After being limited to local institutions for so long, are you hankering for the world's great museums and galleries? Start dreaming about, even planning a pilgrimage to these cultural treasuries, whether you want to visit for the first time, or return to see favourite objects and delve deeper into often enormous collections.
Find further inspiration on their websites. Many major institutions have not only digitised their collections but also dramatically enhanced virtual offerings including tours, lectures and art classes during the pandemic.
The Frick, New York
While The Metropolitan Museum of Art can be overwhelming, this smaller institution nearby offers an hour or three of wonder and serenity. Immediately feel calmed by the enclosed entrance courtyard's fountain and greenery – a reminder that The Frick was originally home to a wealthy 19th-century art collector.
Continue from room to room, some of which include Henry Clay Frick's antique furniture, porcelain, clocks and rugs. It's his paintings that really leave one slack-jawed, however. They include portraits by Gainsborough, Velazquez, Rembrandt and Holbein, mesmerising Turner landscapes, exquisite domestic scenes by Vermeer, and rooms reminiscent of Versailles with walls covered in frivolities by Boucher and Fragonard.
Tip: Pay-what-you-wish entry Thursdays 4-6pm.
Musee d'Orsay, Paris
This Belle Epoque train station transformed into a showcase of French art from 1848 to 1914 is second only to the must-see Louvre in Paris. The original high, glass ceiling makes this a pleasant place to wander, quite apart from riches including sculptures by Rodin and Francois Pompon, whose colossal marble polar bear has distinctly Art Deco styling.
The Musee d'Orsay also has the world's largest collection of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. It's presented on the top floor (beside massive station clockfaces), so conserve your time and energy. Highlights include Van Gogh's Starry Night Over the Rhone, and several paintings of Rouen Cathedral by Monet that capture varied light effects.
Tip: Lunch under the original station-hotel restaurant's chandeliers and painted ceiling.
The V&A, London
There's much to consider for culturally inclined tourists' London itineraries, including the British Museum and Tate Modern, but for decorative art and design don't miss what was originally known as the Victoria and Albert Museum. This vast, ornately decorated Victorian-era complex includes the world's first museum cafe – itself a colourfully tiled work of art.
From fashion to furniture, the V&A's collection of more than two million objects spans 5000 years of creativity. Highlights include Dale Chihuly's 8m hand-blown glass chandelier, a bejewelled butterfly ring donated by Beyonce, and Beatrix Potter's original manuscripts and drawings. vam.ac.uk
Tip: Forget seeing all 145 galleries in one visit. Choose a few areas of interest and, since it's free, consider coming back for more another day.
Madrid's Prado has long been Spain's premier cultural institution, but this outpost of New York's Guggenheim is where it's at for modern and contemporary art. Since opening in 1997, the swirling structure of titanium, limestone and glass designed by Frank Gehry has single-handedly transformed the industrial city of Bilbao's fortunes.
The Iberian Guggenheim showcases international and Spanish artists, including from the local Basque region. Permanent works include Jeff Koons' giant puppy covered in living flowers, and Richard Serra's weathered-steel installation that fills an entire gallery. Frequent temporary exhibitions are the main attraction, however – apart from the building itself.
Tip: Book online to avoid long summertime and holiday queues.
Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Russia has never been a popular destination for Kiwis, so chances are you haven't visited the world's largest art museum. Put it on the bucket list, because this complex of Imperial buildings – including the Winter Palace – must be seen for its opulent architecture and interior decoration alone.
Just be prepared for cultural overload, despite only a fraction of the Hermitage collection's three million objects being displayed. From prehistoric art through classical antiquity, the Renaissance and modernism, it's a seemingly endless banquet. Highlights include two Leonardo da Vinci paintings, a 19-tonne jasper vase and 18th century peacock clock.
Tip: More than five hours long, a one-shot virtual journey through the Hermitage was filmed last year. Find it on YouTube.
Grand Egyptian Museum, Cairo
You may have visited Cairo's Egyptian Museum, long crammed with antiquities including Tutankhamun's iconic mask. This is different, and you almost certainly haven't been because it doesn't open until late this year. Unlike the old neoclassical institution, the Grand Egyptian Museum is so large it will display the entire King Tut collection of more than 5000 objects, including many never shown before.
This striking angular structure overlooking the Giza pyramids will house artefacts drawn from museums and storage across Egypt, including a towering 3000-year-old stone statue of Ramses II already waiting to greet visitors at the entrance.
Tip: Not to be confused with the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, which opened in April.
Check alert level restrictions and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz and safetravel.govt.nz