What’s the most popular museum in the world? For years it has been the Louvre in Paris, but finally the museum that houses da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” has been bumped from the top spot as the most visited museum in the world. And we bet you can’t guess which museum has taken its place!
After four years of being the top dog in the world of museums, the Louvre fell all the way down to #3 in the 2016 Museum Index, released by AECOM and the Themed Entertainment Association. In the #1 spot for 2016 is Beijing’s Museum of China – and our very own National Air and Space Museum in Washington took the #2 spot. If you’re after a bit of culture, history and art, you really can’t go wrong visiting one of these museums!
Here’s the complete run-down of the top 10, starting with the most visited museum in the world.
1. Museum of China – Beijing
- 7.6 million visitors
You can’t miss this massive, 1950’s communist-style building in Tiananmen Square. If you only have a few hours, make sure you visit the Ancient China exhibition on the basement floor, boasting the finest examples of ceramics, calligraphy, jade and bronze pieces dating from prehistoric China to the Qing dynasty. Bring your passport with you, as you’ll need it to enter these galleries.
2. National Air and Space Museum – Washington
- 7.5 million visitors
As the most popular of the Smithsonian museums, you have to make a stop at the Air and Space Museum if you’re booking flights to Washington. The Wright brother’s flyer and Amelia Earhart’s red plane are two of the biggest draws, not to mention the Apollo Lunar Module! Kids big and small will be talking about it for ages.
3. The Louvre – Paris
- 7.4 million visitors
While the Louvre may not be the world’s most visited museum anymore, it still houses one of its finest collections of art, including masterpieces from da Vinci (you’ll be lucky if you can squeeze through the crowds to see the “Mona Lisa” up close), Michelangelo and Rembrandt. With 35,000 works of art on display, you’ll need to plan your visit in advance and leave plenty of time!
4. National Museum of Natural History – Washington
- 7.1 million visitors
If you’re traveling with kids, make sure you add this museum to your Washington itinerary. Start at Henry, the elephant in the rotunda, and then make your way up the steps to see the Hope Diamond, a stunning 45.52-carat beauty. While the dinosaur hall is under renovation until 2019, the giant squid in the Ocean Hall and the tarantula feedings in the Insect Zoo will no doubt keep the youngsters occupied.
5. Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York
- 6.7 million visitors
This ginormous museum has 17 acres worth of galleries, which house everything from Egyptian temples to modern American paintings. It’s the largest single-site attraction in NYC so make sure you give yourself enough time to do it credit. The museum’s collection of ancient Egyptian art is one of the best in the world; and while you’re here, don’t miss the roof garden with rotating Jeff Koons and Andy Goldsworthy sculptures!
6. British Museum – London
- 6.4 million visitors
As the biggest museum in England, you can bet there are a few treasures hidden in the galleries here. Don’t miss the Rosetta Stone; discovered in 1799, it is the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics. The museum’s Parthenon Sculptures, taken from the Parthenon in Athens, are hugely controversial and stunning to see up close. The Reading Room is also an important stop; this is where Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital.
7. Science and Technology Museum – Shanghai
- 6.3 million visitors
This massive museum in China will definitely be a hit with the kids. Robot World features all sorts of robots who can solve Rubik’s cubes and shoot arrows with a bow. You can even have a go kicking soccer balls at a robot goalkeeper! The space exhibits are fascinating, featuring some pretty retro space gear and aeronautics equipment.
8. National Gallery – London
- 6.3 million visitors
If European art is your thing, London’s National Gallery will not disappoint: da Vinci, Michelangelo, Van Gogh and Renoir are well represented here. For a taste of British art, don’t miss the East Wing for its collection of paintings by Gainsborough, Constable and Turner.
Tip: Swing by the info desk upon arrival to see when the next free taster tour is happening. They’re very popular, but definitely worth it!
9. Vatican Museums – Vatican City
- 6 million visitors
This collection of museums in Rome was founded in the 16th century and is, without a doubt, one of the finest collections of art in the world. Be prepared to walk a lot once you get here, as the exhibits are displayed along more than 4 miles worth of corridors and galleries! The highlight for many is, of course, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
10. Tate Modern – London
- 5.8 million visitors
The Tate Modern is one of London’s star attractions, sitting right on the bank of the River Thames, directly across from St. Paul’s Cathedral. The collection of contemporary and modern art is one of the finest in the world, and the new viewing platform in the Switch House offers visitors one of the best views over the city…for free! If you’re booking flights to London, make sure you save at least a couple of hours to visit this place.