How Many of the World's 20 Most Popular Museums Have You Visited?

Mike Hewitt, Getty Images
Mike Hewitt, Getty Images

If you went to the Louvre last year, you're in the company of 8.1 million people. According to the latest Museum Index from the Themed Entertainment Association [PDF], the Paris institution was the world's most-visited museum in 2017—an honor it hasn't earned since 2015.

Attendance at the Louvre went up 9.5 percent from 7.4 million visitors to 8.1 million between 2016 and 2017. The National Museum of China in Beijing, 2016's most popular museum attraction, also saw a significant 6.8 percent boost in traffic last year from 6.5 million to 8 million guests‚ landing in the No.2 spot. Two U.S. museums, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, are tied for the third slot with 7 million visitors each, and the Vatican Museums rank fifth with a 2017 attendance of 6.4 million.

The Louvre's impressive attendance numbers look much different than they did in the year following the Paris terror attacks of November 2015. The number of tourists traveling to the French capital dropped by 1.5 million in 2016, and the Louvre alone saw a 1.3 million decrease in visitors. The city has since rebounded, and in the middle of 2017 tourism to Paris was greater than it had been in a decade.

Museums around the world saw more people coming through their doors overall last year, with an attendance boost of 0.2 percent from 2016 to 2017. The museums with the biggest spikes were the Victoria & Albert Museum in London with 25.4 percent and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C with 22.8 percent. Though the museum didn't make the top 20 list, the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. last year helped contribute to the 3 percent increase in museum traffic in North America.

You can find the full list below.

1. Louvre // Paris, France
2. National Museum of China // Beijing, China
3. National Air and Space Museum // Washington D.C., U.S.
    Metropolitan Museum of Art // New York City, U.S.
5. Vatican Museums // Vatican City
6. Shanghai Science & Technology Museum // Shanghai, China
7. National Museum of Natural History // Washington D.C., U.S.
8. British Museum // London, UK
9. Tate Modern // London, UK
10. National Gallery of Art // Washington D.C., U.S.
11. National Gallery // London, UK
12. American Museum of Natural History // New York City, U.S.
13. National Palace Museum // Taipei, Taiwan
14. Natural History Museum // London, UK
15. State Hermitage // St. Petersburg, Russia
16. China Science Technology Museum // Beijing, China
17. Reina Sofia // Madrid, Spain
18. National Museum of American History, Washington D.C., U.S.
19. Victoria & Albert Museum // London, UK
20. Centre Pompidou // Paris, France

How Cold Is It in Canada? Niagara Falls Has Frozen Over

Aaron Vincent Elkaim, Getty Images
Aaron Vincent Elkaim, Getty Images

The cold snap that's gripped the northeast in an icy, subzero chill has made it hard to roll down frozen car windows and navigate roads. Elsewhere, it's having a significantly more spectacular effect: The roaring cascade of water at Niagara Falls at the United States/Canada border has slowed and even come to a stop in some areas, having effectively frozen over.

CNN reports that extreme temperatures have arrested the famous waterfall in spots, creating a kind of winter wonderland that some observers have compared to the handiwork of Elsa in Disney's Frozen. Here's what a similar scene looked like in 2015:

Visitors observe frozen areas of Niagara Falls in 2015
Aaron Vincent Elkaim, Getty Images

And here's a look at footage captured in 2019:

While covered by a sheet of ice, the Falls are not frozen solid: The volume and force of water prevents that. In the 1960s, steel ice booms were added to prevent large blocks from forming farther up the river that could slow the water enough to cause freezing. Instead, it's the surface water and mist that ices over, creating an aesthetically intriguing appearance. If it gets cold enough, ice can form as the water falls, leading to a large deposit on the bottom that can grow to over 40 feet thick.

It's rare for the Falls to come to a complete halt, but before the advent of the ice booms, it was a possibility. On March 30, 1848, gale force winds pushed ice floes from Lake Erie to the mouth of the Niagara River, creating a natural dam and effectively turning off the rushing water. People began walking over the dry riverbed and collected resurfaced weapons from the War of 1812; others thought it was a sign of the end of the world. Niagara Falls has never experienced a near-total interruption since.

[h/t CNN]

The 10 Most Instagrammed Real-Life Game of Thrones Locations

Helen Sloan, HBO
Helen Sloan, HBO

Croatia's tourism industry is booming, and Game of Thrones is largely to thank—or blame. The old town of Dubrovnik has received so many tourists since scenes from the TV show were shot there that local officials announced a plan in 2017 to limit the number of travelers who arrive via cruise ship each day.

The most Instagrammed Game of Thrones location isn’t in Dubrovnik, but it is in Croatia. Using hashtag data from Instagram, Buzz Bingo mapped out the film locations that are most popular among social media-savvy travelers. Of the 54 locations analyzed, here are the top 10.

1. Krka National Park, Croatia

Krka National Park, Croatia
Brian Adamson via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Known for its stunning waterfalls and access to the Krka River, this park in southern Croatia is a tourist destination in its own right. Several Game of Thrones scenes were shot there, including the one where Arya Stark and The Hound cross the Riverlands in season 4, episode 3 ("Breaker of Chains").

2. Aït Benhaddou, Morocco

After a stop in Marrakech, visitors often take a day trip to this fortified 17th-century city and UNESCO World Heritage site. Game of Thrones fans probably know it better as Yunkai, a second slaving city that Daenerys Targaryen liberated.

3. Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland

The Dark Hedges
iStock.com/DieterMeyrl

This enchanting corridor of beech trees was planted in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, in the 18th century. Of course, in the show, it’s the Kings Road. Rewatch season 2, episode 1 (“The North Remembers”) and you’ll see it.

4. Carrick-a-Rede, Northern Ireland

Travel a little further north from The Dark Hedges and you’ll reach the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. In the show, this bridge connects the two towers of Pyke on the Iron Islands, and can be seen in the season 6 episode (warning: spoiler alert) where Balon Greyjoy meets a grisly end.

5. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
iStock.com/Eloi_Omella

This Spanish island served as the setting for Dragonstone Island, which can be seen in season 7. The name San Juan de Gaztelugatxe means “castle rock” in Basque.

6. Bardenas Reales, Spain

Bardenas Reales
iStock.com/MarioGuti

Daenerys and the Dothraki cross these plains on their way to The Narrow Sea. In reality, the Bardenas Reales is a desert region in southern Spain.

7. Vatnajökull, Iceland

For cooler climes, Game of Thrones location scouts turned to Vatnajökull, Iceland’s largest glacier. Using CGI, shots of the glacier were used to create The Wall in season 2 of the show.

8. Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

Þingvellir National Park
iStock.com/Michael Ver Sprill

Another Icelandic location, this mountainous region near the real-life Hengill volcano serves as the backdrop for the duel between Brienne and The Hound.

9. Itálica, Spain

The ancient Roman city of Itálica, located in Spain near Seville, was founded in 206 BCE. The Dragonpit in season 7 of Game of Thrones was filmed here.

10. Doune Castle, Scotland

Doune Castle
iStock.com/treasuregalore

This 14th century courtyard castle was the first place used to depict Winterfell in Game of Thrones. The feast scene in the pilot episode was also shot here.

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