In full disclosure, I'm not someone who spends a ton of time at museums, nor am I that person that must go to all the best museums in every city — more like one or two max. In other words, a museum buff, I am not. That said, I like museums. In particular, interesting ones.
I recently attended a talk on the National Museum of African American History and Culture and was fortunate to be able to visit the museum this past December. These recent occurrences got me thinking about my favorite museums around the world and why they were so memorable. Here are 10 museums I believe are worth traveling for:
National Museum of African American History and Culture – Washington, D.C.
Oh man, I love the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It's genuinely one of the most incredible museums I have EVER been to, and it's a place EVERYONE should visit. This is a museum that requires more than one trip. During my first and only visit so far, I spent almost five hours and knew it wasn't nearly enough time. But, it's a start. I can't recommend this museum enough — the next time you're in D.C., go here!
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum – Cleveland, Ohio
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is another AMAZING museum! This isn't just a space for rock and roll but a love letter to music. It is one of the gems of Cleveland with a mind-boggling amount of information on various musical genres, from hip hop to rock to bluegrass. There's also the jukebox area where you can listen to the music of the Hall of Fame inductees and several special exhibitions that help to bring music to life. Just be prepared to break out into a dance in public because you can't help yourself.
Apartheid Museum – Johannesburg, South Africa
The Apartheid Museum is a painfully effective and incredible look at the history of apartheid in South Africa. From the moment you arrive, when you're given either a "Whites" or "Non-Whites" entrance ticket at random, it's clear that this museum is unlike any other. It pulls you into the country's apartheid history in a way that resonates and stays with you long after you've left the museum. For anyone visiting South Africa, this place is simply a must.
Newseum – Washington, D.C.
Calling all media junkies! If you haven't visited the Newseum yet, you are seriously missing out. It's one of the most interactive museums in the world that traces the history of print and electronic communication from its beginnings to now, all while defending free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment of the United States: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. The gist: it's an incredible museum that truly honors journalism, its evolution and its place in history and our present day.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York, New York
This is a classic New York museum, and for a reason. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or The Met as it's commonly known, is a must-visit, or rather must-visits because you will only see a fraction of this museum at once. One of the things I love about The Met is that I think it has a little bit of everything for everyone — from the classic European art, to modern pieces, to beautiful sculptures, to the costume institute and so much more.
Saatchi Gallery – London, England
I'm not sure if the Saatchi Gallery qualifies as a museum or just a gallery but regardless it's worth visiting, in my opinion. It's not large and certainly isn't visited like some of London's more well-known museums, but I find the exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery to be extremely interesting and often thought-provoking. Not to mention, it's in the beautiful and posh neighborhood of Chelsea, which is the perfect place to people watch.
The Louvre – Paris, France
Similar to The Met, the Louvre is a classic Paris destination and rightfully so. It's home to the Mona Lisa, which, truth be told, is somewhat anti-climactic to see in person, but it's also home to an unbelievable amount of other, non-Mona Lisa impressive art, plus it's just a beautiful place to see architecturally, both from the outside and inside.
Museum of the Revolution – Havana, Cuba
During my time in Cuba, I visited two museums and liked both but it was the Museum of the Revolution that I found particularly interesting. The history between Cuba and the United States is a very sensitive one, with varying perceptions of events. This museum goes through key dates and turning points and brings to life history from the Cuban point of view. It's definitely worth visiting to understand Cuban history through the eyes of Cubans.
The Vasa Museum – Stockholm, Sweden
I had not heard of the Vasa Museum before visiting Stockholm but when I read about the Vasa ship that sank in 1628, I knew I had to check this place out. And I'm so glad I did. First of all, this ship is huge and pictures do not do it justice. It's pretty incredible to be there and see the almost fully intact ship up close. I also recommend doing a guided tour to better understand the history of the Vasa and the events that led up to its sinking.
Vatican Museums – Vatican City, Italy
Though they are often insanely crowded, the Vatican Museums in Vatican City are worth the long lines and sometimes tight squeezes, mostly because the works of art and sculptures are so impressive that you just have to take the time to see them and admire. To minimize the long lines, you have to be strategic about your visit. Go when it's less crowded, which is usually in the afternoon, as the morning lines can get crazy, and wear comfortable shoes. Looking at all that art can get tiring!
Whether you're a self-proclaimed museum buff or not, these 10 museums are most definitely worth traveling for and visiting. They'll have you feeling more cultured and curious in no time.
Do you have any favorite museums?