Many of us take museums for granted, but International Museum Day on Wednesday (18 May 2016) reminds us just how important they are in our societies. Museums provide an insight into worlds we normally only see in books or taught about in classrooms, bringing to life different histories and cultures and giving us a first-hand experience of this information. To mark the day, here are 15 of our favourite museums of art, popular culture, architecture and history – from China to Sweden and the United States.

EMP Museum, Seattle, Washington, US

EMP Museum
The EMP Museum in Seattle was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000, and is dedicated to contemporary popular culture. Be sure to check out the current exhibitions on Nirvana and the 50th anniversary of Star Trek – a must for Trekkies Mat Hayward/Getty

The Science Museum, London, UK

Science Museum London
With a new robot exhibition for 2017, London's Science Museum is the place to go for fans of science and tech. This photograph shows a robot called Cygan built in 1957, on display during a press preview in May 2016. Jack Taylor/Getty

Museum of Qin Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses, Shaanxi, China

Museum of Qin Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses
Ancient terracotta soldiers and horses are seen in the No.1 pit of the Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. The Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) warriors and horses, collectively considered one of the world's Eighth Wonders, were discovered in 1974 on the east side of the tomb of China's first emperor Qin Shihuang near Xian. More than 8,000 clay warriors and 500 horses were buried in three pits to guard the tomb of the emperor. China Photos/Getty

Vasa Museum, Stockholm, Sweden

Vasa Museum Stockholm
The Vasa Museum is a maritime museum in Stockholm, Sweden. Located on the island of Djurgården, it displays the only almost fully intact 17th-century ship that has ever been salvaged: the 64-gun warship, Vasa, that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, Oswiecim, Poland

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum
The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum is a memorial and museum in Oświęcim, Poland, which includes the German concentration camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau. The memorial includes the personal possessions brought by deportees and found at the site after liberation. Scott Barbour/Getty

Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Louvre museum in Paris
The Louvre in Paris is the world's largest museum and is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II. Its collection includes Egyptian antiques, paintings by the Old Masters, and ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, among other treasures. Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty

Newseum, Washington, DC, US

This 250,000sq ft interactive news museum is located on Pennsylvania Avenue between the US Capitol and the White House. Showcasing historic and current news, the museum traces the evolution of communication, from radio to mobile into the future. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, Osaka, Japan

Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
According to the Japan Convenience Foods Industry Association, the global annual consumption of instant noodles amounted to 102.7 billion servings in 2014. This museum shows how the simple ramen noodle became a global food and staple of diets around the world. Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty

Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, New Delhi, India

Sulabh International Toilet Museum
The Sulabh International Toilet Museum in New Delhi showcases how a toilet is not just a toilet – it is freedom from disease, Each new toilet liberates someone from doing the job of disposing of someone else's waste. In the centuries-old caste system, with its ingrained fear of 'pollution', the deepest revulsion has traditionally been reserved for those who do India's dirty work, such as taking away human waste from homes in buckets. Raveendran/Getty

Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece

Acropolis Museum
Tourists are silhouetted as they walk inside the Acropolis Museum with the temple of Parthenon on the background in Athens. Priceless artefacts found on the Acropolis of Athens are housed there, including objects from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. Reuters

State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia

State Hermitage Museum
The State Hermitage, founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, has approximately three million objects in its collections, including the most paintings of any museum. This museum of art and culture also contains artefacts from the historic site of Palmyra in Syria. Sean Gallup/Getty

International Spy Museum, Washington, DC, United States

International Spy Museum
International Spy Museum is an interactive experience – you can enter Operation Spy, an immersive exhibit, through the bus station in the fictional country of Kandar. Visitors assume the role of US intelligence officers on an international mission. Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty

Imperial War Museum, London, UK

Imperial War Museum
A general view of the main atrium at the Imperial War Museum. The museum tells the stories of people’s experiences of modern war from the First World War to conflicts today. It is one of five Imperial War Museums across the UK. Oli Scarff/Getty

Vatican Museums, Vatican City, Italy

Vatican Museum
The Vatican Museums are situated within the walls of the city and feature some of the most significant Renaissance art in the world, among other priceless treasures. Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century. Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty

Dali Museum, St Petersburg, Florida, US

Dali Museum Florida
The Dali Museum in Florida is home to the largest collection Dali works outside of Europe. You can trace the artists journey and the influences that turned the Spaniard into a Surrealist star. Paula Bustamante/AFP/Getty