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The 10 Best Museums in the World (and How to Skip the Lines)

Looking for a new museum to add to your travel to-do list? TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company) has released the Travelers’ Choice Top 25 Museums of 2018, including the top 10 worldwide and the top 10 in the United States, with some surprising frontrunners. The findings also highlight bookable ways to see each winner—think VIP tours and scavenger hunts—with some offering the added perk of allowing you to skip the lines to get in.

The winning museums were determined by comparing TripAdvisor reviews over a one-year period, with consideration given for both overall rating and number of reviews.

Here are the best museums in the world and the United States according to TripAdvisor reviews, and the ones you could skip the line at (denoted in bold).

The World’s Best Museums, According to TripAdvisor Reviews

  1. Musée d’Orsay: Paris, France
  2. The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum: New York, New York
  3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York, New York
  4. The British Museum: London, England
  5. Prado National Museum: Madrid, Spain—Museum Tour with Skip-the-Line Admission
  6. Acropolis Museum: Athens, Greece—Skip-the-Line Guided Tour of Athens New Acropolis Museum
  7. Louvre Museum: Paris, France
  8. The National WWII Museum: New Orleans, Louisiana
  9. National Museum of Anthropology: Mexico City, Mexico
  10. War Remnants Museum: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The Best Museums in the United States, According to TripAdvisor Reviews

  1. The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum: New York, New York
  2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York, New York
  3. The National WWII Museum: New Orleans, Louisiana
  4. Art Institute of Chicago: Chicago, Illinois
  5. USS Midway Museum: San Diego, California—Skip the Line USS Midway Museum
  6. National Air and Space Museum: Washington, District of Columbia
  7. American Museum of Natural History: New York, New York
  8. The Getty Center: Los Angeles, California
  9. NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex: Titusville, Florida
  10. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Washington, D.C.

Booking fast-track and skip-the-line admission online beforehand can be close to essential for out-of-town visitors with limited available time. And although TripAdvisor lists the museums in overall rank order, the concept of “museum” is sufficiently varied—so let’s take a look at them by type.

Art Museums

Four of the world’s best museums feature art, including paintings, sculpture, and related visual forms. All four are in the centers of major visitor destination cities and easily accessible by public transportation.

Musee d’Orsay, Paris: The d’Orsay is the number one place to see an extended collection of impressionist art. It’s in a former rail station, and it deserves its many accolades. Timed tickets are available, and it’s closed Mondays.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City: In many ways, the Met is the 400-pound gorilla of the art world. It’s gigantic, and it covers just about every niche. To do it justice takes days, not hours. Express admission tickets are available, and it’s open daily except major holidays.

Prado National Museum, Madrid: The Prado is another huge gallery, with a collection that focuses on Spain’s Old Masters: El Greco, Goya, and Velasquez. Fast-track admissions and tours are available, and it’s open daily except major holidays.

Louvre, Paris: In contrast to the compact and more-focused d’Orsay, the Louvre is huge and its collection is diverse. Crowding is a major problem; just getting a good look at the Mona Lisa takes the skills of a regular rush-hour New York subway rider. Fast-track admissions and tours are available, and it’s closed Tuesdays.

In addition to the Met, two other art museums make the top-10 U.S. list: The Art Institute of Chicago and the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

History Museums

Another four of the top 10 world museums focus on history, from ancient to contemporary. As with the art museums, all four are in important destinations, and easily accessible by public transit.

National 9/11 Memorial & Museum, New York City: The 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center towers is arguably the most memorable event in the lives of Americans too young to remember Pearl Harbor, and the memorial is a centerpiece of the gigantic renewal program within and adjacent to ground zero. It’s open daily.

Acropolis Museum, Athens: Although the Parthenon ruins are the Acropolis’ main attraction, the nearby new Acropolis Museum offers a look at various aspects of life and art in ancient Greece. It’s open daily with the exception of holidays, and with varying hours depending on the season.

National WWII Museum, New Orleans: As TripAdvisor notes, America’s WWII Museum “tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.” It’s open daily until 5 p.m.

War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City: Although many other museums offer vastly greater scale, War Remnants Museum reminds visitors of the high cost of lives and of treasures in one of the most controversial U.S. wars.

TripAdvisor’s list of 10 best U.S. museums also includes the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, the National Air and Space Museum in D.C., the NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Titusville, Florida, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C.

Natural History Museums

The remaining two museums on the list are best described as natural history museums, with exhibits and programs that help visitors understand our planet and its peoples, and how both got to be the way they now are.

British Museum, London: No worldwide list would be complete without this blockbuster natural history museum, which is free and open daily.

National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City: The highly developed pre-Columbian civilizations in Mexico never fail to engage our curiosity. But this museum covers a lot more in its one-and-a-half square miles of exhibits.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

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