Many travel to Europe for a variety of enjoyable reasons such as its luxurious beaches, lively parties, daring hiking trails, and much more. Yet, a large majority journey to the birth spot of Western Civilization simply to immerse themselves in its rich and storied history; more specifically, travelers seek out the awe-inspiring museums.
Museums, regardless of size and stature, are the greatest storytellers — of course depending on who you ask; they have the ability to walk you through a region or country’s distinctive narratives. Countless travelers may want to check off a bucket list item, by attending a specific museum, or places such as The Louvre, Van Gogh, or The British Museum; obviously, all have apparent and acclaimed backgrounds. But more importantly, other museums, despite having less notoriety and physical size, still command respect because of their ability to capture the essence of crucial events for that specific location’s identity.
By adding these lesser-known exhibits to your itinerary, you would be surprised by the amount of joy and discovery, that would provide more meaning to your trip. With this in mind, here are six amazing museums that are more than worth your time as you seek to enhance your European travel experiences:
(Prague, Czech Republic)
Without a doubt, tourists are mesmerized by one of the most visited capitals in Europe and an ever-increasing vacation destination. The majestical castles, bridges, and views are eye candy in themselves, but the beauty of the Národní muzeum (National Museum) holds its own amongst such charm.
The building is easily identified on the Prague Skyline and is directly connected to the historic Wenceslas Square. The museum details the rich storyline of its own people like no other in Europe. From superb video projections to holographic hallways, the exquisiteness of the museum building itself, in addition to its advanced technological demonstrations creates a unique experience for the visitor.
Most importantly, the Czech people do an amazing job of exemplifying that they are still growing as a people and make steps every year to get past their most recent violent communist past. Leaving here will connect you even deeper to the breathtaking beauty of the city.
If you can separate yourself for a second from the fun of the many thermal springs, and ruin bars, then there is no other way to experience the pride of the Hungarian people than by stopping by a museum that happens to be in arguably one of the most iconic sites in the city.
After climbing up the Buda Castle Hill and admiring the castle district in its entirety, the museum combines modern and ancient Hungarian history in a seamless, story-like manner. The Castle was constructed nearly a thousand years ago by King Béla IV and further renovated and remodeled on numerous occasions up to modern times. The visitor is given great insight into the once-separated parts of Pest, Buda, and Obuda, as well as the many rulers of these sought-out lands. You may find yourself getting distracted in the exhibits by the fascinating glamor of the castle. The architects of the many exhibits made certain you would be taking in the information along with the overall grandness of the castle.
To add to the immense amount of knowledge you obtain, there is an immeasurable sense of happiness as you leave the castle and enamor yourself with the beauty of the entire city landscape below.
(Prague, Czech Republic)
Would you like to get a first-hand look at life behind the Iron Curtain post-World War 2? This is the place to go. The brutality witnessed in this gallery is almost unbearing. The museum is more geared toward history buffs who want to know exactly how the Czechoslovaks fell to communism, and what exactly occurred during that period. Sure, upon initial arrival it’s not as appealing as the National Museum or Prague Castle, but still worthy of your attendance.
The museum is constructed in the way of a three-act tragedy, engaging you in the build-up to World War 2, poor life under the communist regime, and of course the dreadful police state. Displays are a mix of red and black and white along with items, artifacts, uniforms, and weapons — thus evoking the sense of a communist presence. The museum provides precise information on the brutality of the communist regime in a technical and organized manner. It is very intimidating and cannot be missed. Arriving here will let you know exactly why there is a bursting sense of general euphoria amongst the Prague people.
Despite this popular city once being called the capital of the world, there are still many unhidden gems that are overshadowed by other popular touristy sites and excursions. This museum is located in the magnificent former Hôtel Carnavalet. The historic Renaissance building, which dates to the 16th century, is now dedicated to covering Parisian history.
The tone is immediately set when you walk in and witness the grandeur of numerous art pieces and artifacts that date back over 450 years ago. The museum weaves you around long and brilliant staircases and every gallery is styled differently aesthetically to emphasize the time period. In addition, while in the museum, you discover the proud history of the Parisians through audio recordings from history experts detailing the conception of the city; the rise of the rich aristocracy; and the impact of the prominent war pursuits of Napoleon. What specifically is enticing about this museum is its discernment of lesser-known facts: like how women’s contributions were minimized during the French Revolution due to historical revisionism.
Are you looking to really appreciate the acclaimed city of Paris, beyond the watering croissants and sweets? Come here "oui oui!"
I wouldn’t visit this museum if you’re claustrophobic; the place is almost too intimidating to attend. Located right in the center of Tirana, an improving global hub and still developing capital city, it evokes the feeling of being trapped as you descend down the stairs into a former underground bomb bunker — transformed into an intense exhibit.
Albania has a complicated and very recent history. Despite being outside the Soviet Bloc, their communist dictator was just as ruthless and brutal. He closed off the entire country to the outside world and was so paranoid about an attack from other countries that he created underground bunkers all over the nation. The whole museum is mostly centered around the power of the Albanian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Sigirumi or “secret police”. All those who were suspected of not being loyal to the ruling party were brought here to be tortured and questioned — some flat-out mutilated.
Every room, whether an accommodation for a prison guard or administrative center was transformed for the visitor to really feel the history and get a sense of fear that the Albanian people felt when the power structure in the country was threatened. When you leave the exhibit, you not only get a sense of gratitude for the life you live but also feel that you escaped; and that is what great museum storytelling is meant to do.
The only museum on this list that does not necessarily describe its host country or region displays something that transcends borders and cultural differences: heartbreak.
Once a traveling exhibit that revolved around failed and dissolved relationships and their ruins — the museum has a wide range of artifacts and descriptions of their significance from individuals across the globe. Possibly a toy from a deceased grandfather, or even a pair of underwear from a former lover; even stories from separated War World 2 lovers, whose cultural and ethnic heritage wouldn't allow them to be together. The range of heartbreak and solemn will have you leaving with a wide range of emotions. There are universal feelings that are felt by all and this museum demonstrates that in its entirety.
Altogether, there are many reasons to journey to Europe. In order to really enhance your travels and fun — and of course find deeper meaning regarding your place in the world — maybe seek out lesser-known destinations, not even just these. While museums may not be for everyone, taking time to recognize the formulation of the identities in varying countries does more than just improve your understanding of the location. It increases the general joy there is to be somewhere new — while also giving a more grounded sense of purpose to your trip.
This article makes me want to go to each and every museum listed!