15 Must-See Museums Around the World

From science and history to art and fashion, these museums offer a lot more than the expected.

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Design Museum, London. Photo by: Gravity Road

Journeys that spark the imagination can lead to revolutions in creativity. In 1966 a young Yves Saint Laurent discovered the beauty and colours of Marrakech, and became so enamoured of the city that he made it his second home. Now, a half century later, the French designer’s Moroccan residence is showcasing his eclectic sensibility, with couture sketches, fabric swatches, and interiors inspired by the city’s vivid palette. The Yves Saint Laurent Museum is one of several museums to debut in 2017. Each suggests that exhibits of the future will be as much about the experience of an object as about the object itself, pushing museums to expand in size and re-envision displays to engage, educate, and inspire visitors. Here are 15 genre-shifting museums, from Seattle to South Africa, that are receiving attention for their daring designs and interactive offerings.
—Alexandra E. Petri

I believe most things can be said in a few lines.

—Italian auto designer Enzo Ferrari, celebrated this winter at London’s Design Museum

Science & Tech

Worlds of Possibility

Science Museum, Valencia, Spain. Photo by: Juan Luis DurÁn

Science Museum, Valencia, Spain. Photo by: Juan Luis DurÁn

The Museum of Tomorrow, in Rio de Janeiro, inspires visitors to conjure a bright future through a largely digital experience that looks at philosophical ideas and questions—where we come from, where we’re headed—rooted in science. Curiosity is what the new Science Museum in Valencia, Spain, aims to instil as it explores the intersection of science, technology, and life; experiments included. Sweden’s Museum of Failure displays more than 70 product clunkers, from lasagne-flavoured toothpaste to anti–jet lag gadgets. Concede your own flops at the Failure Confession Booth.


History & Culture

True Stories

Ragnarock museum, Roskild, Denmark. Photo by: MVRDV/Ossip van Duivenbode

Ragnarock museum, Roskild, Denmark. Photo by: MVRDV/Ossip van Duivenbode

Opened in Washington, D.C., in 2016, the bold National Museum of African American History and Culture is the largest museum dedicated to the story of African Americans, from slavery to the Obama presidency and beyond. It’s all Morocco-inspired fashions at the new Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech, housed in the late designer’s home. Ragnarock museum in Roskilde, Denmark, rolls out the carpet for music fans, with iconic outfits and musical instruments from the 1950s on. Follow paths of Nordic immigrants to the Pacific Northwest at Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum, where you will see tools, costumes, and more.



Design & Architecture

Eye Candy

Cheers to wine and bold design at Bordeaux’s Cité du Vin. The cultural centre is a multisensory playground with 19 themed spaces, topped by a belvedere with sweeping views. Download design history at London’s Design Museum; the “Designer Maker User” exhibit displays hundreds of items spanning various disciplines, from fashion to architecture, Vespas to robots. The exuberance of Israel’s Design Museum Holon starts with its exterior of looping curves and continues with works by international and Israeli designers. In Seoul the futuristic Dongdaemun Design Plaza celebrates such luminaries as Louis Vuitton and delves into Korea’s own influence on international design.

Modern Art

Ahead of the curve

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), U.S.A. Photo by: Henrik Kam courtesy SFMOMA

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), U.S.A. Photo by: Henrik Kam courtesy SFMOMA

A redesign nearly tripled exhibit space at SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art); seven floors of galleries, restaurants, and a huge living wall—seeded with thousands of plants—make for a great day trip. Also rebooted: London’s Tate Modern, now with more exhibit and performance spaces, and new dining options. A must: the rooftop terrace, with panoramas over London. Indonesia’s first museum for international modern art, Museum MACAN, opened in December 2017 in Jakarta, with works by such stars as Jeff Koons and exhibits on Indonesian art. In Cape Town the Zeitz, the biggest African museum to open in a century, celebrates the continent’s thriving contemporary-art scene.



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