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10 Tips for Visiting European Museums

Guest blogger Paula Peters is an avid museum goer and she talks about art at The Culture Enthusiast.

A trip to Europe promises to enrich our cultural lives immensely. A visit to its innumerable museums increases our knowledge in art and in history. We get in touch with humanity’s highest artistic achievements and the experience can be exciting and soul pleasing.

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But visiting Europe's museums can also be overwhelming. Long lines and the sheer volume of works of art to be seen might decrease our excitement. Below are some tips that can help us have more enjoyment than headaches in our trip.

Before going to the museums you should try to:

Buy Tickets in Advance

Museum lines are huge especially during high season. But the lines are usually for ticket buyers, not for ticket holders.

Arrive There Early (or Very Late)

Check what time the museum opens and get there half an hour to one hour earlier. Museums are also less crowded two hours before closing time. But remember that in this case you'll have less time to see everything.

Take Something to Pass the Time While You're in Line

Just in case you end up having to wait in line, take something with you to pass the time, like a book or your iPod. Plus, it's a great opportunity to do some people-watching!

Know What's in the Museum

Before going to a big museum, it is useful to do a little research on what works of art the museum displays. You can find this information in tourist guides, online travel forums or the museum's website. Make a list of the works of art you wish to see, so that you won’t miss out on your favorite paintings or sculptures while there.

Check the Museum's Requirements

Some smaller museums request that you schedule your visit by phone. Others forbid you to enter with shorts or miniskirts. Many people, myself included, learn all this the hard way: I paid quite a sum for a so called international student ID that wasn't accepted in none of the museums I visited. Many tourists have to buy expensive scarves to cover their bare shoulder just to enter the museum. Knowing the museum’s requirements might save you time and money.

When you are at the museum:

Prioritize

Museum collections are very big. It's perfectly fine to spend more time at the items you like and quickly browse the ones you are not so interested in.

Use Every Resource Available

Take your time and read those small explanations next to the paintings and the big ones in the beginnings of the exhibitions.

Don't dismiss the audio guides. They are not free, but they are incredibly helpful and interesting. I used an audio guide in every museum I went to in Europe and they are worth it.

Take the explanatory flyers from the exhibition (and read them afterwards!). Go on guided tours and ask questions.

Art can be tough to understand so take advantage of every single resource the museum has to offer.

Write Down Your Impressions

Take a little pad and pen with you and write down the names of the works of art or artists you liked the most (or even the ones you absolutely hated). There are many things that can be done with this information. You can get home and start making a collection of your favorite paintings: put them as your screen saver, make a poster and decorate your house. Talk to your friends about them once you get home.

Compromise

When traveling with children or people who don't like art, it can be very tiring to spend the whole day in a museum. Decide with your group how much time you want to spend in the museum and what activity you can do after as a reward. For example, we'll spend one hour and a half in the Louvre and after we’ll have ice cream outdoors.

Visit the Temporary Exhibitions

Most major museums have a permanent collection and a temporary exhibition. Tourists usually visit only the permanent and utterly ignore the temporary. It is nice to check the temporary exhibitions to know about new and different works of art. Plus, they are much less crowded!

Whatever you do, just don't go to a museum as if it were an obligation. Go to a museum to learn and enjoy art. You might end up having a lot of fun. Hopefully these tips might help you do just that!

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