The Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
Originally the home of the offices of the State Magistracy of the Florentine Republic, the building in its present form was commissioned by Cosimo I dei Medici from the architect Giorgio Vasari in 1559, and is in itself a magnificent example of late Renaissance architecture. It was Cosimo's son Francesco who, as early as 1581, began the gradual transformation of the building into the museum we see today by enclosing the 1st floor gallery with glass windows and displaying the ducal art collection there.
Being inveterate collectors and patrons of the arts, the Medici family continued to expand and enrich the display throughout their rule of Florence. Upon the death of the last Medici Grand Duke in 1737, his sister contrived to have the entire collection to the city of Florence itself rather than have it scattered among the great houses of Europe by a variety of heirs and claimants.
Today the Uffizi Gallery is one of the most important depositories of Renaissance art in the world. It contains such seminal works as Botticelli's Madonna of the Pomegranate, Leonardo da Vinci's Annunciation, Titian's Venus of Urbino, Raphael's Madonna of the Goldfinch and Michelangelo’s only surviving completed oil painting, the Holy Family or Tondo Doni.
Quite apart from these tourist trail staples though, the gallery is a dizzying treasure trove of some of the best pre-modern art there is; by all means tick the boxes next to the famous pictures, but don't forget to leave some time to admire the less hyped late Medieval and early Renaissance works, some of which, by the likes of Giotto and Filippo Lippi, are second to none.
Also don't forget to book your tickets online - like the artwork inside, the queues outside can be simply world-class.