A museum can be a serene, uplifting escape from the everyday—or it can be an obstacle course of lines, crowds, and exorbitant cafeteria prices. TripAdvisor’s list of the top 25 museums in the world just came out and, while some are well-known tourist magnets and others are lesser-known gems, there’s no doubt that all of them, now that they’ve made the list, will attract even more travelers. To help ease your visits to these museums, I thought I’d share a few hard-earned tips:
1. Suss out in advance how to avoid the line.
Sometimes your strategy may be to make a reservation. Sometimes it might be to buy a city pass that provides entry to many attractions and allows you to skip the line. Sometimes you can book a Viator skip-the-line tour. The last time I visited the Louvre in Paris, I skipped the one-hour line at the main entrance simply by using a side door that had no line at all—the Porte des Lions, just a three-minute walk away. At the jam-packed Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia—the #6 top museum in the world—I got in early in the morning, before the museum opens to the public, because I booked through a local travel firm with insider connections. For line-skipping intel, peruse the TripAdvisor forum for the destination you’re headed to—or ask your question there.
2. Arrive before opening hour so you’re first in the door.
The first hour or so is when most museums are relatively empty. It’s particularly important to arrive this early if the forecast calls for rain: For families with kids especially, museums are where you go when it’s raining.
3. Go at night.
Most world-class museums have at least one night per week when they are open to the public, and those are usually peaceful times to visit. New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, for instance—the world’s #1 museum—is open on Friday and Saturday nights till 9:00 pm, and it’s a lovely time to visit.
4. Look into free entry times and free tours.
Some museums have a certain day or night of the week or month when admission is free. Some offer complimentary tours and talks. The #3 top museum in the world, Art Institute of Chicago, offers a variety of free guided tours, and you don’t even need to make a reservation.
5. Consider a city pass that includes entry to the museum.
Museum entry can be pricey, especially in Europe’s cultural capitals and especially for a family. When you’ve got only three or four days to sightsee in a big city, look into passes that provide entry to a number of landmarks, including the museum, at a price much lower than if you pay at each site. As mentioned earlier, often such passes—the Paris Museum Pass, for instance—allow you to skip the lines. Sometimes they even provide free entry for children.