World ? Europe ? England

England: The Best Museums

  • The British Museum (London): When Sir Hans Sloane died in 1753, he bequeathed to England his vast collection of art and antiquities for only ţ20,000 ($38,000), forming the nucleus of a collection that would one day embrace everything from the Rosetta Stone to the hotly contested Elgin Marbles (Greece wants them back). It's all here -- and much, much more -- in one of the world's great museums.

  • The National Gallery (London): One of the world's greatest collections of Western art dazzles the eye. Artists ranging from da Vinci to Rembrandt to Picasso are represented here. The gallery is especially rich in works by Renaissance artists.

  • Tate Britain (London): Sir Henry Tate, a sugar producer, started the 10,000-piece collection with only 70 paintings. The Tate was considerably enlarged when J. M. W. Turner bequeathed some 300 paintings and 19,000 watercolors to England upon his death. The Tate Modern, a repository of avant-garde modern art, is directly across the river.

  • The American Museum (Claverton, 3km/2 miles east of Bath, Avon): Housed in a neoclassical country house, this collection presents 2 centuries of American life and styles -- including George Washington's mother's recipe for gingerbread.

  • The Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, East Anglia): Although London dominates this list, some outstanding regional museums exist, including this gem near King's College. Exhibits range from paintings by Titian and Renoir to Chinese, Egyptian, and Greek antiquities.

  • Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool, Lancashire): One of the finest collections of European and British paintings in Britain, this gallery deserves to be better known. A nearly complete study of British paintings is displayed here, from Tudor days to the present. The gallery also owns an outstanding collection of pre-Raphaelites.

  • National Museum of Wales (Cardiff): This museum, Wales's finest, presents the panorama of the history of this little country from prehistoric times until the present. And its collection of 18th-century porcelain is one of the finest in the world.

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