British Museum is the most visited UK attraction again

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The British Museum was the UK's most popular visitor attraction in 2012 - the sixth year running it has been so.

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva) said the London venue attracted 5.6 million visitors.

Artist Damien Hirst's retrospective contributed to a 9% rise in Tate Modern visitors, which had 5.3 million.

Despite bad weather and the Olympics, there was an overall 5.1% increase in visitors at all UK attractions, from 87.7 million in 2011 to 92.1 million.

Visitors were briefly deterred from central London during the games, but Alva director Bernard Donohue called the recovery "almost immediate".

At the British Museum, the exhibition curated by Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry, which explored the depths of the museum and showed 170 objects alongside 30 of his own creations, was in part responsible for helping it continue its reign as the most popular visitor attraction.

However its 5.6 million visitor figure was a 4.7% drop year-on-year.

Tate Modern on London's South Bank moved up a place to second position with 5.3 million visitors - a 9% rise from 2011.


1. British Museum - 5,575,946

2. Tate Modern - 5,318,688

3. National Gallery - 5,163,902

4. Natural History Museum - 5,021,762

5. V&A - 3,231,700

Source: Association of Leading Visitor Attractions

The Victoria & Albert Museum had its best year on record, with a 16% rise to 3.2 million visitors, thanks to its Hollywood Costume exhibitions in Autumn 2012.

While The National Portrait Gallery's Lucian Freud Portraits exhibit helped moved it up one place to eighth position and saw an increase of 12%, with 2.1 million visitors.

Although the Olympic and Paralympic Games affected visitor numbers in Central London for a brief period, it was the weather that had the biggest impact in 2012.

Of the 30 attractions which saw more than a 10% drop in numbers, 27 were gardens or outdoor attractions.

Grayson Perry takes the BBC for a tour of The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsmen

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in Glasgow achieved a 5.8% increase with around one million visitors, making it the most visited combined art gallery and museum.

One of the largest rises year-on-year (53%) was seen by the new Museum of Liverpool, which opened in July 2011 and was the most visited museum in England, outside of London.

Other galleries in Liverpool - the Walker Art Gallery and the Tate - also saw increases.

"We are delighted with the visitor figures," said Mr Donohue.

He added: "This year, 2013 looks like it is going to be a promising year for Alva members. The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich is likely to see a marked increase in visitors because of its role as a backdrop in the hugely popular and award-winning film Les Miserables."

Openings in 2013 include a £35m heritage project to build a museum to house Henry VIII's warship, the Mary Rose, in Portsmouth.

Kenwood House, Robert Adam's 18th Century masterpiece and home to an extensive art collection, will also re-open in November after being closed for 20 months due to repair work and refurbishments.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Many people combine visits to the various musea with a trip to London. Personally, I find the city being inundated wit so many tourists a pain, but I guess we need the money. Going to a museum, with its long waiting times, queues etc can be a bit of a chore, not like the old days, where you could just turn up and enjoy an exhibition in peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    I am surprised however that my two favourite free London museums - the Science Museum and Imperial War Museum - aren't in the top 5, although I wouldn't be shocked to find that they're within the top 10. I suppose they are the ones that don't attract so many overseas visitors, as they mainly concentrate on British engineering and history, rather than taking a worldwide view like the others do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Not surprised that the top 5 were all in London, that's the consequence of it being the capital. But we mustn't forget the many other great places in the country. Many National Trust and/or English Heritage properties are fascinating, local museums are fantastic, and for the adrenaline addict there's always Alton Towers or Thorpe Park. In short, there's no shortage of great places to visit!

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Surprised that no mention has been made of the National Museum of Scotland....nearly 2 million visitors last year, in a city of 400,000 population. A wonderful place to spend many hours.
    Edinburgh's galleries & museums are well worth visiting, in a compact, walkable & very beautiful city.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Great to see how widely used the museums and galleries are in this country. Also went to see the Museum of Liverpool last summer - what a fantastic place and a brilliant city. No wonder it was recognised as the City of Culture recently - one of the best places to go outside of London for it's rich architectural history and amazing arts scene!


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