As hosts to an abundance of art and history, museums serve as cultural gateways to travelers all over the world. Some of the most popular attractions in vast cities are museums, drawing crowds by the millions each year. While small museums around the world can offer incredible insight into more local culture and have a charm all their own, there are several giants that offer endless pieces to marvel at. And at the very top, these are ten of the most visited museums to see in the world.
1. National Museum of China – Beijing, China
It’s unsurprising that the National Museum of China is the most-visited museum in the world, considering its Tiananmen Square location, one of the biggest city-squares in the world. This museum was originally two-separate entities: the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and the National Museum of Chinese History. Their merge in 2003 went on to form the famous museum that millions of people visit now.
© Zlatko Unger
2. National Air and Space Museum – Washington DC, United States
As the second most visited museum in the world, the National Air and Space Museum is also the most popular Smithsonian Institution in the United States. It’s one of two museums on this list focused on science and technology, with some of its most known artifacts being the Apollo 11 command module and the Wright brothers’ plane. It also hasn’t gone without some controversies. In 1994, an exhibit was proposed for the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan, with the centerpiece being the bomber that attacked Hiroshima. There were people who didn’t like stories of Japanese victims making their way into the exhibit and there were others who didn’t like that there was a predicted number of how many how casualties the United States would’ve had if they invaded by land. This whole disaster led to the museum director at the time, Martin O. Harwit, being forced to resign.
© Pedro Szekely
3. Louvre – Paris, France
With its outstanding architecture and ownership of the Mona Lisa, the Louvre takes its place as the most visited art museum across the globe. This renowned palace was once home to royalty, but not long after King Louis XIV chose to live in the Palace of Versailles, it began to evolve into a museum that has since been attracting for centuries. While the larger structure of the museum has been around that long, the iconic pyramid was first put in during the 1980’s as a new entrance in the main court and has contributed to adding to the attendance of the Louvre.
© Todd Lappin
4. National Museum of Natural History – Washington DC, United States
While it’s not technically the most visited history museum in the world, the National Museum of Natural History is the most frequented natural history museum with its wide array of fossils, meteorites and various other artifacts. This is evident by the massive dinosaur reconstructions they are known for. As the most popular museum of its kind, it’s also the center for the largest group of scientists devoted to studying natural and cultural history worldwide.
© Craig Fildes
5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City, United States
Sitting on the outskirts of Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is another quintessential landmark of New York City. The second most visited art museum in the world holds an enormous amount of pieces spanning countless civilizations over thousands of years. While primarily an art museum, it covers quite a bit of history with its pieces. For example, one of its most famous pieces is the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, the near entirety of which sits inside of the museum.
© M. Barrison
6. British Museum – London, United Kingdom
The largest library in the world, the British Library, actually used to be part of the British Museum. However, the separation of these two establishments has not harmed the British Museum’s foot traffic, as it remains one of the most visited museums around the world. Some of its most famous of objects are also some of the ones they hold the most controversial ownership of, such as the Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta Stone.
© Paul Hudson
7. Shanghai Science and Technology Museum – Shanghai, China
The Shanghai Science and Technology Museum’s sleek, modern outside gives a great impression of what lies inside. Its four science theatres are the largest science education cinemas throughout Asia and much of the rest of the museum integrates interactive multimedia into its exhibits. It’s also one of the newest museums on this list, having been opened to the public late into 2001.
© Wolfgang Staudt
8. National Gallery – London, England
The National Gallery in London has a bit of a different from many museums similar to it. A lot of the other large European museums began their collections from those of royal families that were already quite vast. The museum started with a purchase by the British government of just 38 paintings and has grown exponentially to over 2,000 paintings over the decades.
© John Piekos
9. Vatican Museums – Vatican City, Italy
Both Christian and non-Christian travelers flock to the holy Vatican City each year to marvel at the wondrous works of the Vatican Museums. Because even though Catholicism may reign over this area, a particular religious affiliation isn’t necessary to enjoy the art. The Vatican Museums are often considered the epicenter of Italian Renaissance art with pieces from wildly celebrated artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo. Though this collection of museums is home to countless sculptures, tapestries and other mediums, the most famous works are the paintings like The School of Athens and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
© Gary Ullah
10. Tate Modern – London, England
The Tate Modern is a modern art gallery in London, England and is the most popular museum of the Tate Group. The museum was built into what used to be the Bankside Power Station and the towering brick chimney is now a defining piece of the buildings external structure. Especially in comparison to many of the others museums on this list, the Tate Modern is quite new, having only been opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000.
© Eric Titcombe