The world's 10 best art museums worth visiting

LOUVRE, PARIS

The Mona Lisa, armless Venus de Milo and Winged Victory (the latter both ancient Greek statues) are the most visited attractions at the world's largest museum, but the collection ranges from antiquities to Islamic art, with paintings and sculptures from every European school, though especially French and Italian. Few people realise the Louvre is also a repository of decorative and graphic art and houses the French crown jewels. See louvre.fr

AMERICAN ART MUSEUM, WASHINGTON, DC

If you're looking to get an overview of art in America, this branch of the mighty Smithsonian Institution has an all-encompassing selection that covers three centuries of everything from folk art to photography, art nouveau sculpture to contemporary Latino art and video games. The National Portrait Gallery, housed in the same building, is packed with famous faces, such as those of the American presidents. See americanart.si.edu

MUSEUM OF ART HISTORY, VIENNA

The Hapsburgs amassed such a vast art collection they had to build a sumptuous building in which to house it. The Kunsthistorisches Museum is filled with paintings by great European masters from Rembrandt to Rubens, but it is equally noted for its ancient Egyptian and Greek art. Perhaps most dazzling is the Chamber of Curiosities, which houses bejewelled and eccentric collectables, including Cellini's famous silver salt cellar. See khm.at

MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART, DOHA

The shimmering golden cubes of this harbour-side museum provide the best overview of Islamic art you'll find anywhere. Exhibits include metalwork, textiles, furnishings, watercolours, jewellery, porcelain and religious works, and are chosen to showcase the splendid variety of both religious and secular Islamic art from India, the Middle East and as far afield as China and Spain. The stunningly detailed court miniatures from Persia are entrancing. See mia.org.qa

NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON

Though it doesn't match some galleries in size, the quality of the artworks on show here, and their expert arrangement, is outstanding. Some 2300 canvasses chart western art from medieval to Victorian times, highlighting the main movements and top artists, including British landscapes from the likes of Constable and Turner. The East Wing is splashed with the sunflowers and lily ponds of the great Impressionists. See nationalgallery.org.uk

NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM, TAIPEI

The world's largest collection of Chinese cultural objects isn't just about sheer volume, as almost every piece is top quality. Many of the bronzes, jade objects, Buddhist sculptures, calligraphic scrolls, armour and other treasures came from the Forbidden City in Beijing, centre of imperial power, although the collection spans 5000 years. The porcelain is particularly stunning, with some items so delicate as to be translucent. See npm.gov.tw

STATE HERMITAGE MUSEUM, ST PETERSBURG

The green and white rococo Winter Palace housed the Russian imperial family from 1762 until 1917 and, with four interconnected buildings, now houses one of the world's most comprehensive collections of Western art. Its Rembrandt room is jammed, but you can find yourself alone with anything from Egyptian mummies to imperial court dresses. Don't miss the nearby General Staff Building, which houses the fabulous Impressionist collection. See hermitagemuseum.org

MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK

MoMA has such a superlative collection it's hard to pick the highlight from among Monet's Water Lilies, Van Gogh's Starry Night, a Cezanne or Picasso, or Jackson Pollock's One: Number 31, an animated 1950s drip painting. If you find modern art baffling, the free audio guide is enlightening. The building is magnificent, with its glass walkways, abundant natural light and sculpture garden. See moma.org

MUSEUM OF ART, SAO PAULO

The Museu de Arte makes a statement even in its building, a 1968 glass and concrete brutalist structure and city landmark. It houses an internationally significant collection of European art, including a superb assembly of sculptures by Edgar Degas, and has a particular emphasis on post-World War II art. It also features interesting collections of costumes and photography, as well as Brazilian, African and Asian paintings and sculptures. See masp.org.br

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TOPKAPI PALACE MUSEUM, ISTANBUL

The sprawling complex that was once the power base and pleasure palace of the sultans is perhaps best known for its sumptuous architecture, culminating in its exquisitely decorated 400-room harem. However, it's also a repository of jewellery, calligraphy, armour, gold and silver and rare books that highlight the sophisticated craftsmanship of the Ottoman period. One of the world's finest porcelain collections is housed in the massive kitchens. See topkapisarayi.gov.tr

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