Impressive luxury collections you can visit: The 10 best collections in the world

GOLD

Head to the Gold Museum in the Colombian capital, Bogota, and you won't just see the world's most fabulous gold collection – about 6000 of 55,000 pieces are displayed – but have it stunningly presented and coherently explained. You're taken through the history of gold in pre-Columbian times, including its manufacture and political and religious use. Among the treasure trove are animal figures, warriors, ritual offerings and a famous golden raft. See banrepcultural.org

DIAMONDS

<i>The Hope Diamond at the Department of Mineral Sciences of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. </i>

The Hope Diamond at the Department of Mineral Sciences of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

There are dozens of famous diamonds and other gemstones at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, including the earrings of French queen Marie Antoinette, but the most famous bauble is the blue Hope Diamond, weighing just over 45 carats. The spectacular stone was supposedly gouged from the eye of a Hindu temple goddess in the 17th century, and is said to curse anyone who owns it. See si.edu

CROWN JEWELS

All other crown jewels – even those of the Tower of London – fade in comparison with the eye-boggling Treasury of National Jewels lodged in the Central Bank of Iran in Tehran. The kitsch array of tiaras, crowns and necklaces was amassed over centuries by Safavid kings and Persian shahs. There are literally tonnes of plump yellow diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Highlights are the Peacock Throne and a bejewelled world globe. See cbi.ir

BOOKS

<i>The Book of Kells display at Trinity College, Dublin.</i>

The Book of Kells display at Trinity College, Dublin.

Is the Book of Kells the world's most beautiful book? Decide for yourself in the library of Trinity College in Dublin, where the masterpiece of early Christian art is displayed. You'll see four original, lavishly illustrated pages of this medieval wonder at any one time, and an exhibition on the book's creation, significance and conservation. The library also has other beautiful gospels, manuscripts, early books and historical artefacts. See tcd.ie

WATCHES

<i>Exterior of Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.</i>

Exterior of Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.

You'd be hard-pressed to find more beautiful watches than in Geneva's Patek Philippe Museum, which displays bejewelled timepieces from the 16th century onwards. It also has impressive examples of its own creations, such as a 1950s split-second chronograph that now sells at auction for a million dollars, and the complex Calibre 89, which provides information on the Zodiac, Easter dates, and the times of sunrise and sunset. See patekmuseum.com

PORCELAIN

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The National Palace Museum in Taipei houses the world's greatest collection of Chinese art of all sorts, including jade, bronzes, calligraphy and statues. Its ceramics and porcelain exhibits are staggering, with just some of 340,000 pieces, covering dozens of dynasties over 5000 years, on rotation at any one time. Among them – rare 11th-century glazed celadon, imperial china from the Tang Dynasty, and personal pieces belonging to various emperors. See npm.gov.tw

CARS

<i>Grand Prix cars at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu Palace House, England. </i>

Grand Prix cars at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu Palace House, England. Photo: Samantha Cook Photography

Not many car collections can match that of Lord Montague's, housed in the National Motor Museum beside his castle at Beaulieu in England's New Forest. It's crammed with vintage and notable cars such as Donald Campbell's speed-record Bluebird, plus famous fictional vehicles from James Bond movies, the mini from Mr Bean, and the car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. There are also galleries associated with BBC series Top Gear. See beaulieu.co.uk

PAINTINGS

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There are plenty of extraordinary art museums, but given the craze and auction prices for Impressionists, you could hardly find a better collection than that in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. It specialises in art from 1848 to 1914 and has iconic paintings from the likes of Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin and van Gogh. The magnificent belle epoque museum building, a former train station, is also marvellous. See musee-orsay.fr

TREASURES

<i>Cellini's famous saltcellar from the Chamber of Curiosities collection at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.</i>

Cellini's famous saltcellar from the Chamber of Curiosities collection at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

The Museum of Art History in Vienna holds the world's best Kunstkammer or chamber of curiosities. The treasure-trove of Hapsburg collectables ranges from peculiar drinking goblets straight out of Game of Thrones to mechanical dancing bears, ivory sculptures, gorgeously bejewelled objects d'art, clocks and scientific tools. None of the 800 items is less than outstanding, among them Cellini's famous saltcellar, a marvel of metalworking technique and craftsmanship. See khm.at

PALACES

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Photo: Shutterstock

Europe abounds in over-the-top palaces, but no city has as many as St Petersburg, and few are as opulent. The famous Hermitage art collection is almost overshadowed by the splendour of the Winter Palace that houses it; Rasputin was assassinated in the lavish Yusupov Palace; Menshikov Palace showcases 18th-century Russian society. Outside the city, Catherine Palace and Peterhof are weighed down in gold and surrounded by impressive gardens. See visit-petersburg.ru

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