The Most Visited Museums In The World

The National Gallery
The National Gallery | © Gordon Chirgwin
Courtney Stanley

Usually we wouldn’t advise our readers to follow the crowd, but we’re making an exception just this once. Below is a list of the most popular museums in the world, according to information from the Themed Entertainment Association’s 2022 report. This body is an international non-profit association bringing together creators, developers, designers and producers to share knowledge, collaborate and initiate new and innovative creative expressions. To discover where to find piano playing robots, T-Rex skeletons, and some of the finest artwork in the world, read on.

1. The Louvre — Paris, France

Louvre Pyramid, Paris, France

The Louvre holds strong at number one with around 9.3 million visitors annually. Of those guests, 30% are domestic residents, typically visiting temporary exhibitions, and 70% are international attendees visiting the Paris landmark and the permanent exhibits. The Louvre houses masterpiece artworks like Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, the ‘Venus de Milo’ sculpture of Aphrodite, and what is considered to be the finest diamond in the world, the ‘Regent’. As one of the world’s largest museums, the Louvre houses around 70,000 pieces of art in its 650,000 square feet of gallery space.

2. National Museum of China — Beijing, China

The National Museum of China in Beijing comes in at number two, with 7.6 million visitors in 2014. The free museum was founded in 2003 when two museums (the National Museum of Chinese History and the National Museum of Chinese Revolution) were merged, and it is conveniently located in Tiananmen Square. The museum is now one of the largest in the world, covering 192,000 square meters. Visit this museum to see exhibitions exploring modern and ancient Chinese history. Many masterpieces are stored in this museum, including Neolithic treasures like a fine, painted red clay basin, jade carvings like the jade dragon from 6000-5000 BC, and the flag raised by Mao Zedong at the Proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

3. Vatican Museums — Vatican

The Vatican Museums saw a large jump in their attendance numbers from 2013 to 2014, potentially due to 2014 being the first full year with the newly elected Pope Francis. In 2014, 6.2 million people visited the Vatican Museums, a complex of museums and galleries that were started in the 1700s. The complex includes ancient artefacts from Egypt, sculptures from the Roman era, a collection of 15th-17th century tapestries, a map gallery, and modern and contemporary religious art. Of the 54 galleries, the last is the Sistine Chapel with its beautiful ceiling painted by Michelangelo.

4. The Metropolitan Museum of Art — New York, NY, USA

The largest and most popular art gallery in the United States is The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, commonly known as The Met, which had 6.3 million visitors in 2014. The Met’s permanent collection holds more than 2 million works spanning 5,000 years from ancient Egypt to Europe’s classics to American and modern work. The main building was founded in 1870 and is located on Central Park along Manhattan’s Museum Mile.

5. British Museum — London, UK

British Museum, Great Court

Founded in 1753, the British Museum was the first national public museum in the world, and today it is Britain’s most-visited with 6.7 million visitors in 2014. Entry has always been free at the British Museum. Some of the museum’s most important and sought-after acquisitions include the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon sculptures, and ancient Egyptian structures. The museum is an iconic sight in itself with the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, an enclosed inner courtyard completed in 2000.

6. Tate Modern — London UK

The Tate Modern displays a huge collection of international contemporary and modern art, and in 2014 5.8 million people visited the museum. Located on the south bank of the Thames, the Tate Modern is a free museum that is part of the Tate group of museums that include Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives, and Tate Online. The seven-floor gallery is located in the former Bankside Power Station and it has an iconic chimney rising up with the surrounding skyscrapers. Works in the gallery’s permanent collection include Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, and much more.

7. The National Gallery — London, UK

The National Gallery is the largest art gallery in the UK, and in 2014 6.4 million visitors came to see the collection of works from the 13th to the 19th centuries of Western European art. The gallery, which is free to the public, opened in 1838 in the center of London on Trafalgar Square. View important works of Western art here, like ‘The Rokeby Venus‘, the only surviving female nude by Velázquez, JMW Turner’s ‘The Fighting Temeraire‘, and Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers‘. All in all, the museum holds a collection of more than 2,300 paintings.

8. Natural History Museum – London, UK

Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom

The Natural History Museum in London had 5.4 million visitors in 2014. The museum houses more than 80 million specimens, some of which are billions of years old. It opened in 1881 in an iconic Romanesque building and from its opening has always been free to enter. Many large skeletons are displayed throughout the museum, from whales and elephants to the Diplodocus cast which has been in the main entry hall for 100 years. The Natural History Museum originated as part of the British Museum, and it didn’t break off on its own until 1963. The Darwin Centre is a unique space for historic collections as well as a working lab for scientists that opened in 2009.

9. American Museum of Natural History — New York, NY, USA

The American Museum of Natural History is located in Manhattan’s Upper West Side across from Central Park, and in 2014, 5.0 million people visited the museum. Made up of 27 interconnected buildings, the museum is one of the largest in the world, and it houses 45 permanent exhibition halls, which include the biodiversity and environmental halls, the Hall of Ocean Life, and more. The Natural History Museum also includes the Hayden Planetarium in the Rose Center for Earth and Space. The museum has many fossils on display like a T-rex made almost entirely of real fossil bones, a larger cousin to the woolly mammoth, a brontosaurus, and more.

10. State Hermitage – St. Petersburg, Russia

The Winter Palace, home of the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia

The State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, is a world-renowned cultural institution that stands as one of the most magnificent and significant art museums in the world. Originally founded in 1764 by Empress Catherine the Great, the museum is housed in the Winter Palace, along with several other buildings. With its great collection spanning over three million items, the State Hermitage offers a remarkable journey through art, history, and culture. Visitors can explore a diverse range of masterpieces, including works by renowned artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Van Gogh. The museum’s architectural splendour, coupled with its extraordinary collection, creates an unforgettable experience for art enthusiasts and historians.

11. Shanghai Science and Technology Museum — Shanghai, China

The Shanghai Science and Technology Museum welcomes around 2-3 millions visitors in the past three years. The museum opened its doors in 2001 and has been a hit with locals and tourists alike. The museum’s dedicated science theaters give it the title of the largest educational science cinema in Asia with 10,000 showings each year. The museum has exhibitions on space navigation, robots, humans and health, spiders, and more.

12. Reina Sofia – Madrid, Spain

The Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid showcases an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art. Housed in a former hospital building, the museum’s architecture is an amazing blend of old and new. One of its most famous masterpieces is Pablo Picasso’s iconic painting “Guernica,” a powerful depiction of the horrors of war. The museum’s collection also features works by renowned artists such as Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró, as well as a range of thought-provoking installations and multimedia exhibits. With its commitment to pushing artistic boundaries and engaging visitors in meaningful dialogue, the Reina Sofia Museum is a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts and curious minds alike.

13. National Museum of Natural History — Washington, DC, USA

Part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, the National Museum of Natural History is the most visited museum in the United States and the most visited natural history museum in the world with 7.3 million visitors in 2014. The free museum opened in 1910 and was one of the first Smithsonian buildings. It houses more than 126 million natural science specimens and cultural artefacts, including 30 million pinned insects, 4.5 million pressed plants, 7 million fish, and 400,000 photographs. The museum’s largest exhibit is the Sant Ocean Hall where visitors can see a replica of a 45-foot-long North Atlantic Right Whale and a giant squid.

14. Nanjing Museum – Nanjing, China

Located in the historic city of Nanjing, China, the Nanjing Museum stands as a symbol of Chinese cultural heritage. With its grand architectural design and extensive collection, it is one of the country’s most esteemed cultural institutions. The museum boasts a rich array of artefacts and artworks that span over 6,000 years of history, showcasing the diverse achievements of Chinese civilization. From ancient pottery and exquisite calligraphy to precious jade carvings and imperial treasures, the exhibits offer a captivating journey through time. Visitors can explore the fascinating stories behind each artefact, gaining deeper insights into the Chinese culture.

15. Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou, China

This museum houses a grand collection of artworks, ranging from traditional Chinese paintings and calligraphy to contemporary installations and sculptures. Visitors can immerse in the rich cultural heritage of Zhejiang province, renowned for its artistic traditions and creativity. With its vibrant exhibitions, educational programs, and interactive displays, the Zhejiang Art Museum offers an amazing journey through the Chinese art, inspiring visitors to appreciate the beauty and cultural significance of its collections and exibitions.

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