I found it very difficult to rank my five favorite museums, since I tend to be a fan of almost all museums. History museums especially intrigue me, since even a small, budget-conscious museum can have incredible stories to tell. So I tried to pick the ones I would happily get lost in over and over again and still discover new fascinating nuggets of information.
If you don’t see your favorite museum, feel free to comment, because I know there are so many wonderful museums to get lost in that I have yet to explore.
The Field Museum
I still remember walking in and gazing up at the toothy, 13-foot-high Tyrannosaurus skeleton named Sue. At that moment, history felt real, instead of just a set of stories. That is part of the magic of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History: The exhibits do not just tell you about how dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures lived; they let you stare them down.
The Field Museum has so many engaging exhibits, I could go back again and again and not get my fill. Displays of a preserved mammoth and the infamous Lions of Tsavo especially stand out in my mind among the numerous exhibits.
Just the building itself is a work of art. Built originally as a fortress and then used as a palace, the Louvre in Paris houses incredible works of art that span time and geography. Since it is one of the largest museums in the world, it felt like a maze I could happily wander through for days.
Although I made sure to see the famous works, like the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, what I enjoyed most was discovering works I had never heard of that nearly took my breath away.
Smithsonian National Museum of American History
The entire National Mall in Washington is worthy of much praise. However, there is something very patriotic about seeing the National Museum of American History while in our nation’s capital. It reminded me that it wasn’t always known that America would become its own country and remain that way through the Civil War, economic depression and other hardships.
The museum is proof that even a country as young as ours can have a rich history, with memorable artifacts such as the American flag that inspired Frances Scott Key and President Abraham Lincoln’s top hat.
The British Museum in London comes as close as you can get to gathering the entire history of humanity and fitting it all inside one building. From early Mesopotamian artifacts to the eye-catching Great Court room built in 2001, the museum presents a comprehensive look at human culture. My favorite section centers on the Egyptian legacy, with artifacts including the Rosetta Stone, mummies and statues of the kings of Egypt.
The Vatican Museums
I had to study maps to make my way through the immense series of collections built up over the centuries by popes at the Vatican Museums in Rome. I had a whole day to explore, and it still wasn’t enough to see everything I wanted to. The statues of Roman emperors held particular fascination for me, since I had just spent days touring ruins built by various Roman rulers. I could now look at Nero’s statue square in the eye and wonder if he really was as crazy as he seemed.
Masterpiece after masterpiece line the walls of the museum. I especially loved staring at works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio and Titian. My tip: pace yourself so you don’t run out of energy before the Sistine Chapel. You’ll want some time in that small chapel to sit back, gaze heavenward and soak it all in.