The British Museum – London
FOR THE FIRST-TIMER – It’s massive. Plan your attack or you’ll burn out. The Lindow Man and the Egyptian mummies are creepy-cool. The tessellated glass roof in the Great Court is awe-inspiring and Instagram-worthy. The Rosetta Stone’s always mobbed—just skip it.
MOST OVERLOOKED – The clocks and watches room. Yeah, it sounds boring, but go just before the hour for a harmony of tinkles and bongs when the clocks strike— it’s kind of magical. Also magical: a ship clock that once fired cannons and played music to mark the time.
RETURN TRIP TO-DOS – The gold jewellery and ornaments in the Ancient Iran room bring the country’s cultural history to life. Same goes for the European artifacts, such as Anglo-Saxon burial masks and 12th-century chess pieces made from walrus tusks. Don’t miss the controversial Elgin Marbles: they make up half the surviving Parthenon sculptures, and are some of the finest Athenian artifacts in the world.
In Private Hands – Whether for prestige, passion, or tax breaks—or all of the above—Germany has more privately owned art museums accessible to the public than any other nation. Many of the finest examples are in Berlin, such as the Boros Collection, a selection of contemporary works housed in a World War II bunker. This summer, the city will get a much anticipated outpost of the Julia Stoschek Collection, a multimedia art institution based in Dusseldorf. South of Stuttgart, a modern concrete building houses Museum Ritter, an impressive array of abstract works.
And in Duderstadt, billionaire Hans Georg Nader has created Kunsthalle HGN, a gallery touting the work of contemporary German artists like Neo Rauch and Helmut Newton. Thanks to deep pockets, the architecture of many private museums is as striking as the collections, as is the case with the Langen Foundation, designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. It has Europe’s largest private holding of works by Jean Dubuffet, as well as 350 Japanese pieces spanning the 12th to 20th centuries. It makes the otherwise lackluster destination of Neuss, an industrial city near Dusseldorf, worth the trip.