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Discover the world's most visited museums

By Matthew Casey, Special to CNN
November 27, 2013 -- Updated 1105 GMT (1905 HKT)
The Louvre was built during the 12th century as a fortress to defend Paris from Anglo-Saxon invaders. Paris' sprawl quickly swallowed the area and it became a royal palace until the 18th century, when it was transformed into a museum that today houses masterpieces such as "Mona Lisa," "The Raft of The Medusa," "Oath of the Horatii" and many more. The Louvre was built during the 12th century as a fortress to defend Paris from Anglo-Saxon invaders. Paris' sprawl quickly swallowed the area and it became a royal palace until the 18th century, when it was transformed into a museum that today houses masterpieces such as "Mona Lisa," "The Raft of The Medusa," "Oath of the Horatii" and many more.
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World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
World's top 20 museums
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Louvre had more than 9.5 million visitors last year
  • Half of the list's museums are in Europe
  • Washington is home to four of the list's six U.S.-based museums
  • China expects museum attendance to reach 1 billion by 2020

CNN takes you "Inside the Louvre," building an intimate portrait of a museum like no other. From the handler who looks after the Mona Lisa's famous smile, to the new director, host Nick Glass meets the people at the heart of Paris' most renowned institution. Watch the show Nov 25-29 on Connect The World at 2000 GMT/2100 CET.

(CNN) -- An afternoon spent in a world-class museum can be an out-of-body experience -- a trip in a mental time machine to the courts of China's Ming and Qing dynasties, to the cradle of civilization in Egypt, to Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Picasso's studios or to the top of Gettysburg's Little Round Top, where the Union came within one Confederate flanking maneuver of dissolving.

The Louvre in Paris topped the 2012 Museum Index with more than 9.5 million annual visitors last year. The list is part of the recently released Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and AECOM global attractions attendance report. Based on attendance figures compiled by AECOM, the index lists the 20 most visited museums worldwide.

The index includes lists for the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific. Attendance figures from museums in Australia and Canada were used in compiling the report, but they did not make the top 20 worldwide, said John Robinett, AECOM's senior vice president of economics. He said attendance numbers from museums in Africa, Central America and South America were not included because they are difficult to obtain, and this is the first year museums were included in the report.

"We'll probably expand this as we go through time," he said. "So stay tuned."

European museums make up 10 of the 20 on the list, and five of those are in London. Four of the six American museums are in Washington, three of them part of the Smithsonian Institution.

Three of the four Asia/Pacific museums are in China.

China wants to build 1,000 new museums in the next decade and projects museum attendance to reach 1 billion by 2020, according to the report.

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