Leading museums and attractions slowly returning to pre-Pandemic levels, with London leading the way

According to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, visitor numbers were up by 19% last year.

Four of the top five visitor attractions in the UK were based in London, according to the latest figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA). The British Museum reclaimed top spot as the most visited attraction in the country, seeing 5.8 million visitors pour through its doors, no doubt helped by the success of the ‘China’s Hidden Century’ exhibition that ran between May and October last year.

In second place was the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, which had its best ever year for visits, seeing a 22% annual rise, with 5,688,786 guests investigating the museum’s immense collection. Windsor Great Park was the third most visited attraction, and the most visited outdoor attraction, with 5.4 million visitors, while the Tate Modern and the Southbank Centre round out the top 5.

The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland remains a top attraction. Credit: Stuart Stevenson/Getty Images

2023 saw visitor numbers increase overall, with the total number of visitors to ALVA sites reaching 146.6 million, which was a 19% increase on the previous year, although that number is still smaller than the 163.9 million visitors from before the pandemic in 2019.

Last year’s Coronation undoubtedly had a positive effect on the royal palaces, which can be seen in Windsor Great Park’s success, as well as at Westminster Abbey, which saw a 49% increase in visitors, Windsor Castle (66%) and Buckingham Palace (75%).

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North of the Border, the National Museum of Scotland claimed the top spot with more than 2 million visitors, while in Northern Ireland, Titanic Belfast continued to be the top attraction with 800,949 visitors. St Fagans National Museum of History claimed the top spot in Wales.

The Long Walk at Windsor Great Park, the nation’s top outdoor attraction. Credit: Steinphoto/Getty Images

‘Our members are not yet back to hosting the same number of visitors that they did in 2019, but they are really delighted that even in a challenging cost-of-living climate visitors are

still prioritising spending special time with special people at special places,’ said ALVA director Bernard Donoghue. ‘Whilst the extension of tax relief for museums, theatres and galleries was a very welcome announcement in the recent Budget, there was a missed opportunity to reintroduce tax free shopping for overseas visitors, which would have improved the UK’s international competitiveness, and reduce VAT for tourism and hospitality which would have helped businesses repair their balance sheets.’

For the full set of statistics and more information, visit ALVA

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