The most important museums in the world
There’s a huge variety of museums and art galleries across the world, telling rich histories of a plethora of places and focusing on various different topics. When it comes to considering the top choices to visit - it might be difficult to know where to start, so we’re here to help.
History is shaped by the stories of those who tell it. Rich artistic and cultural heritage is protected by museums and other important spaces across the world. These spaces offer you the opportunity to look through a window of the past, present or even peering into the future of histories potentially to come.
Of course, not all museums specialise in the same thing and some can be considered substantially more prestigious than their counterparts. From natural history, technology or contemporary art to social history or phenomenal buildings that tell a history in their own right, there’s an abundance of places to choose from.
Museums have become so popular over the last century or so that there’s even an international day to celebrate all things museum related. In 1977, May 18 was crowned International Museum Day. Over 120 countries now recognise this day and around 30,000 museums all over the world participate in celebrations to mark the day, uniting to promote history, art and cultural appreciation.
The Art Newspaper annually compiles a list of the 100 most visited museums in the world. Of those selected, the country with the highest number of popular museums is the United States, with a total of 18. The city with the highest number of museum visits on the other hand is London. In this gallery, we present you a brief list with the most visited ones in descending order, according to this last ranking.
To make sure you don’t miss out on some of the best museums out there, we’ve compiled a list of 20 of the most frequently visited museums - according to the most recent rankings from The Art Newspaper.
The French museum leads the popularity ranking with an approximately 7.5 million people passing through its doors each year. The Louvre is famous for its collections that integrate both fine arts, archaeology and the decorative arts. There’s around 35,000 artworks on display out of a total collection of around 445,000.
This art gallery received approximately 7 million visitors every year. Founded in 1872, this art museum is based in the Manhattan district of New York and is oozing in character - well worth a visit.
Opened to the public in 1759, The British Museum houses over 7 million artefacts from prehistoric, ancient and classical historical times are found here with collections grouped by geographical origin. Over 6.4 million people visited the British Museum last year.
With over 2,300 works of art primarily of European origin, this art gallery remains in the top five museums to visit in the work, with around 6 million visitors annually. The gallery specifics exhibits pictorial works rather than sculptures or other artefacts (which can be found in various other museums across London).
This museum has a permanent collection of around 700,000 artefacts displaying rich Chinese and Taiwanese cultural history. Opened in 1965, The Art Newspaper registered more than 6.1 million visitors during 2016.
This group of museums can be found in Vatican City, the smallest city in the world. The collection includes thematic museums, monuments and large gardens, in addition to the Vatican Library. Owned by the Catholic Church, these museums have a strong religious theme. Sculptures including Laocoonte and his Sons and the Colonna Venus are among the most famous of all the collections.
The British National Museum of Modern Art or more commonly known as Tate Modern is located in the heart of London. Its permanent collections are completely free to visit with only some temporary exhibitions requiring you to pay an entry fee.
The National Gallery of Art was founded in the late 1930s. It’s made up of two main buildings, connected by an underground tunnel. Both galleries offer an extensive collection ranging from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Gardens that surround the galleries contain various prestigious sculptures, which are well worth a visit. It is estimated that this building receives more than 4 million visitors each year.
At more than 250 years old, the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, currently holds the largest number of art works in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records. The museum is home to more than three million artefacts, ranging from the Stone Age to the 21st Century.
Founded in 1992, this museum is base in the Old General Hospital of Madrid. The museum focuses on a journey through the history of national contemporary art and divides its collection into three different stages. One of the most famous artworks housed here is Pablo Picasso’s El Guernica.
Built during the 18th century on the north bank of the River Thames, Somerset House includes a collection of different museums. The best known of them all is The Courtauld Institute of Art and the Gilbert Collection of Decorative Arts. There’s various events throughout the year showcasing contemporary art. Records show that Somerset House has around three million visitors each year.
With over 300,000 artefacts, this museum aims to become the largest in Asia. South Korea’s national museum claims that its infrastructure is so secure that it is able to withstand an earthquake of up to magnitude 6.0 on the Richter scale.
This building is named after its commissioner, George Pompidou, President of France from 1969 to 1974. The centre has had over 180 million visitors since it opened its doors in 1977.
The Pompidou Centre contains one the most complete collections of modern and contemporary art in the world. The centre also incorporates a library and music and acoustic research centre. Its architecturally avant-garde structure ensures this building is a work of art in itself.
Originally, opening its doors in 1819 under the name of Royal Museum of Painting and Sculpture, throughout history this museum has focused on celebrating Spain's cultural and historical heritage. El Bosco, Titian, El Greco, Rubens, Velázquez and Goya are some of the most illustrious painters whose works bring the walls of the museum to life. According to The Art Newspaper ranking, the Prado Museum receives an average of three million visitors a year. 2019 saw the Prado Museum celebrate its 200th birthday.
Dedicated primarily to the decorative and fine arts, the Victoria and Albert Museum is another of London's great museums. It was founded in 1852 under the name of South Kensington Museum and was renamed the V&A in 1899. The museum holds 145 collections, with around four million pieces of art. Around 60,000 pieces are on display, including European, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Islamic decorative arts. In 2003, this museum received the European Museum of the Year award.
The Musée d'Orsay houses the largest collection of 19th century Impressionism in the world. You will also find Realist and Post-Impressionist paintings in this art gallery.
This is the most important museum of modern art in the world. Referred to as MoMA, this building opened its doors on November 7, 1929. Some of its most recognisable works are Van Gogh's The Starry Night and Salvador Dalí's The Persistence of Memory. The museum also has large collections in other fields such as graphic and industrial design, photography, architecture and film.
The National Gallery of Victoria is Australia's oldest and largest art gallery. It was founded in 1861 in Melbourne and since then has collected a total of nearly 63,000 works of art from around the world. It houses the great collections well known Australian artists such as Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts and Charles Blackman.
Its transparent, wave-shaped structure is one of the many attractions that draws people to this museum of visual arts. The National Art Centre was founded in 2005 and is the fifth national museum in Japan. It displays temporary exhibitions of Japanese and international art.
A group of civil and religious buildings, close to the banks of the Moscow River, The Kremlin is and impressive sight to see. You’ll find palaces, cathedrals and museums within this area. One of the most important artefacts on display in the Kremlin is the jewels of the Russian diamond fund (Russian crown jewels).