In Brief

Ten most visited attractions in the UK

Museums and galleries flourished last year while outdoor attractions suffered

For the first time since it opened in 2000, Tate Modern has become the most popular visitor attraction in the UK, ending the British Museum’s decade-long reign at the top of the list.

Contributing to Tate Modern's success were two blockbuster exhibitions, featuring Picasso and Modigliani, and the opening of its new extension, helping it increase visitors by 3.7% year-on-year and narrowly beating the British Museum overall with 5.9 million visitors compared to 5.8 million.

The largest increase was seen by Liverpool’s World Museum with 111% more visitors than in 2017. Moving up 13 spots to become the UK’s 23rd most popular, the World Museum hosted the Terracotta Warriors. Of the museum’s 1.4 million visitors last year, 610,000 saw these ancient Chinese statues, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva), which published the annual visitor figures today.

Alva reports that last year British attractions saw an average attendance increase of 8.68%, with more than 138 million visitors in total. Attractions in Scotland had the most growth, seeing 19.1% more people through their doors.

All the attractions in the top ten are in London, and the capital’s total attraction attendance figures – 67.6 million – nearly equal the UK’s total population. 

The London Evening Standard blames the extreme weather faced by the country last year for the decline in people attending outdoor attractions, specifically the Beast from the East at the beginning of the year and the summer heatwave. For example, the number of visitors to RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, the second most popular garden in the UK, dropped by 70,000.

Other victims of decline included the Eden Project in Cornwall, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

“I wish tourism was slightly more sophisticated, but weather has always been a determining factor on where people go,” said Alva director Bernard Donoghue.

Alva believes England’s success at the football World Cup also reduced outdoor attraction numbers.

Here are the UK’s ten most visited attractions in 2018:

1. Tate Modern - 5.87 million visitors

2. British Museum - 5.83 million visitors

3. National Gallery - 5.74 million visitors

4. Natural History Museum - 5.23 million visitors

5. Southbank Centre - 4.45 million visitors

6. V&A South Kensington - 3.97 million visitors

7. Science Museum - 3.17 million visitors

8. Somerset House - 3.14 million visitors

9. Tower of London - 2.86 million visitors

10. Royal Museums Greenwich - 2.55 million visitors


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