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4 European Museums to See Before You Die

OK, we apologize for the kind of morbid title, but we really want to get across just how important it is that you see these museums. 

We're not talking about your ordinary, run-of-the-mill museums, here - these are the showstoppers of Europe. So give them a look, and keep track of how many you need to hit on your next EURObreak. (And no, this isn't a complete list. There are plenty more museums you should visit in your lifetime)

1. The Louvre, Paris, France

This one's a bit of a given. The Louvre is sort of the godfather of European museums, the one everyone knows and everyone has visited (or wants to). Home to more than 380,000 objects and displaying 35,000 works of art, its many residents include the Nike of Samothrace, the Venus de MiloLiberty Leading the People, and most famously, the Mona Lisa. It's rumored that it would take three months to see everything if you gaze at each piece for only a few seconds – so go with a plan, and be willing to come back to see what you missed.

When you visit: Remember, the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, so make other plans that day. It stays open late on Wednesday and Friday. Desperate to get a good look at Mona Lisa? Line up before the museum opens, and make straight for that famous smile the second they let you in. Within 30 minutes you'll have to fight a crowd, and it stays that way all day. 

Fun fact: It was the home of France's royal family from the time it was built in the 12th century until Louis XIV moved the court to Versailles in 1678.

Related: Our To 3 Must-Sees in Paris

2. The Prado, Madrid, Spain

If you like Spanish art (we do!), you will find no better place to obsess over it (ok, maybe that's just us) than this museum. The Prado displays about 1,300 pieces at any time, with another 3,100 on temporary loan to museums around the world – but the full collection contains over 20,000 pieces dating from the 12th to 19th centuries. You've probably already figured out that they've got some amazing art, but in case you want specifics: Velazquez' Las Meninas, Goya's The Third of May 1808, and Caravaggio's David and Goliath – wait, who let the Italian in?

When you visit: This is another one you could spend days in (actually, just assume all of these are worth a few days' exploration), but there are definitely some "don't-miss" pieces. Luckily, the museum website has itineraries for visits of 1, 2, or 3 hours, encompassing anywhere from 15 to 50 pieces. And with at least some hours 362 days out of the year, you can certainly work a visit into your trip. And don't forget to check out the Dauphin's Treasure in the basement – let's just say it's one of the most impressive collections of precious gems you'll find outside of Tiffany.

Fun fact: 14 of the museum's most important paintings can be viewed using Google Earth at extremely high resolution, with the largest displayed at 14,000 megapixels.

 

3. Vatican Museums, Vatican City (inside Rome, Italy)

If the Vatican Museums contained only the Sistine Chapel, that would be a good enough reason to visit. Luckily for all of us, they have so much more, from ancient statues like Laocoon and his Sons to a suite of four rooms featuring masterpieces by Raphael. Plus, in the Vatican Historical Museum, you can see portraits of all the popes back to the sixteenth century, as well as their carriages and earliest cars.

When you visit: Closed most Sundays (for obvious reasons) and a smattering of holy days throughout the year – check before you go. And remember, this is both a museum and a church, so the dress code is important. Cover shoulders, knees, and everything in between, and you should be fine.

Fun fact: You might see the Swiss Guard on your visit - they're the ones wearing brightly colored Renaissance-style uniforms. They may look funny, but they're no joke - all members of the Swiss Guard are highly trained and very skilled marksmen.

Related: Rome: What to See When You Can't See It All

4.  British Museum, London, United Kingdom

Tired of looking at paintings and statues? Then the British museum is for you! Unlike the others, this museum focuses on the history of human culture from its earliest beginnings. The museum's full collection contains a staggering eight million objects. However, its most famous piece is probably the Rosetta Stone, which gave the modern world the ability to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics.

When you visit: It's super easy to visit the British Museum for two very important reasons: it's open every day (and stays open late on Fridays), and it's free. Also, while the museum is famous for its Greek and Egyptian collections (who doesn't like mummies?), there's a pretty awesome exhibit on the vikings as well - we suggest you don't miss it.

Fun fact: The Portland Vase in room 70 survived intact for 1900 years before being smashed in 1845, and wasn't properly reconstructed until 1989 - but today you can hardly see the damage.

 

So there you have it - a by-no-means complete list of some of our favorite, can't-miss, must-see museums in Europe. Need help visiting these and finding some others? Talk to your Liberty Travel consultant – they know these things – and let them plan your one-of-a-kind EURObreak. These three to four-night getaways to Europe's most iconic cities include incredible sightseeing and unique amenities, like the services of a City Insider, a local guide who will greet you with useful tips and unique facts about the city they live in and love.

Happy museum hunting!