The 19 Best Museums in the World
Some of the best trips include a day or more spent deep inside the halls of a museum. It's in these often grand buildings (which are impressive in their own right) that travelers can find masterpieces by artists like Monet and artifacts that showcase a destination's culture and history. And while museums are largely subjective — some visitors love art, while others are fascinated by science — the numbers don't lie.
Year after year, Statista aggregates and analyzes museum visitation numbers, highlighting those that rise to the top. Their most recent report showed that while attendance declined sharply in 2020, many of the world's most-visited museums in 2019 held strong in 2020, boasting notable (albeit smaller) numbers.
From national treasures like New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art to venues in far-flung destinations like Russia and Taiwan, these are the best museums in the world, according to number of visitors.
With over one million more visitors than the next museum on this list, the Louvre has long been a worldwide favorite (it reported 9.6 million visitors in 2019 and 2.7 million in 2020). Before becoming a museum, the building was a palace, so the exterior alone is worth the trip. Inside the historic walls, you'll find celebrated works of art like the "Mona Lisa" and "Venus de Milo."
National Museum of China, Beijing
There's truly no better place for travelers interested in Chinese history and art than the National Museum of China. The building sits off Tiananmen Square in Beijing and boasts a massive collection of Chinese artifacts and art.
Nanjing Museum, Nanjing
This sprawling museum in the city of Nanjing houses historical Chinese objects and art in a series of buildings built around an open plaza. In 2020, Nanjing Museum welcomed just over 1.5 million visitors, making it third most-visited museum in the world.
Tate Modern, London
Tate Modern is part of a series of art galleries found in London, Liverpool, and Cornwall. Alongside the Tate's collection of contemporary art, the museum has exhibits that allow visitors to interact with the works and those that highlight how renowned pieces were made.
Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, Shanghai
Located in the heart of Shanghai, this modern museum focuses on technology and includes a series of multimedia exhibits, educational programs, and a theater that's dedicated to showing films related to the sciences.
Vatican Museums, Vatican City
Housed inside Vatican City, the Vatican Museums are a series of chapels, galleries, and traditional museums dedicated to showcasing work amassed by the Catholic church (think famous Roman sculptures, a collection of modern art, and more).
The British Museum, London
With a free entry policy (except for some special exhibitions) and a dedication to showcasing and preserving human history, The British Museum is a popular to-do for visitors to London. The museum houses eight million permanent works, many of which were collected during the British Empire era.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
As Spain's national museum of 20th-century art, the Reina Sofía houses a large number of pieces in its permanent collection, as well as rotating exhibits. Once visitors are done exploring the sprawling museum, they can walk through the neighboring park to access the Palacio de Cristal, a conservatory made almost entirely of glass.
Natural History Museum, London
Situated in South Kensington, the Natural History Museum showcases a wide array of animal bones, lifelike dioramas, and educational exhibits dedicated to the natural world. You'll find the bones of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling and the first Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered.
The National Gallery, London
It's all about European art at London's National Gallery, located in Trafalgar Square. Housing more than 2,600 paintings, it welcomed 1.2 million visitors in 2020 (down from more than six million in 2019). With some pieces dating back to the mid-13th century, the gallery is home to works by artists like Cézanne, Monet, and Van Gogh.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, better known as the Met, claims to be the largest art museum in the Western Hemisphere. With a permanent collection of more than two million works and a rotating series of visiting exhibitions, there's plenty to see and do. Don't miss "The Great Wave" by Katsushika Hokusai or the paintings by Monet and Van Gogh.
Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou
At Zhejiang Art Museum, the third Chinese location to make this list, visitors can see more than 100,000 pieces of art, including works showcasing Chinese mythology. In 2020, the venue welcomed 1.11 million visitors (down from 4.15 million in 2019).
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
In addition to being one of the most popular museums in the world, this Russian location claims to be the world's largest museum by gallery space. The eye-catching green building with gold and white accents houses more than three million artifacts and works of art, and it saw just under one million visitors in 2020.
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
The Musée d'Orsay may sit in the shadow of the wildly iconic Louvre, but as any Parisian or art lover knows, this stunning museum (which was once a railway station) is the place to go if you want to surround yourself with French paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. The museum welcomed 0.87 million visitors in 2020, after seeing 3.65 million in 2019.
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
As you'd expect from a museum named after royalty — Queen Victoria and Prince Albert — the Victoria and Albert Museum is heralded as the "world's leading museum of art, design, and performance." All that's to say this is where you'll want to go if you're interested in architecture, vintage fashion and furniture, and exhibits dedicated to theater and performance.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Smack dab on the National Mall is the impressive National Gallery of Art. The museum boasts a collection of notable works from painters, photographers, and sculptors, including pieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Gordon Parks, and Monet. When you've made your way through the museum, swing by the attached Sculpture Garden for art al fresco.
China Science and Technology Museum, Beijing
Due north of the National Museum of China is a place dedicated solely to science and technology. Inside the China Science and Technology Museum, you'll find a series of hands-on exhibits designed to pique the curiosity of both young and old visitors.
National Palace Museum, Taipei
The National Palace Museum in Taiwan is home to nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial art and artifacts. This is the place to go if you're interested in delving into the 8,000 years of Chinese history — from the Neolithic age to today.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.'s National Museum of Natural History tells the story of planet Earth, touching on its fiery beginnings and the evolution of life. Exhibits include a Bone Hall (with giant sea turtle and flying fish skeletons) and a Hall of Human Origins.