The museum plays a major role in the preservation of art and artifacts. In addition to serving as conservation centers, these indispensable institutions also exist as cultural hubs, attracting, educating, and entertaining people from all walks of life.
While all museums should be treasured, some are more popular than others. In order to get a sense of which museums are among the most prized in the world, we must look at one very important piece of information: the number of annual visitors.
Using these details, we’ve created a list of the most visited museums in the world, counting down from ten until crowning a winner.
Most Visited Museums Around the World
10. The State Hermitage Museum
The Hermitage is one of the largest museums in the world. Located in St. Petersburg—Russia’s second biggest city—the institution has been open to the public since 1852. Since then, it has amassed a permanent collection of over 3 million objects, comprising antiquities, decorative art, and the most comprehensive selection of paintings in the world.
In addition to these works of art, the museum is renowned for its opulent architecture and interiors that showcase a range of styles, including Greek revival, Neo-Classical, and Elizabethan Baroque.
The State Hermitage Museum sees about 4,220,000 visitors per year.
9. The National Palace Museum
Taipei’s National Palace Museum houses over 700,000 imperial art and artifacts. These objects include ceramics, carvings, calligraphy, and metalwork, and they cover nearly 8,000 years of Chinese history.
Due to Taiwan’s unique political status, its collection never tours mainland China. Additionally, it rarely organizes overseas exhibitions, making a trip to the museum necessary for those who wish to view its treasures.
Annually, 4,435,000 people visit the National Palace Museum.
8. The National Gallery
The National Gallery has over 2,300 prized objects in its collection. With diverse highlights including Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, and The Hay Wain by John Constable, the National Gallery is one of the most popular museums in England.
Similarly, like many other museums in London, the institution offers free admission, making it among the most accessible encyclopedic collections in the world.
The National Gallery welcomes around 5,229,190 guests every year.
7. The National Gallery of Art
Across the pond is another popular national museum. Situated on the Mall in Washington DC, the National Gallery of Art comprises three spaces: the West Building, the East Building, and the Sculpture Garden.
The West Building houses European masterworks from the Middle Ages through the 19th century. The East Building holds the museum’s modern collection. And, finally, the garden showcases a selection of modern and contemporary sculpture.
Roughly 5,232,000 people pay annual visits to the National Gallery of Art.
6. The Tate Modern
Until 2000, the building that now houses the Tate Modern‘s world-class collection was an electricity generating station. Hints of its industrial past are evident in its distinctive design, which features a towering chimney and large turbine hall.
In addition to its famous architecture, the museum is celebrated for its curatorial approach. Its collection of modern and contemporary art is creatively arranged according to theme, including Artist and Society, In The Studio, and Living Cities.
The Tate Modern welcomes approximately 5,656,000 people a year.
5. The British Museum
The British Museum houses several million objects. With such a vast collection, it is no surprise that the institution’s focus has evolved since it was founded in 1753.
“The original collection of the British Museum included antiquities, coins and medals, natural history specimens and a large library collection,” the museum explains. “It now comprises over 8 million objects spanning the history of the world’s cultures: from the stone tools of early man to twentieth century prints.”
Located in Central London, The British Museum welcomes around 5,906,715 annual guests.
4. Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums have a unique history. Their origins are rooted in Pope Julius II’s acquisition of Laocoön and His Sons in 1506. Since then, the museums have expanded in order to exhibit pieces collected by popes, culminating in the need for 54 galleries.
Every year, the Vatican Museums attract approximately 6,427,280 visitors.
3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is New York City’s most popular museum. While the site did not own a single object when it opened in 1870, it has since amassed a collection spanning 5,000 years.
This comprehensive collection comprises paintings, sculptures, costumes, musical instruments, and more. With eclectic origins ranging “from the first cities of the ancient world to the works of our time,” the pieces offer an enlightening survey of human history.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art welcomes over 6,692,900 people per year.
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2. The National Museum of China
Director Wang Chunfa describes the National Museum of China as the country’s “top palace of history and art.” This monumental museum was established in 2003, when two institutions—the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and the National Museum of Chinese History—merged.
Though technically only 16 years old, the museum is already one of the largest and most popular in the world. In its collection of 1,050,000 objects are an impressive number of rare and precious pieces, attracting guests from all over the world.
Every year, the National Museum of China sees around 8,062,625 visitors.
1. The Louvre
The Musée du Louvre in Paris is both the biggest and most visited museum in the world. Initially a fortress and eventually a palace, the site was finally transformed into a world-class museum in 1684. Since then, it has captivated audiences with its 38,000 objects.
These holdings span a range of movements and mediums. Highlights include renowned antiquities like the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace, as well as Renaissance masterpieces, such as Michelangelo’s Dying Slaves, The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese, and, of course, Leonardo da Vinci’s treasured Mona Lisa.
In 2018, the Louvre welcomed an unprecedented 10.2 million visitors.