World’s most visited museums – part one

Every year, millions of tourists, culture vultures and art lovers pour into the world’s museums. There are thousands of collections that attract over 100,000 visitors. Just over 60 institutions manage to draw over a million visitors. The premier league of museums are ten world class institutions that bring in between 3.5 and 9.3 million visitors. This is part one of a two-part piece highlighting the top 5. 

Paris, London, New York and Rome are four of the most visited cities in the world. It is therefore no surprise that they host five of the most visited museums. It helps that their premier attractions are also world class – the Louvre, the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery and the Vatican Museums boast a quantity and quality of objects that are mindbogglingly exquisite, valuable, famous and admired.

Top 5 museums by visitor numbers

The Louvre continues its reign as the world’s most visited museum – it is so far ahead of the chasing pack that it is difficult to imagine it ever slipping from the top spot.

The Louvre isn’t the world’s biggest museum – those nine million visitors cram into 60,600 square metres of exhibition space (compared to the British Museum’s 92,000 square metres). What makes its visitor numbers particularly impressive is that the Louvre also charges a hefty €12 – €16 entrance fee.

Over in London, there is no charge for either the British Museum or the National Gallery. They are rewarded with almost 13 million visitors between them. No entry fees have resulted in an explosion of visitor numbers across the national museums of the UK in London – almost 40 million visit museums such as the National Maritime Museum, the Tate Britain, the Tate Modern, the National Portrait Gallery etc.

The British Museum's Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, London,_UK By Diliff (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

With the high profile centenary celebrations for the First World War, the Imperial War Museum can expect a massive increase in visitors when it reopens in Summer 2014.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Vatican Museums also charge (a whopping $25 at the Met and an unholy €16 at the Vatican Museums). Of course, those in the know can avoid the steep entry charges – the Met’s fee is a suggested donation and, with balls of brass, you can enter for a single cent. Both the Louvre and Vatican Museums have free entry days which are, unsurprisingly, extremely popular.

Coming up next week – the world’s next five most popular museums