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Top 5 World's Most-Visited Museums

No. 1 Musée du Louvre, Paris

Annual Visitors: 8,500,000
The world’s most-visited museum doesn’t show signs of budging; its numbers have held strong at 8.5 million for several years now. While the Louvre is indeed an art-lover’s paradise of roughly 35,000 masterpieces, including the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, it is also the subject of controversy—not everyone appreciates I. M. Pei’s 69-foot-high glass pyramid, added to the museum’s entrance in 1989.

No. 2 Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum,Washington, D.C.

Annual Visitors: 8,300,000
Opened in 1976 on the National Mall, the world’s largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft has aviation fans streaming in to see 50,000 original artifacts, from the original Wright brothers’ 1903 flyer to a sample of lunar rock that visitors can touch (all for free). Kids also love this museum for its flight simulators, 3-D space shows at the Albert Einstein Planetarium, and cool “How Things Fly” exhibit.

No. 3 Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History,Washington, D.C.

Annual Visitors: 6,800,000
A large collection of dinosaur fossils, the infamous Hope Diamond, and some 126 million items in the collection have made this the most-visited natural history museum in the world. And the museum continues to make improvements. The Sant Ocean Hall debuted in 2008 with the world’s largest marine collection, and the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins opened in 2010 to celebrate the museum’s 100th anniversary on the National Mall.

No. 4 British Museum, London

Annual Visitors: 5,842,138
A perennial favorite with free admission, the British Museum attracted 270,000 more visitors last year than in 2009. There are 2.5 miles of galleries and 7 million objects, so reserve plenty of time to navigate past the crush of visitors for blockbuster attractions like the Rosetta Stone and the controversial Elgin Marbles.

 5 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Annual Visitors: 5,216,988
The Met drew 300,000 more visitors in 2010 than in 2009 thanks to a Picasso special exhibition and Doug and Mike Starn’s buzzed-about temporary Big Bambúinstallation on the roof. You can expect even higher visitation numbers in 2011 due to the Alexander McQueen show, which drew 661,509 visitors, some of whom waited in line for hours to get in. The McQueen show is now the eighth most popular in Met history.