The attraction of Europe as a tourist destination owes to a range of factors, including its fascinating cities, its natural beauty and its cultural diversity. However, for many people, a central part of traveling in Europe has to do with the wealth of historical interest that is found in almost every different country on the continent. Whether it is the Parthenon in Greece, the Colosseum in Rome, or Stonehenge in the UK, there is something to stoke the imagination of lovers of history wherever you look. 

As much history as a city or country has, what really helps to tell its story and bring it to life are museums. Fortunately, Europe has thousands of excellent museums. Indeed, there are so many that it can be a struggle to pick which ones to pencil into your itinerary if you are coming from the United States and Canada, and you do not have enough time to visit them all. That is why we have put together this article to compile a list of the most popular museums that simply should not be missed on your next trip.

By the way, if you are planning a trip to Europe as a U.S. or Canadian citizen in 2021, you should be aware that the visa requirements are changing. From January of next year, you will have to apply for the new ETIAS visa waiver scheme. For more information on how to apply, take a look at this fantastic ETIAS visa guide. 


  • Louvre, Paris


It makes sense that the most visited museum in Europe is found in Europe’s most visited city, Paris. The Musée du Louvre tends to be most people’s highlight on a trip to Paris. Housed in the Louvre Palace on the banks of the Seine in central Paris, the museum holds around 38,000 objects from prehistory right the way up to the 21st century. In 2019, the 72,735 square-meter complex was visited by approximately 9.6 million people – more than any other museum in the world!


  • Vatican Museums, The Vatican


While the Louvre may be the most visited museum in the world, the Vatican Museum are surely among the oldest. Founded by Pope Julius II back in the early 16th century, the museums are dedicated to exhibiting artwork and sculptures that tell the story of the Catholic Church through the ages. The museums contains roughly 70,000 artefacts and attracted close to 7 million visitors in 2019.


  • British Museum, London


If it is sheer diversity you are after, there are few better places to find it than at the British Museum.  The museum holds an incredible 8 million works that aim to document the entirety of human history, culture and art. Indeed, there is so much inside the museum that its very existence has sparked a wide debate on whether or not many of the priceless artefacts should be returned to the countries for which they were plundered. 


  • Tate Modern, London


As one of the largest museums of modern art anywhere in the world, the Tate Modern is an essential stop on any trip to London. Based in the stark hollowed-out shell of the now-defunct Bankside Power Station, the Tate exhibits the best from British art from 1900 onward. With 5.9 million visitors in 2018, the Tate Modern lays claim to being the sixth-most visited museum of its type in the world. 


  • Natural History Museum, London


If it is natural history rather than human history that you are interested in, by visiting the Natural History Museum in London, you have come to the right place. Located on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, the museum holds over 80 million items related to zoology, entomology, botany, mineralogy and palaeontology. Established in 1881, the museum today attracts over 5 million people a year. And the best thing about it (and the other British museums on this list) is that admission is free.


  • Reina Sofia, Madrid


The final entry on this list is the fabulous Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. The museum is Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art and attracts just under 4.5 million visitors a year. Inside, visitors will find art mainly from Spanish artists, with the most famous exhibit probably Picasso’s 1937 work of art Guernica

No trip to Europe would be complete without taking in some history. The next time you are nearby, make sure to visit the museums listed in this article to immerse yourself in the continent’s fascinating historical roots.