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A majority of travelers
choose to get their culture fix at these museums. How many have you visited?

There’s a woman so captivating that millions travel just to set eyes on her. Even if da Vinci’s Mona Lisa isn’t your type, you can’t argue with the numbers: last year 8.5 million people streamed through the Louvre, which houses her, making it the world’s most-visited museum.

Artistic
masterpieces and scientific artifacts clearly interest travelers at least as
much as attractions like the Eiffel Tower (visited by 6.7 million). We dug deeper to find out
which 20 museums worldwide are considered must-sees worth the price of
admission.

The Louvre Museum,
ranked No. 1, benefits from broad name recognition and an enviable art
collection, but it also has the good fortune of being located in France,
which—along with the U.S.—drew the most international tourists in 2010,
according to the World Tourism Organization. More than half of the 20
most-visited museums are located in Paris, D.C., or New York City.

Yet there are also
some surprises. The only Asian museum to make our most-visited
list—the National Museum of Korea—welcomed roughly 3 million people last
year, about twice as many as did Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. Since South Korea
isn’t a top destination for international travelers, this museum’s ranking
reveals the power of domestic tourism, especially in a developed country with a
sizable affluent population.

Wherever their
home base, budget-conscious travelers flock to museums as an inexpensive or
even free way to spend an afternoon. Museums, too, have struggled with the
recession, and some increasingly rely on their permanent collections as fodder
for special exhibitions.

New York’s
Metropolitan Museum of Art, for instance, reduced its exhibition budget by 39
percent yet still attracted 326,000 more visitors than in 2009 by leveraging
its extensive in-house collection, which spawned a massively popular Picasso
show. However, not all museums
can replicate that success; Chicago’s Art Institute and Field Museum both saw
attendance rates drop by hundreds of thousands from 2009 to 2010.

Read on for the 20 most-visited museums around the globe.

The
Methodology:
To tally up
the world’s most-visited museums, we gathered the most recent data supplied by
the museums themselves or from government agencies, industry reports, and
reputable media outlets. Whenever available we used 2010 data. Institutes that
don’t sell tickets gave us estimates as best they could. While we left out palaces and sacred spaces
that house art, we did include the Vatican Museums because admission is
separate from St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican Museums attract a broad audience, not just religious pilgrims, and have had a significant cultural influence. “The Vatican Collections: The Papacy and
Art” remains the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s third most popular show in its
141-year history, drawing more than 896,000 visitors during its three-month run
in 1983.

World's Most-Visited Museums

A majority of travelers
choose to get their culture fix at these museums. How many have you visited?

There’s a woman so captivating that millions travel just to set eyes on her. Even if da Vinci’s Mona Lisa isn’t your type, you can’t argue with the numbers: last year 8.5 million people streamed through the Louvre, which houses her, making it the world’s most-visited museum.

Artistic
masterpieces and scientific artifacts clearly interest travelers at least as
much as attractions like the Eiffel Tower (visited by 6.7 million). We dug deeper to find out
which 20 museums worldwide are considered must-sees worth the price of
admission.

The Louvre Museum,
ranked No. 1, benefits from broad name recognition and an enviable art
collection, but it also has the good fortune of being located in France,
which—along with the U.S.—drew the most international tourists in 2010,
according to the World Tourism Organization. More than half of the 20
most-visited museums are located in Paris, D.C., or New York City.

Yet there are also
some surprises. The only Asian museum to make our most-visited
list—the National Museum of Korea—welcomed roughly 3 million people last
year, about twice as many as did Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. Since South Korea
isn’t a top destination for international travelers, this museum’s ranking
reveals the power of domestic tourism, especially in a developed country with a
sizable affluent population.

Wherever their
home base, budget-conscious travelers flock to museums as an inexpensive or
even free way to spend an afternoon. Museums, too, have struggled with the
recession, and some increasingly rely on their permanent collections as fodder
for special exhibitions.

New York’s
Metropolitan Museum of Art, for instance, reduced its exhibition budget by 39
percent yet still attracted 326,000 more visitors than in 2009 by leveraging
its extensive in-house collection, which spawned a massively popular Picasso
show. However, not all museums
can replicate that success; Chicago’s Art Institute and Field Museum both saw
attendance rates drop by hundreds of thousands from 2009 to 2010.

Read on for the 20 most-visited museums around the globe.

The
Methodology:
To tally up
the world’s most-visited museums, we gathered the most recent data supplied by
the museums themselves or from government agencies, industry reports, and
reputable media outlets. Whenever available we used 2010 data. Institutes that
don’t sell tickets gave us estimates as best they could. While we left out palaces and sacred spaces
that house art, we did include the Vatican Museums because admission is
separate from St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican Museums attract a broad audience, not just religious pilgrims, and have had a significant cultural influence. “The Vatican Collections: The Papacy and
Art” remains the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s third most popular show in its
141-year history, drawing more than 896,000 visitors during its three-month run
in 1983.

Emelinda E. Cabrera

World's Most-Visited Museums

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