really drew me was the fact that it was a converted train station from the 19th century. The station – Gare d’Orsay – is built-in the Beaux Arts style of architecture, which, I’ve come to realize, is what I’m really attracted to wherever I go. I love the structural elements and glass ceiling of the main hall of the museum. The famous clock is a highlight for every photographer (silhouettes rule here) and is a great spot to view Paris’s right bank all the way to the Sacré-Coeur and beyond. The Salle des Fêtes is a pop of blush pink walls, gilded moulding and sparkly chandeliers which really stands out in the already stunning industrial chic museum.
Getty Villa, Los Angeles, USA
“The Getty Villa is home to an impressive collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art and artifacts. However, when visiting, it isn’t just the art you’ll be looking at, but the villa itself! The Getty Villa was actually modeled after and painted in the style of ancient Roman villas. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped outside of Malibu, California and been transported to ancient Rome! I highly recommend heading on a guided tour during your visit, so you can better understand the history of Roman villas and the architecture of the museum.”
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Portugal
The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian is tucked away in the North end of Lisbon, far from the tourist throngs to the south. Located within the larger Gulbenkian Park, visiting the museum becomes the perfect little getaway from the city’s hilly streets. My experience started in the leafy park, where the shady paths led to the concrete modernist building. The museum itself was all about modern simplicity. It’s all clean lines, floor to ceiling windows, wood-finished interiors, and courtyards filled with trees and sunlight. It was the epitome of 60s cool. It’s the perfect place to get your art fix and enjoy the landscape grounds surrounding this gorgeous museum.
Sabah Museum, Kota Kinbalu, Malaysia
“The Sabah Museum is located in Kota Kinabalu and all too often it falls off the radar. With beautiful beaches and a mountain to climb people don’t want to spend time in a stuffy museum. I could have well been guilty of the same crime had I not had 2 whole weeks in the city. The amazing parts of the Sabah museum are the Heritage villages. A number of the traditional Sabah houses are on display. . Each house is said to be specific to a certain tribe. You can walk into them and have a feel of what living in Borneo was a few centuries ago.”
Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, India
“I visited Mumbai, India’s largest city (and home to “Bollywood” or commercial mainstream cinema, the second largest movie industry in the world) in December 2016. Being a museum freak, I scouted out the little known and even less visited Bhau Daji Lad Museum (formerly Queen Victoria and Prince Albert museum) in Byculla. This is also Mumbai’s oldest museum and was recently brought to life by INTACH, a well-known art history restoration group. The museum in its current state is thus beautifully curated with exhibits from different parts of India and has two floors.
The first floor showcases India’s traditional art forms depicting scientific advancements and aesthetics, which were exhibited in London during the time of Prince Albert to reveal the bounty of the British colonies to the western world. The second floor gallery has exhibits on the history and origin of Mumbai, from its humble origin to one of the mega metropolis’ of the world. There was also a guided tour offered in the morning which made our visit even more insightful. The museum has a neat little gift shop to pick up souvenirs from as well.”
The British Museum, London, England
“The British Museum is full of amazing artwork and historical artifacts, but the building itself is just as impressive. The core of today’s building was designed by the architect Sir Robert Smirke in 1823. You can’t miss the grand Greek style columns on the building’s exterior, but when you enter you can’t help but be impressed with the new roof that was added in 2000 to the Great Court. I really love the mix of the modern and classical architecture. It makes the British Museum very unique and a must see when visiting London.”
Queensland Gallery of Modern Art – Brisbane, Australia
“The Queensland Art Gallery building opened in 1982 as part of the first stage of South Bank’s Cultural Precinct which sits proudly on the Brisbane river overlooking the CBD. In July 2002, Sydney-based company Architectus was commissioned by the Queensland Government to design the Gallery’s second site, the Gallery of Modern Art which was opened right next door in 2006.
“The duality of the design approach [for GOMA] is that the architecture is impressive and monumental without losing its openness and freshness, and without being intimidating; international yet responsive to local conditions and the south-east Queensland context. By adopting this approach the architects propose to realise one of the Gallery’s most important aims – to place the institution in the public experience of the city.’ – Lindsay and Kerry Clare, architect’s statement
GOMA has hosted some incredible exhibits and owns an extensive collection.
Exhibits have included Andy Warhol,Picasso, Ron Mueck, Chanel Couture, Valentino a Retrospective and Matisse. It also hosts the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art.
Popular with people of all ages and locals and visitors alike there are always many free and intriguing events and activities at GOMA as well as an award winning restaurant, Australia’
The Vatican Museums, Vatican City
It’s just not possible to talk about stunning museums without mentioning the absolutely incredible Vatican Museums. I was pretty hesitant to visit the Vatican at first, which sounds absolutely absurd now that I’ve actually been. I cannot imagine having missed this! It’s a complex of museums and galleries that leave you so completely stupefied – the gilding, the mosaics, the vaulted ceilings. By the time you hit the Sistine Chapel you’re in total sensory overload. (That doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate it… just that you may need to sit down while taking it all in!) I was blown away by the floor to ceiling maps decorating the Gallery of Maps. It ties with the sculpture-filled Octagonal Hall for my favourite parts of the Vatican complex. It’s no wonder that Vatican City is a UNESCO World Heritage site!
These are just a few of the many worldwide museums that may steal the spotlight away from the artwork within. Next time you’re visiting a museum take a bit of time to take in the floors, ceiling, and walls around you. You just may find the real star of the show.
What’s your favourite museum?