World's Best Art Destinations

Hungry for inspiration? These art destinations worldwide will satisfy your craving with extraordinary works of creativity and genius located in world-class museums and even the great outdoors.
By: Lisa Singh
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The Louvre, Paris

The world’s best-known work of art, the "Mona Lisa," finds its home in the world’s most visited museum, the Louvre. For more than 200 years, da Vinci’s famous painting has resided within the Louvre, a treasure trove showcasing nearly 35,000 pieces of artwork from prehistory to the 19th century. Outside is also a visual feast. Here’s a view of the Louvre’s Pyramid, completed in 1989.

Crown Fountain at Millennium Park, Chicago

Experience this interactive work of public art at Chicago’s Millennium Park. The 50-foot-tall structure -- the brainchild of Spanish Catalan artist and sculptor Jaume Plensa -- is one of 2 towers on which digital video images appear. LED screens showcase actual Chicago residents. The water that spouts through a nozzle on each tower’s front face operates from May to October.

Goreme Open Air Museum, Turkey

Centuries ago, monastic communities carved more than 30 cave churches and chapels into these towering rock formations in central Turkey. That was just the beginning: Inside, they painted Byzantine-era frescoes. Today, those works of Eastern Roman Empire art -- painted between the 9th and 11th centuries -- remain a unique artistic achievement.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

The world of ancient Egypt shines in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian art collection. The star attraction is the Temple of Dendur (pictured here), a temple built by the Roman governor of Egypt, Petronius, around 15 BC. The Met’s other collections showcase the European masters, as well as works from the ancient Near East, Greek and Roman periods, and the Islamic world.

Vatican Museums, Vatican City

Michelangelo preferred sculpting to painting. And yet, the “artist who did not want to paint” created one of the most influential works in fresco art in the history of Western art: the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It’s part of the Vatican Museums, a total of 13 museums in more than a dozen Vatican palaces inside Vatican City.

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

In the 17th century, the Dutch were among the world’s leaders in trade, science, military might and art. This era -- known as the Dutch Golden Age -- is preserved at the Rijksmuseum, a Dutch national museum in Amsterdam. The museum showcases a large collection of paintings from this period -- such as Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” -- that explain why the Dutch were among the world's artistic leaders in developing landscapes, still lifes and genre painting.

Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid

In 1937 the Basque town of Guernica, Spain, suffered an aerial attack in which hundreds of civilians died. Soon after, at the behest of the Spanish Republican government, the artist Pablo Picasso began a mural-size work, “Guernica,” in response to the bombing – and as an expression of the tragedies of war. See the haunting work at the Museo Reina Sofia museum, Spain’s national museum dedicated to 20th-century art.

Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan

This Dominican convent in Milan holds a priceless artistic treasure -- that was nearly lost to the world. During World War II, aerial bombs hit the 15th-century church, destroying many of its walls. Luckily, one of the walls of the refectory (dining hall) was spared -- and so was the mural painting that covered it: Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”

Storm King Art Center, New York State

Nature and art combine in tranquil harmony at Storm King Art Center. The 500-acre site, located 1 hour north of NYC, is home to more than 100 carefully placed sculptures. The landscape’s design was the vision of a retired businessman, Ralph Ogden, who founded Storm King in 1960. As you stroll the fields in the lower Hudson Valley, you’ll see massive works of sculpture such as this piece, “Mozart’s Birthday,” by sculptor Mark di Suvero. 

Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Visitors walk through one of the oldest art museums in the Western world: the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. Construction of the building began in 1560; later, in 1765, it was opened to the public as a museum. Among the treasures you’ll find inside are Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” ceiling frescoes and ancient Roman sculptures such as “The Wrestlers.”

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Washington, DC’s National Gallery of Art holds a major distinction: It’s home to the only portrait by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas. The Renaissance master’s double-sided portrait of a 15th-century Italian aristocrat, Ginerva de’ Benci, can be found in the West Building’s Main Floor gallery 6.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), NYC

Known simply as MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in Midtown Manhattan houses one of the finest collections of modern art in the Western world. One of the standouts among the museum’s 150,000 treasures is “The Starry Night” -- the famous 1889 work by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh that captures a view of southern France from his sanatorium room window.

Lakshmana Temple, India

Visitors enter Lakshmana Temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, in central India. Carvings depicting various erotic scenes adorn the southern facade of this Hindu temple, built more than 1,000 years ago. Still, they’re just a small portion of the astonishingly intricate images you’ll see among the more than 600 Hindu deities that adorn both the inside and outside of this sandstone temple.

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico

Before Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas, a rich civilization thrived in what is now modern-day Mexico. The pre-Columbian era is preserved at Mexico’s Museo Nacional de Antropologia. Inside you’ll find the largest collection of pre-Columbian artifacts in Mexico, such as the Aztec Stone of the Sun, a large monolithic sculpture that was discovered in 1790.

Spiral Jetty, Utah

This earthwork sculpture, constructed over a 6-day period in 1970, was built entirely of mud, basalt rocks, salt crystals, earth and water. It was the creation of American artist Robert Smithson, who coined the term “earthworks” art. "Spiral Jetty" is Smithson’s most famous example of this art form. While exposure to the elements has changed the jetty’s original colors, it remains a fixture of the northeastern shore of Utah’s Great Salt Lake.

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