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Top 10 most visited museums revealed

Delve into art, culture and history on your holiday

National Museum of China in Beijing

Posted on

29 Sep 2017

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) has collaborated again with economics practice AECOM to reveal the top 10 most visited museums in the world. Statistical analysis was measured based on 2016’s attendance figures.

TEA, who are an international non-profit organisation working in the hospitality and entertainment field, released the index which revealed that there were 107.8 million visitors to museums around the world. This is an increase of 1.3 million people from the year before. Global attendance grew by 1.2 per cent in total, with European, North American and Asia museums dominating the top ten list.

The Theme Index has been running since 2007, with TEA and AECOM working together to produce resources for park operators, land developers and the travel industry.

The top 10 most visited museums in the world

1. National Museum of China, Beijing

The National Museum of China was founded in 2003, following the merging of the National Museum of Chinese History and the National Museum of Chinese Revolution. The Theme Index showed that last year it attracted seven million, five hundred and fifty thousand visitors, a rise of 3.6 per cent from the previous year.

2. National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum houses the world’s largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artefacts as well as the Centre for Earth and Planetary studies. Falling just short of the National Museum of China, the Air and Space Museum welcomed seven and a half million people last year.

Opening in 1976, it is the biggest of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums boasting such objects as the 1903 Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module. 311 million visitors have admired the collection since it opened.

3. Louvre, Paris

Dating back to the 12th Century, the Louvre began life as a defensive outpost close to the then western border of Paris. It was designed to prevent any potential invasions from the north and was commissioned by Philip II (Philip Augustus), the first official King of France. 

Louvre at night in Paris

The Louvre as we know it opened its doors on August 10th, 1793 with a collection of 500 paintings and decorative arts. Now to many it is the most famous and recognisable museum in the world. It came in as Europe’s most visited museum, with seven million four thousand people visited in 2016.

4. National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC

Another member of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) is “dedicated to inspiring curiosity, discovery and learning about the natural world with its unparalleled research, collections, exhibitions and education programmes” according to its website.

Having opened in 1910, it now houses more than 126 million natural science specimens and cultural artefacts. The NMNH saw a growth of 2.9 per cent in visitor numbers over 2015.

5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Commonly known as ‘the Met’, it is the largest art museum in the western hemisphere and the largest museum in the United States. Opened in 1872, it boasts more than two million works of art spanning across 5000 years of human culture. It attracts more than 6.3 million visitors who come to see works from the likes of Vermeer, da Vinci, Picasso, Monet and Van Gogh.

6. British Museum, London

Dedicated to human history, the British Museum is the most visited museum in the United Kingdom. The world’s oldest national public museum, it was founded in 1753 and opened in 1759, which makes it 17 years older than the United States of America. It once had its own dedicated tube station between 1900 and 1933. Due to its huge collection it had to expand, opening the Natural History Museum and also the British Library. 

7. Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, Shanghai

Promoting science, education, cultural and ideological progress, the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum in Shanghai offers visitors around 250,000 different collections. Comprising of five main halls to house the exhibits – the Heaven and Earth Hall, the Life Hall, Wisdom Hall, Creation Hall and Future Hall – this a must visit attraction in Shanghai. 

8. National Gallery, London

National Gallery in London


London’s second appearance in the top 10 most visited museums in the world, the National Gallery sits in the heart of the capital. Located in the tourist hotspot of Trafalgar Square it is among the most popular attractions in Britain, bringing in over six million visitors.

9. Vatican Museums, Vatican City

The Vatican Museum complex is the largest museum complex in the world, with over 1,000 museums and galleries. Founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th Century, you can visit the Vatican Historical Museum, Museo Gregoriano and the Museo Chiaramonti.

10. Tate Modern, London

Named the tenth most visited museum in the world, the Tate Modern is a showcase of British art with a collection that dates from the 1500s to modern day. The Tate was a massive growth of visitors in 2016, with 23.9 per cent more people walking through its doors compared to the previous year.

Each museum is individual. Whether it is its architectural design, quirky layout or vast collection, you will be hard pressed not to find one that doesn’t spark some sort of imagination within you. You can explore many of these fascinating museums when you book a world cruise holiday today with ROL Cruise.  

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