You think museums are boring, eh? Well, you're wrong - museums are fascinating houses of our shared culture and history, a shrine to the enduring achievements of our ancestors and peers. They're also home to some rather nice restaurants. While most of them consist entirely of kindly old volunteers ladling lentil soup for seven hours a day, here are some that are, shall we say, a little more ambitious...
1 - Musee d'Orsay Restaurant & Café Campana at Musee d'Orsay - Paris, France
Museums are one of the most highly regarded architectural landmarks of our time, but few new builds can compare to the history of the Musee d’Orsay. Housed in a former train station, the museum holds some of the greatest artistic treasures from 1848 to the mid 20th century. Attached to the station was a luxury hotel, the dining room of which was preserved and turned into the museum’s primary restaurant. With gilded ceilings and ornate chandeliers, it is just as dramatic as when it opened over 100 years ago.
In addition the traditional restaurant, the museum also revamped the Café de l’Horloge in its recent renovation. Now called the Café Campana, the eatery located behind the building’s clock face, was inspired by Emile Galle, a French glassmaker, and the Art Nouveau movement. The main restaurant hosts a special Thursday evening deal, during which includes a discovery menu, drinks, and entrance to the museum’s collections for 55 Euros.
2 - The Modern at MoMA - New York City, New York
Few restaurants in general can boast a Michelin star or three stars from the New York Times, and the Modern at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has garnered both. The restaurant is part of chef Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, serving French-American cuisine with Alsatian influence. The Dining Room serves a prix-fixe menu and overlooks 31 sculptures in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The venue also has a more casual option, the Bar Room, which serves small plates and accepts walk-ins. Offerings include Langoustine and Razor Clam Tartare, Squab and Foie Gras Croustillant, and a Modern Black Forest Fantaisie. (Photo Credit: The Dining Room at The Modern, courtesy of Union Square Hospitality Group)
3 - Collections Café at Chihuly Garden and Glass - Seattle, Washington
Located in Seattle Center in the shadow of the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass spans 1.5 acres and provides an overview of the career and work of glass artist Dale Chihuly. In addition to the centerpiece Glasshouse, the Exhibition Hall houses eight galleries and the Collections Café, the venue’s primary eatery. The Café décor highlights Chihuly’s passion for collecting, including his collection of vintage accordions, which hang from the ceiling. The menu is inspired by Chihuly’s travels with ingredients and wines sourced from the Northwest – highlights include a variety of fish dishes, as well as pork, meatball, and lamb dishes as well. The venue serves lunch, dinner, and a weekend brunch menu, making it very convenient for any visitors to Seattle Center.
4 - Acropolis Museum Restaurant - Athens, Greece
Most travelers to Greece plan to visit ruins, but what about admiring them during a delicious meal? The Acropolis Museum is only 300 meters (984 feet) from the Acropolis itself, on the pedestrian walkway of Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, the central route for exploring the city’s archaeological sites. This conveniently location makes it a great place to grab a bite after a long day of exploring the ruins. The museum’s restaurant provides panoramic, unobstructed views of the Acropolis and a menu comprised of hot dishes based on traditional Greek favorites. The restaurant is open during Museum opening hours, but also on Friday nights, when it stays open until 12 midnight and offers exceptional night views of the Acropolis.
5 - Ray's at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) - Los Angeles, California
Just under three years old, Ray’s at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a truly Californian take on museum dining. In the center of the BP Grand Entrance, the restaurant is completely open to the courtyard, providing great people watching and al fresco dining, as well as a view of Chris Burden’s Urban Light sculpture. With an on-site garden and a wood-burning oven and grill, the restaurant’s cuisine emphasizes farm-to-table, seasonal fare, including peppers and sunchokes from the garden, wood fired pizzas, and a variety of small plates. The venue also garnered press for its extensive Water Menu, offering twenty different types of bottle water from around the world. If you’re planning on visiting LA this month, Ray’s will be participating in DineLA week, serving a three-course menu for only $35 USD. DineLA, Los Angeles’ restaurant week, runs from January 20 – 31, 2014.
The above list was provided by Virtual Tourist, a great website to check up on prospective holidays - with travel guides, hotel reviews and more written by the people in the know. Go check them out and start planning your tour around museum restaurants now! Or, go to other places. It's your holiday, after all.