6 museums and what you need to see in each one

6 museums and what you need to see in each one

There’s something perception-altering about walking into an art museum. People are looking up instead of down at their phones. You follow a map instead of a GPS to get around. Like, what DECADE are we in?! You’re experiencing something timeless.

But museums can be daunting. If you spent 24 hours a day trying to see every piece of art the Louvre has on display, it would take you nearly a month. So in order to conquer the world’s finest galleries, it’s a good idea to have a game plan about which pieces you need to see, and which ones you’d like to check out while you’re there.

If you only have a little time, here are the must-see pieces of artwork in Europe’s most famous museums, coupled with the under-appreciated gems you ought to also seek out:

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The Louvre (Paris)

Must see:

Mona Lisa - Leonardo da Vinci: She’s small. She’s the most famous Lisa you know. And she’s fierce. Skipping her would be like going to Burning Man and spending the weekend in your tent.

Should see:

Chapel of the Tomb of Akhethetep: In 1903, they reconstructed this ancient Egyptian tomb. For a minute, don’t just walk like an Egyptian—be one! But don’t open the casket. You know, for curse reasons.

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The Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam)

Must See:

Self Portrait - Van Gogh: One of Van Gogh’s first forays into Impressionism. Be all ears (sorry) if you happen to be on a guided tour—the Rijksmuseum is packed with history.

Should see:  

The Merry Family - Jan Steen: Proves that nothing has changed at family dinners since 1668. Right down to the whacky uncle and uninvited neighbor.

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Galleria dell’Accademia (Florence)

Must see:

Michelangelo’s David: You’ll see a replicas of the David all over Florence, but the one and only sculpted by the master himself, is inside the Accademia. And yes, he’s just as swole as they say.  

Should see:

Michelangelo’s Slaves: As you walk towards the David, don’t miss the unfinished sculptures on either side of the hall. Michelangelo believed that he was a tool of God, releasing the art from the marble itself; you get the feeling this is actually true as you take in these pieces.

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Uffizi Galleries (Florence)

Must see:

The Birth of Venus - Botticelli: Recognize this one from the wall of an Italian restaurant? The real thing is so much more amazing. Admittedly, pairing this viewing with a big bowl of fettuccine doesn’t sound half bad right now.

Should see: 

La Primavera - Botticelli: After you’re done staring at The Birth of Venus, shift around the bench to face the wall to your right for a little more Botticelli action.

Vatican Museum (Vatican City, Rome)

Must see: 

Sistine Chapel Ceiling and The Last Judgment - Michelangelo: I mean, does this need explanation?  

Should see:  

The Belvedere Torso: No legs, no arms, no head, just the torso. This famous six-pack supposedly gave Gustave Rodin the fitspo to make The Thinker.

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British Museum (London)

Must see: 

The Rosetta Stone: This big ol’ rock was literally the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics. Now they’re speaking our language.

Should see:  

Parthenon sculptures: These are the original sculptures from the Parthenon in the Greek Acropolis. And don’t miss the mini-reconstructions of what the original Parthenon would have looked like (spoiler alert: it wasn’t just white marble!). 

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