Visiting museums is an important component in learning about the politics and culture of a country or region, both past and present. They can focus on a particular aspect of history, a specific artist, or even contain an entire art collection. Visiting local museums is also important because it allows people to engage with their local histories and learn more about where they come from. The following are the ten most visited museums, with number one being the most frequented museum in the world.
10. Tate Modern, London, England, UK (5.8 million annual visitors)
Tate Modern is a museum in London, England. It receives about 5.8 million visitors annually. With a traditional focus on Western European and North American art, the Tate is now working to expand its repertoire to showcase a greater diversity of works from around the world.
9. Vatican Museum, Vatican (6.2 million annual visitors)
Originating during the popedom of Julius II, who was in power from 1503 to 1513, the Vatican Museum has been expanded by many successive popes to now house an impressive collection of religious artifacts. 6.2 million visitors come to the Vatican Museum every year, taking in views of its many religious and historically significant pieces.
8. Metropolitan Art, New York, NY, USA (6.3)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, known to locals as "the MET", is located in New York City, and holds a huge allure to tourists and locals alike, with an annual footfall of 6.3 million visitors. It is home to 17 different curatorial departments, including art from all regions of the world. The MET has an armory display, costumes, and sculptures, as well as such histrocial collections as Classical, Greek and Roman, Islamic, Medieval, and Egyptian exhibits. The MET also has sections focusing on prints and drawing, photographs, modern art, and displays of musical instruments, respectively.
7. National Gallery, London, England, UK (6.4 million)
The National Gallery is the second of three London-based museums to make this list, and draws approximately 6.4 million guests per year. The National Gallery contains Britain’s national collection of Western European paintings, ranging from the 13th Century to the 19th Century.
6. British Museum, London, England, UK (6.7 million)
The British Museum is London’s most popular museum, and the world’s sixth most popular, with 6.7 million visitors annually. Specializing in 10 different departments, the British Museum showcases pieces from around the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, Ancient Egypt and Sudan, Asia, Oceania, the Americas and New World, Ancient Greece and Rome, British and European prehistory, and the Middle East. These are featured alongside collections of coins and medals, antiques and treasures, and prints and drawings. They also have an extensive department to facilitate conservation and research.
5. Smithsonian Air & Space, Washington, D.C., USA (6.7 million annual visitors)
Located in Washington D.C., the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is visited by 6.7 million people per year. This museum has been collecting artifacts since 1876, when Chinese kites were purchased, and now contains the world’s largest collection of objects relating to human flight.
4. National Natural History Museum, Washington, D.C., USA (7.3 million annual visitors)
The National Natural History Museum is also in Washington D.C., and receives 7.3 million visitors annually. This museum contains natural artifacts relating to humans, animals, rock, and minerals alike. Some of their more notable exhibits are of fossils (including giant sloth fossils), ancient meteorites, dinosaurs, "Vanished Birds of North America", and some of the best nature photography in the world.
3. National Revolution Museum, Beijing, China (7.6 million annual visitors)
Located in the historical Tiananmen Square, the National Revolution Museum in Beijing hosts 7.6 million visitors every year. Their exhibit covers the history of China, with an emphasis on the Cultural Revolution that took place from 1966 to 1976. The museum’s name has changed a number of times, often reflecting the politics of the country.
2. Louvre, Paris, France (9.3 million annual visitors)
Located in the heart of Paris, the Louvre receives an annual footfall of 9.3 million visitors. Home to not only the world-famous Mona Lisa of Leonardo Di Vinci, the Louvre also contains expansive collections from Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, and Near Eastern histories. These include antiques, sculptures, decorative art, Islamic art, prints, and drawings. It is the most visited museum in Europe.
1. Forbidden City, Beijing, China (~20 million annual visitors)
The Forbidden City, located around the Palace Museum in Beijing, is the world’s most visited museum area, with about 20 million visitors every year. It is called the “Palace Museum” because it is located in what was the palace of two separate Chinese dynasties, namely the Ming (from 1368-1644) and the Qing (1644-1911). This museum is well known for its exhibits, which cover both the last 5,000 years of Chinese history and the last 600 years of the history of the Palace itself.