It’s no surprise that the Louvre has yet again claimed the title of the world’s most-visited museum—it’s only the home of the world’s most popular woman: Mona Lisa.
The Paris museum drew a record 8.8 million visitors in 2011—a five percent increase from the three years previous, during which the museum hosted 8.5 million people every year. The New York Daily News reports the Louvre citing a “strong return of American visits and a more and more marked presence of visitors from emerging countries.” French heritage officials have reported that the number of visitors French museums at large have also grown by more than 5% in the last year. Maybe this jump is an indication that the recession is indeed “over” (at least that’s what economists keep telling us), or perhaps people are seeking out art as an escape from the realities of daily life.
According to Travel + Leisure’s methodology, more than half of the 20 most-visited museums (based on 2010 data) were based in Paris, Washington D.C., or New York City. The Smithsonian museums get a lot of love on the list: after the Louvre, T+L cites the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in D.C. as the second most popular, with 8.3 million visitors in 2010, while the National Museum of Natural History in D.C. drew in 6.8 million people, taking the No.3 spot. The Smithsonian museums gain advantage from 1) being free, and 2) their convenient location, side-by-side along the National Mall, making it easy for visitors to museum-hop for a day.
The other usual suspects also made the list—the British Museum, the Met, the Musée d’Orsay, but only one Asian museum, the National Museum of Korea in Seoul, made the list. T+L explains that museum benefits from strong domestic tourism.
Check out T+L’s full list of museums here.