There are world-class museums found across the world, ranging from well-established institutions such as the British Museum in London and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to more recent constructions and specialized offerings. For museum buffs, the options are virtually limitless. We examine some of the world’s most visited museums in this section.
The Louvre in Paris is at the top of the list, having surpassed the ten million visitor threshold in 2018. It is a must-see on every vacation to Paris and is frequented by celebrities such as Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
Several of London’s most beloved institutions, such as the V&A and the National Gallery, are included. In the United States, the American Museum of Natural History and the National Gallery of Art are household names. Meanwhile, the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum and the Nanjing Museum are two of China’s most renowned museums. Continue reading to learn about the world’s most visited museums.
The Louvre – Paris, France
With record-breaking visitor numbers, The Louvre is unquestionably one of the world’s most popular museums. It has around 380,000 artifacts and a 60,600-square-metre permanent collection. Visitors may see sculptures, paintings, and sketches, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.
Along with its world-class collection, the Louvre is a landmark in its own right, due to the Louvre Pyramid, constructed by Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei.
The Louvre has made a concerted effort to manage tourist numbers and guest conditions in recent years. Before COVID, the museum encouraged visitors to reserve their visits online, particularly during the busy summer months. These solutions enable the museum to set a daily visitation quota, resulting in a less congested, more pleasurable experience.
Around 1.1 million people visited the Louvre’s Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. The exhibition, which ran for four months in 2019/20, marked the artist’s 500th birthday. The museum declared in 2021 that it had made its whole collection of artworks available online.
National Museum of China – Beijing, China
The National Museum of China in Beijing, China, is the world’s second most visited museum. This free museum houses 1.3 million pieces presented in a succession of halls devoted to everything from ancient pottery and calligraphy to jade and bronze treasures, Buddhist statues, and socialist-realism art.
Recent shows have addressed various issues relating to art, culture, history, and politics. These have included The Power of Truth: Karl Marx’s Bicentennial Celebration, The Journey Back Home: Chinese Artifacts Repatriated from Italy, and The Splendor of Asia: Asian Civilizations Exhibition.
Vatican Museums – Vatican City
The Vatican Museums‘ house works from the collection of the Catholic Church and the pope over the ages. Around 70,000 artifacts, including Roman sculptures and Renaissance art, are housed in the museums.
In 2019, the Vatican Museums staged a free display of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic painting of Saint Jerome to commemorate the artist’s 500th anniversary of death. The work of art was relocated from the Vatican Pinacoteca to Saint Peter’s Square’s Braccio di Carlo Magno.
It was displayed here for three months beside a document from the Historical Archive of the Fabric of Saint Peter detailing da Vinci’s stay in a Vatican Belvedere apartment provided for him.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York, USA
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is ranked fourth among the world’s most visited museums (The Met).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the biggest art museum in the United States, with a permanent collection of more than 2 million items. It is well-known for hosting major attractions, such as Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer, which set a new record in 2018. It also hosts the Met Gala each year, albeit owing to the pandemic, the 2020 event was shifted online.
British Museum – London, UK
The British Museum is the most visited museum in the United Kingdom.
The British Museum was the world’s first public national museum. It has around 8 million items of art and is devoted to history, art, and culture.
The museum’s 2019 exhibition Inspired by the east: How the Islamic world affected western art was a standout in recent years. This mega-exhibition spanned five centuries and examined the Islamic world’s effect on western art. It was a partnership with Kuala Lumpur’s Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM).
Additionally, the British Museum collaborated with Samsung to reopen the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre and develop a teen-focused digital learning program. Additionally, they offered an additional 35,000 spaces for school pupils across the UK through their ‘Virtual Visits’ program.
Tate Modern – London, UK
The following few spots on our list of the world’s most visited museums are dominated by London institutions, with Tate Modern taking sixth place.
Tate Modern welcomes visitors to explore the museum’s collection of British and worldwide modern and contemporary art spanning the years 1900 to the present. The Tate Museum is situated in the old Bankside Power Station, one of London’s most historic structures. It is able to exhibit really massive pieces in the enormous Turbine Hall.
Tate Modern was founded in 2000 and was planning a series of activities to commemorate the occasion when COVID-19 hit. This includes a special immersive display of Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Rooms’ (pictured above).
The National Gallery – London, UK
The National Gallery, a major tourist site in the city center, opened in 1824. The Trafalgar Square landmark has a collection of about 2,300 artworks from the mid-13th century to 1900.
The National Gallery maintained its ambition to spread the brand throughout Asia in 2019 by opening a branded pop-up store in Guangzhou’s Grandview mall. Visitors may interact with interactive exhibits that feature reproductions of great artwork. Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Raphael’s works were on display in the 200-square-meter pop-up. Additionally, visitors may gain additional insight into the artists through a number of inventive room settings.
The museum announced plans for a £25 million refurbishment in 2021. This renovation will entail reconfiguring the Sainsbury Wing, upgrading visitor amenities, creating new spaces, and renovating the ground floor entrance.
The Natural History Museum – London, UK
The Natural History Museum in London welcomes visitors to see specimens from its 80 million-strong collection. Botany, entomology, minerals, paleontology, and zoology are the five major disciplines covered. It is especially well-known for its dinosaur exhibitions.
The Natural History Museum won National Lottery funding for its Urban Nature Project in 2019. This project intends to revitalize the attraction’s five-acre outdoor environment. The gardens will be used for the study and protection of urban animals.
The museum is one of several that have declared a state of planetary emergency, and in 2021, the museum participated in a series of activities during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. A major concept that drives most of its work is the organization’s objective of cultivating champions for the planet.
American Museum of Natural History – New York, USA
The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is located in New York City and is one of the world’s major natural history museums. It is comprised of 26 interconnected buildings and features 45 permanent display spaces, a planetarium, and a library. It has about 34 million specimens.
At the end of 2018, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled against a neighborhood organization that sought to obstruct the museum’s expansion. The $383 million development will consume almost a quarter-acre of adjoining Theodore Roosevelt Park.
State Hermitage – St Petersburg, Russia
The State Hermitage in St Petersburg is the world’s second-biggest art museum, founded in 1764. Since 1852, it has been available to the public.
Within the complex of old buildings, visitors may view a sizable collection of artworks. This comprises the Winter Palace, which was previously the residence of Russian monarchs, as well as the Menshikov Palace.
The State Hermitage Museum stated in 2021 that it would begin selling digital artworks from a restricted digital collection via NFTs. These are digital reproductions of the museum’s masterpieces.
Shanghai Science and Technology Museum – Shanghai, China
Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, located in Pudong, Shanghai, is China’s second entry on our list of the world’s most visited museums. It opened to the public on 18 December 2001, focusing on nature, people, and technology. During its first decade of existence, it drew over 19.5 million visitors.
World of robots, space navigation, the spectrum of life, and Earth crust exploration are permanent installations. Throughout the year, it also hosts special exhibitions.
After almost five years of development, the Shanghai Astronomy Museum, the world’s largest planetarium and a component of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum opened to the public in 2021.
Reina Sofía – Madrid, Spain
Spain is represented on this list of the world’s most visited museums by the Reina Sofa in Madrid. This museum recorded a strong 13.5 percent growth in attendance from 3,898,000 in 2018.
The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofa (MNCARS) is the national museum of twentieth-century art in the country. It has a significant collection of work by two of Spain’s most celebrated painters, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.
Recent notable exhibits have included Henrik Olesen, Sara Ramo, and H.C. Westerman. Additionally, the museum hosted an exhibition on Madrid’s recreational and political resistance in the 1990s.
National Museum of Natural History – Washington D.C., USA
The renowned National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., is the third American museum on our list of the world’s most visited museums in 2019.
This museum, which is a part of the Smithsonian Institution, opened in 1910. It is 1.5 million square feet in size with 325,000 square feet of display and public area. It is devoted to natural history and has a massive collection of items, including plants, animals, fossils, minerals, and meteorites, as well as cultural artifacts.
Permanent exhibitions include the world-famous Bone Hall, which is now accessible via an innovative augmented reality app. Additionally, in 2021, the museum will debut a unique augmented reality experience that immerses guests in a holographic orca pod.
Nanjing Museum – Nanjing, China
Nanjing Museum was one of the country’s earliest museums, having been extended in 1999 and 2009. It houses a sizable permanent collection of over 400,000 items, including a stunning exhibit of imperial porcelain from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
One of Nanjing Museum’s permanent exhibitions is on the Jiangsu Area in Ancient Times, which spans ancient history to the Ming and Qing dynasties. Visitors may see a dinosaur skeleton and a wall constructed entirely of Northern and Southern Dynasty bricks.
Zhejiang Museum – Hangzhou, China
Zhejiang Museum, ranked 15th on the world’s most visited museums list, opened in 1929, making it one of China’s oldest museums. The Zhejiang museum has a permanent collection of over 100,000 objects and was enlarged in 2009 with the addition of a new building at West Lake Cultural Square.
The museum’s collection includes ceramics, lacquerware, woodenware, bone tools, and ivory artifacts, as well as jade ware, bronzes, porcelain, gold and silver coins, and paintings and calligraphy.
National Gallery of Art – Washington D.C, USA
The National Gallery of Art is a cultural institution devoted to visual art, education, and the advancement of culture. It houses around 150,000 artworks, sculptures, decorative arts, pictures, prints, and sketches. The museum is comprised of two buildings and a sculpture park.
Recent notable shows include one on moon pictures and another on Renaissance artist and painter Andrea del Verrocchio, a disciple of Leonardo da Vinci.
Victoria & Albert Museum – London, UK
Victoria & Albert Museum is an art and design museum that houses a permanent collection of more than 2.3 million pieces spanning more than 5,000 years of human innovation. The permanent exhibitions encompass a variety of media, including architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewelry, glass, ceramics, and book arts.
Recent smash hits include exhibitions on legendary fashion designers Mary Quant and Christian Dior, which drew record-breaking crowds.
Additionally, the V&A has created a digital site, Explore the Collections.
China Science and Technology Museum – Beijing, China
The China Science and Technology Museum began operations in 1988 and extended in 2000. It later relocated to new premises in 2006, just in time for the city’s 2008 Summer Olympics.
The China Science and Technology Museum features five permanent exhibitions: Science Paradise, China’s Glory, Science & Technology and Life, Explorations and Discoveries, and Challenges and the Future. Additionally, visitors may experience a dome theatre, a large screen theatre, a four-dimensional theatre, and a motion theatre.
National Palace Museum – Taipei, Taiwan
The National Palace Museum in Taipei opened in 1925 and now houses about 700,000 ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and works of art.
Taiwan’s government authorized a $642 million, six-year construction plan for the National Palace Museum in 2018. This will entail renovating and expanding the National Palace Museum’s headquarters and establishing an exhibition and restoration facility at the museum’s Southern Branch in Chiayi County.
Musée d’Orsay – Paris, France
The Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France, is the last item on this list of the world’s top 20 most visited museums.
The Musée d’Orsay is housed in the old Gare d’Orsay, an 1898–1900 Beaux-Arts train station. Along with sculptures, furniture, and photographs, the museum is home to the world’s biggest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings, including works by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne Gauguin, and Van Gogh.
The museum announced the start of a significant expansion project in 2020. This project will result in constructing a new wing dedicated to the Musée d’Orsay’s Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections. By 2026, the project is expected to be completed.
It appointed Christophe Leribault as director in 2021. Leribault formerly worked at the Louvre as a curator and as the director of the Musée Delacroix.
These are the large collections of art and relics available for public viewing worldwide. Some are devoted to a single work of art or location (hello, Acropolis, Museum of Terracotta Warriors), while others bring together treasures from throughout the world (hiya Louvre, Uffizi, MOMA). However, what do our favorite galleries and museums from throughout the world have in common? A knack for making your mouth drop the moment you walk through their doors.
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