The 15 Most Visited Museums In The World

The National Gallery ©
Gordon Chirgwin
The National Gallery © Gordon Chirgwin
Photo of Courtney Stanley
26 June 2019

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 15 most popular museums in the world, according to information from the Themed Entertainment Association’s 2014 report. To discover where to find piano playing robots, T-Rex skeletons, and some of the finest artwork in the world, read on.

The Louvre — 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.

National Museum of China — Beijing, China

Art Gallery, Building, Museum
National Museum of China, Beijing, China
National Museum of China, Beijing, China | ©Anne Tan
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.

National Museum of Natural History — Washington, DC, USA

National Museum of Natural History
National Museum of Natural History | ©m01229
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.

National Air and Space Museum — Washington, DC, USA

The National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum | © m01229
The National Air and Space Museum is the largest collection of artefacts of human flight, and also the largest of all 19 museums included in the Smithsonian Institution. In 2014 the DC museum saw 6.7 million visitors, but combined with its second location in Virginia, there were around 8 million visitors. The wonder and awe of human flight will capture anyone’s heart after wandering through this free museum. Included in the museum is the oldest known photo of an aircraft, the 1903 Wright Flyer, the space shuttle Discovery, and much more.

British Museum — London, UK

Building, Museum, Library
The British Museum attracts 7 million visitors per year
The British Museum attracts 7 million visitors per year | © Panagiotis Kotsovolos / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

The National Gallery — London, UK

Art Gallery, Museum
The National Gallery, London
Courtesy of The National Gallery, London
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.

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

Art Gallery, Building, Museum, Park
The Metropolitan Museum of Art main lobby | © Sracer357 / WikiCommons
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.

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.

9. 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.

Inside the Tate Modern | ©Matt Brown
National Palace Museum, Taipei City, Taiwan | © Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap

National Palace Museum (Taiwan) — Taipei, Taiwan

National Palace Museum | © peellden / Wikimedia | © peellden / WikiCommons
The National Palace Museum in Taiwan boasted 5.4 million visitors in 2014 who came to view the collection of ancient Chinese art and artefacts. The museum’s permanent collection includes around 700,000 works of art. This museum shares a history with the Palace Museum in Beijing, the old Palace Museum split in two after the Chinese Civil War when the Republic of China of Taiwan was formed. The collection includes paintings, jades, ceramics, bronzes, rare books, calligraphy, and more.

Natural History Museum — London, UK

Building, Museum
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.

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

Museum, Park
Milstein Hall of Ocean Life | © Image courtesy of American Museum of Natural History
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.

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum — Shanghai, China

Cinema, Museum
Shanghai Science and Technology Museum | © Brett Hodnett
The Shanghai Science and Technology Museum welcomed 4.2 million visitors in 2014. 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.

National Museum of American History — Washington, DC, USA

Gaze at over two dozen gowns from former first ladies | © inazakira / Flickr
The National Museum of American History is a Smithsonian Institute museum that attracted 4 million visitors in 2014. The free museum opened in 1964 to feature all different aspects of American history; including social, political, cultural scientific, and military history events. Exhibitions include a collection of artefacts from the American Civil War, the original Star Spangled Banner, historic fashion trends, and much more.

National Gallery of Art — Washington, DC, USA

Art Gallery
In 2014, 3.9 million people visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, which was established in 1937. The gallery’s collection is mostly made up of European and American art from the Renaissance period to modern day works, but visiting exhibitions have brought an international flare to the gallery. Artists of note featured in the museum include da Vinci, Jackson Pollock, Monet, Manet, and much more. Free of charge, the museum is made up of two buildings, the West Building, made of pink Tennessee marble that holds the historic works, and the East Building, a geometrical modern building to house the modern and contemporary artwork.

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