With the world greatest architects designing iconic museums in the world’s cultural capitals, these buildings often stand out for their architecture as much as the collections they house.
But what are the most beautiful museums in the world? We picked ten of our favorites.
The Museum of Islamic Art
Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei, the Museum of Islamic Art has rapidly become an iconic feature of the Doha skyline. The building draws much influence from ancient Islamic architecture, notably the Ibn Tulun Mosque in Cairo.
The cream-coloured limestone captures the changes in light and shade during the day, while at night it is spectacularly light up against a back drop of modern Doha.
The interior is no less spectacular. The centrepiece of the atrium is a curved double staircase leading up to the first floor. Above it floats an ornate circular metal chandelier echoing the curve of the staircase.
Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum
The Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum (MAC) is located in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who worked with structural engineer Bruno Contarini. Since completion in 1996 it has become one of Rio de Janeiro’s best known landmarks.
The flying saucer-shaped modernist structure, which Niemeyer described as a ‘flower growing from the rocks’, is set on a cliff-side above a beach. Public access is via an elegant 98 m long swirling red-carpeted ramp.
MoPOP | Museum of Pop Culture
The Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP is a museum dedicated to contemporary popular culture. It was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000 as the Experience Music Project.
The structure itself was designed by Frank Gehry and resembles many of his firm’s other works in its sheet-metal construction, such as Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Gehry Tower.
Louvre Abu Dhabi
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is an art and civilization museum, located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The Pritzker Prize–winning architect Jean Nouvel designed the museum city after being inspired by the concept of a medina, considered the ancient quarter of many Arab cities. Nouvel constructed a 591-foot silvery metal dome comprised of 7,850 stars in a complex geometric pattern.
Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow, Rio)
The Museu do Amanhã (The Museum of Tomorrow) is an innovative museum addressing the future of the planet. It must rank as one of the world’s most extraordinary buildings with it’s bold design by architect, engineer and artist Santiago Calatrava.
The interactive exhibitions held within the building continue the impressive use of design.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
From its very beginnings the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has been a hub for new art and new ideas.
Built 1959, the museum was designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright to house an innovative collection of works in a unique environment. Today, the museum continues to be a landmark destination that attracts visitors from around the world.
Almost six decades later, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum still stands as one of the most beautiful museums in the world.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a museum of modern and contemporary art designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, and located in Bilbao, Spain.
The museum was inaugurated on 18 October 1997, and has since had over a hundred exhibitions and welcomed more than ten million visitors. Guggenheim Bilbao not only changed the way that architects and people think about museums, but also boosted Bilbao’s economy with its astounding success.
In fact, the phenomenon of a city’s transformation following the opening of the museum is now referred to as the ‘Bilbao Effect.’
The Louis Vuitton Foundation
Opening in October 2014, The Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris is another beautiful museum designed by the architect Frank Gehry. Initially projected to cost €100 million, it was revealed in 2017 to have been nearly eight times that sum.
The two-story structure has 11 galleries of different sizes (in total 41,441 square feet), a voluminous 350-seat auditorium on the lower-ground floor and multilevel roof terraces for events and art installations.
More than 1 400,000 people visited the Louis Vuitton Foundation in 2017.
The Ordos Museum
The Ordos Museum is a museum in Ordos, China.
The museum, which houses collections relating to the local history of Ordos and the surrounding area, was designed by Chinese design company MAD at the request of the local government and built by Huhehaote Construction.
It is a large, open-plan space of around 41,000 square feet; the design was influenced by the Gobi desert. The museum has six levels of exhibition space.
Royal Ontario Museum
The Royal Ontario Museum is a museum of art, world culture and natural history in Toronto, Canada.
It is one of the largest museums in North America and the largest in Canada. It attracts more than one million visitors every year, making the ROM the most-visited in Canada.
Designed by Studio Daniel Libeskind, the extension is known as the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal and was officially opened in June of 2007. With this extension the museum gained 100,000 square feet of new exhibition space, a new entrance and lobby, a street level retail shop, and three new restaurants.
Which museums do you think are the most beautiful in the world?