No other continent on earth boasts such a wealth of art as Europe. It’s been an epicenter of culture and art for millennia, from the Ancient Greeks and Romans to the Flemish Masters and Italian Renaissance painters. It comes as no surprise, then, that the best art museums in Europe are also among the greatest museums in the world. Let’s take a look at the eight greatest Europe art museums!
8 Best Art Museums in Europe
From the British Isles to the Mediterranean to Russia, art takes up a prominent place in each European country’s cultural heritage. As you’ll see in the following list, you can find the best art museums in Europe all over the continent. So, no matter which country you’re visiting, you should always be able to hop into a museum and discover world-class works of art.
1. The National Gallery, London
The London National Gallery is located on Trafalgar Square, arguably the most famous public space in the British capital. The museum exhibits more than 2,000 paintings from the 1200s to 1900 (the Tate Modern is London’s modern art museum). As a “national gallery”, its art belongs to the British people and therefore it’s free to visit.
- More information: The National Gallery
- Highlights: Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks and Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 34.
2. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Its name literally meaning “National Museum”, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is dedicated to arts and history. It lies at the appropriately called Museum Square and near other interesting cultural institutions such as the Van Gogh Museum. Its collection includes an astonishing one million artworks, of which about 8,000 are on display. This is without question the place to be for masterpieces by Dutch Masters like Rembrandt, Hals and Vermeer
- More information: Rijksmuseum
- Highlights: Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, Vermeer’s The Milkmaid and the Cuypers Library dedicated to art history books.
3. Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, has no lack of world-class cultural highlights. Among those is the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most significant art museums in Europe—and the world. It houses arguably the greatest collection of Renaissance art on Earth and has been open to the public since as early as 1865.
- More information: Uffizi Gallery
- Highlights: Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, Caravaggio’s Medusa, Titian’s Venus of Urbino and Bandinelli’s Laocoön and His Sons.
4. Prado Museum, Madrid
One of Spain’s largest museums and most visited art museums in Europe, Madrid’s Prado Museum has the world’s greatest collection of Spanish art. Francisco Goya and Diego Velazquez are the most represented painters in the museum, but there are also works by other European painters, including Titian, El Greco, Ribera and Rubens.
- More information: Prado Museum
- Highlights: Velazquez’ Las Meninas, Rubens’ Three Graces and Bosch’s The Garden of Delights.
5. The Louvre, Paris
Possibly the most famous art museum in the world, the Louvre is also one of the world’s most visited landmarks, receiving more than 8 million visitors each year. Housed in the massive Louvre Castle, its collection is similarly enormous. The museum displays almost 40,000 artworks, but its entire collection numbers in the millions. Its number one highlight, without a shadow of doubt, is the Mona Lisa.
- More information: The Louvre
- Highlights: de Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Canova’s Psyche Revived by the Kiss of Love, the French crown jewels and the Venus de Milo.
6. The Vatican Museums, Rome
The Vatican Museums are a collection of art museums within Vatican City in Rome. Few art museums in Europe are as impressive as these, housing a vast number of artworks collected over hundreds of years by the Popes. According to the official website, there are no fewer than 26 museums and galleries, of which the Sistine Chapel is by far the most famous.
- More information: Vatican Museums
- Highlights: The Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment and works by Botticelli and Raphael, the Spiral Staircase, the Raphael Rooms and the Gallery of the Statues.
7. Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
For modern and contemporary art, there are few places better than Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum. Housed in a total architectural masterpiece, one of the most iconic buildings of our time, it features art from the mid-1900s through today. It belongs to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and focuses strongly on European and North American art.
- More information: Guggenheim Museum
- Highlights: Rothko’s Untitled, Rauschenberg’s Barge and Klein’s Large Blue Anthropometry.
8. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
The second-largest art museum in the world—after the Louvre—and one of the best art museums in Europe, the Hermitage was founded in 1764. Its enormous collection comprises 3 million items, of which only a small part is displayed in more than 100 rooms. The displays include everything from Egyptian and Classical antiquities to Italian Renaissance, Flemish Baroque, the Dutch Golden Age and, of course, Russian art.
- More information: The Hermitage
- Highlights: Picasso’s Absinthe Drinker, Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy, Raphael’s Madonna and Child and the Knight’s Hall.
These are definitely some of the best art museums in Europe. If you know another art museum that’s worth visiting, leave a comment below so we can all go and check it out!