Museums are some of the most popular tourist attractions and usually places many travellers wants to visit on their trips. However, the experience of visiting a museum could also be quiet disappointing if not done right, even for the experienced museumgoers. After doing it wrong many times, and then learned how to visit the museums right, I wanted to share with you this guide for a perfect museum visit.
How to visit the museum
There are many ways to visit the museums right. And many more to do it all wrong. It, of course, depends entirely on your interests and the way you love to explore the new places. However, there are some ground rules you should follow if you’d like to know how to visit the museum right.
What if you don’t like museums?
Then don’t visit them! I’m not a massive fan of adrenaline parks, and that’s why I would hardly ever end up in one while travelling.
It’s the same with the museums. Do you feel like you should go and see Mona Lisa if you’re in Paris? Despite the fact, you don’t really appreciate the painting? Well, don’t! Your experience isn’t going to be the best, you probably won’t like the picture any more, and you’ll lose a few hours you could spend doing something more fun in Paris.
TIP: But, if you’d like to give museums a chance, then I have a suggestion for you. Book a private tour and let someone who knows that museum very well guide you around. Private museum tours usually last for roughly two hours. The guide will have your ticket sorted, they’ll show you the most interesting exhibits and will tell you some exciting stories about them. Trust me, they know how to visit the museum right.
A guide for the perfect museum visit
However, if you do like art and history, feel like a real culture tourist, then let me give you some tips on how to visit the museum right. I broke them in three steps that will make your museum visit much more enjoyable.
1/ Before a museum visit: How to prepare for a visit to a museum
A good museum visit starts with a well-done preparation. Here are some of my tips.
# – Chose the museum you’d like to visit wisely
Obviously, we all have different interest. I’d be utterly bored at a museum of sports. But give me an exhibition about fashion, and I’ll be thrilled. You get the point.
If you’re going to a major city that has several museums you could visit, do some research and check which one could be the most interesting to you.
If you love the old masters and are visiting Amsterdam, then the Rijksmuseum is a place to go for you. If you’d like to learn more about Vincent van Gogh during your trip to Europe, then Orsay in Paris or the Van Gogh Museum in the Dutch capital should be on your list.
Researching the best museums according to your interests in a town you’re going to visit, before your trip, is one of my essential tips on how to visit the museum right.
# – Get familiar with the collection it’s home to on their website
Okay, so you’ve chosen the museum or more of them, you’d like to visit.
The next step is to research the museum itself. Visit their website and see what the highlights in it are. Do they host some of the world most famous masterpieces? Or the work of a painter you like? Maybe they have a nice collection of an art style you love? It’s good to check all of that before your trip, so you can plan your museum visit better.
I also love to research the museum website before my visit to see are there any special events taking place during my time there. Temporary exhibitions, lectures or art workshops could be a great way to make your visit even more enjoyable.
In case some art pieces are on loan, or if some galleries are temporarily closed, you’ll know how to plan your museums visit better, too.
# – Check if you could find any videos about that museum
There’s nothing like watching an excellent video about the museum you’re going to before visiting it. You’ll get familiar with the collection and see which art pieces you’d like to see. You’ll also learn a bit about them before actually seeing them.
Watching some museum videos before your visit could also be great to get a feeling of a museum interior a bit.
Culture Tourist museum videos on a link here to see if I’ve already made some about the place you’re planning to visit.TIP: Check out some of
# – Buy your ticket online
There is nothing worse than staring your visit by queuing in front of the museum for a few hours just to get in. And that’s the sad reality when visiting many of those world-famous museums.
However, be smart and purchase your museum ticket online before your visit. You can often do that on the museum website. Or, you can do as I do, and use the platform called Tiqets (here is the link) to buy all of your museum tickets online.
That way you can go straight to the entrance and get into the museum immediately.
# – Book a museum tour
Visiting a museum on a guided tour makes a huge difference. Especially if it’s a private tour. I used to work as a museum guide for several years and speak from the experience here.
And even though I have a MA in Art History, I always book a tour when visiting a new museum. A good guide is going to tell you about the museum, its collection and will tell you the stories behind some of its highlights in a fun and exciting way. You’ll also get a chance to ask all the questions you have.
wide selection of museum tours on a link here – this is where I’m usually booking all of my museum tours.TIP: You’ll find a
2/ During the museum visit: How to get the most of your visit to a museum
Okay, so you’ve prepared well for your visit in advance. But, let’s talk now about how to visit the museum right once inside of it.
# – Dress appropriately
This is quite an important advice for visiting museums.
Let’s start with your shoes first. When in the museum you won’t walk that much, but you’ll stand on the same spot a lot. And that could be tiring. Wearing some comfy shoes is definitely crucial for a great museum experience.
Many exhibits are fragile and to prevent their decline, museums have a special cooling system in their interiors. That’s why it’s always a bit fresh at the galleries. So, my advice is to bring a cardigan to put it on when inside.
# – Don’t spend more than two hours at a museum
From my experience, after two hours at the museum, you’ll be too tired to continue exploring it.
That’s why the step of researching the museum collection before your visit is so important. Getting in a museum and just wandering around without any idea of what you’re looking at, won’t be the best experience.
To really enjoy the artworks, learn the story behind them and have a great museum experience, pick only one collection and explore it extensively.
If you’re at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, spend your time just at the Gallery of Honour. Or, if at the Orsay in Paris, explore only the Impressionist collection. That’s what I usually do, and it makes such a difference, trust me.
# – Focus on details rather than trying to see more
This museum tip is related to the previous one. Rather than trying to see as much as you can at the museum, put your focus on details. Art is all about the feelings it evokes in us. And to get the chance to feel the paintings, focus on details.
Stand in front of the painting and see if you can notice the brushstrokes or a texture artist has painted. How does the frame look like? Is it new or old? You can also get very close to the painting and look to the colours, texture and details. And then take a few steps back and look at it from the distance to see how the whole composition changes.
Pick a few paintings and explore them in this way, and I’m sure your museum experience is going to be much more interesting than usual.
# – Ask questions
One of my favourite things about visiting museums is to talk about the art pieces. If you’ll visit the museum on tour feel free to ask your guide all the questions you have. Why is that painting so famous? How long would an artist need to create a marble statue? Use the advantage of having an expert with you and ask everything that interests you.
If you’re going to visit on your own, you can always ask the museum guards to advise you which part of the museum to explore next. Or even about some exhibits. They usually know a lot about the collections they are taking care of.
And also, discuss the art with your travel companions. Is there something you didn’t like at all? Talk about that! Art is a subjective thing, and it should be discussed. Remember me mentioning how art is all about the feelings it evokes in us? Well, those feelings could be happy, sad, angry or even confusing. And it’s fun to see how the person you’re with perceived the same art piece.
# – Avoid taking pictures
Lose the phone when at the museum!
Museums are places to enjoy at a slow pace. That way, they transfer you to some different world. And although some exhibits could be so beautiful and interesting to you, don’t take photos of them.
First, if using the flash, you’re damaging the paintings that are often hundreds of years old. And since the light is often dim at museums, the quality of your photos won’t be the best.
Museum shops are selling the postcards with the majority of the artworks they host, so you can keep the memory to it in that way. And very often, you can find great high-quality photos of the paintings on their website.
Another thing is that you are ruining the experience to other visitors who are trying to enjoy in those exhibits. And are ruining the experience to yourself, too. So, lose the phone and enjoy a wonderful relaxed museum visit.
3/ After the museum visit: What to do after visiting the museum
So, you enjoyed visiting the galleries and exploring the artworks. But what to do now to enjoy your visit a bit longer?
# – Have a coffee at a museum cafe
Although there are different opinions about them, I love to finish my visit at a museum cafe. I don’t know is it because of a couple of hours of walking, being a bit overwhelmed by all that art, or just because they usually have a beautiful setting, I love to spend a bit more time at a museum cafe after my visit.
# – Take some time off to absorb everything you saw
Having a break at a museum cafe also allows some time to absorb everything you saw at the galleries.
If you’re alone, you can browse through the flyer or a museum booklet you’ve got and keep that feeling of fulfilment with art for a few more moments. Or if you’re in a company, you can talk about your favourite art pieces or the ones you didn’t like/understood at all.
# – Visit the museum shop
There are mixed opinions about them, too. But, I love visiting museum shops at the end of my visit. It’s a nice way to get something to remember the museum and the art you saw there. Perhaps, you could buy those postcards or reproductions of the paintings you liked the most.
I also love the art books selection they have and am always looking for some new editions to add to my collection.
They are also a nice place to look for some lovely local designs products. Museums in London have a great selection of them. And I really love some design products you can find at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
# – Read a book or watch a movie about something that you liked the most
If you were entirely amazed by some painter or an art movement you saw during your visit to the museum, check out if you can find a book or a movie about it. There are many great fiction books about the old masters and some lovely documentaries about Impressionism. If you liked the work of Vincent van Gogh, you can read more about the life and work of Vincent van Gogh in my series of articles here.
Visiting a new museum could be a bit challenging at first, but good preparation for your museum visit is key. I hope this guide for a perfect museum visit will help you in organising your trip and understanding how to visit the museum right.
Do you have any other tips for visiting museums? Share them with me in the comments!
*This post includes some affiliate links.