1. The Hermitage
WHERE: Saint Petersburg
Image via Flickr by Ilya
Covering art from the stone age until modern-day, this impressive gallery speaks of old world charm and mystery. People enjoy spending entire weeks exploring the vast hallways, and yet fail to see all of the art, because this is the world's largest collection. Visitors are astounded by the expansive collections of Matisse, Rembrandt, gold in the Golden Rooms, and sculptures from ancient Rome.
Founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, this museum was not open for the people for several decades. It now maintains its public agenda by keeping low prices and relying upon a largely volunteer staff.
2. The Louvre
WHERE: ParisWhen you want to experience a stark contrast to low-brow local art galleries, nothing is more appropriate than The Louvre. It offers a regal, if snobbish, look at some of the finest paintings in the world. People line up to see famous exhibits like Mona Lisa, but stay for the uncrowded, myriad hallways.
The Louvre specializes in art from Greece, Rome, Egypt and Asia, but pays special attention to home-grown genius. The French are very particular about exporting their artworks, so some of these pieces have never gone on tour.
3. The Met
WHERE: New York City
Image via Flickr by MindNobody
Elegance and sophistication are blended perfectly with an urban flair for the dramatics in this world-class museum. People love the setting, the crowds filled with people from all parts of the world, and the excellent, informative exhibits at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Met houses more than two million works of art, specializing in European, Indian, Egyptian and Greek art movements. It is also the setting for fundraisers, events, and weddings of the rich and famous. However, if you want the elegance and caliber of The Met without the crowds, you should think about Park West Gallery in Michigan or Florida, because The Met is extremely over-populated.
4. National Gallery of Art
WHERE: Washington, DCLike many sophisticated American galleries, this understated gallery offers grace to visitors. You won't feel shunned for not understanding the Impressionists or Dadaism in this gallery. Outdoor festivals like Jazz in the Park are held weekly, and free guided tours occur hourly.
Before visiting NGA in DC explore their highlighted works online, which index visually — rather than by name. It will prepare your mind for the beauty it is about to absorb. You can even print a free guide to take along with you so that the art movements are explained as you progress through the gallery.
When you want to experience beauty and history in one of the world's finest art museums, these options will all cross your mind. They are pillars of perfection in the art community, which set great examples for other art galleries and museums around the globe.