Big U.S. museums exited the top 10 of the world's most-visited in 2020 as East Coast cities like New York and Washington D.C. shut down due to COVID-19. In 2021, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art were back in ranks six and seven. Especially the National Gallery in D.C. could up its visitor numbers as travel resumed. The China Science and Technology Museum in Beijing had an even higher growth rate, but despite a growing Chinese presence in the upper ranks, the Louvre defends the top spot as the world's most-visited museum. The Paris institution saw 2.83 million visitors last year.
Still, numbers represented in the ranking are far from 2019 peaks when more than 100 million people visited the world's 20 biggest museums. In 2021, that number was only 29.5 million, up 34 percent from 2020, however. This is according to the 2021 Museum Index by TEA and AECOM.
Coming in second place is the National Museum of China situated in Beijing with roughly 2.38 million visitors. The museum is a result of the 2003 merger of the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and the National Museum of Chinese History which were founded in 1950 and 1912, respectively. Even when judging its age by its oldest department, the state-led institution is still the youngest on the list. The Vatican Museums, on the other hand, are only in tenth place when it comes to the number of visitors, but were founded by Pope Julius II in 1506, making them one of the oldest still existing museums in Europe.