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Revealed: the 20 most popular attractions in Britain

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Words: Elle Griffiths

The British Museum has topped the list of most visited UK attractions for the 10th year running.

The iconic institution saw  6,420,395 people pass through its doors in 2016, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).

Figures released this week show that the UK’s top ten attractions were all in London with the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, the Natural History Museum and the Southbank Centre all making the top five.


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The Tate Modern saw a 24 percent increase on visitor between 2015 and 2016- most likely due to the unveiling of its 10 story extension in June, last year.  

Tate Modern

But the top-spot outside of London might surprise some, with the North West’s Chester Zoo pipping popular attractions like Edinburgh Castle, Stonehenge and The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, to the post.

And while the likes of Hampton Court Palace, the National Museum of Scotland, Glasgow’s Riverside Museum, Blenheim Palace, Cliveden, Urquhart Castle, and Sissinghurst experienced a significant rise in popularity, there were noticeable drop-offs elsewhere.


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London stalwarts Tate Britain and The Southbank Centre saw visitor numbers fall by 15.8% and 23%, respectively. 

Take a look at the UK’s 20 most popular attractions below. 

  1. British Museum - 6.42m
  2. National Gallery - 6.26m
  3. Tate Modern - 5.84m
  4. Natural History Museum - 4.62m
  5. Southbank Centre - 3.9m
  6. Somerset House - 3.44m
  7. Science Museum - 3.24m
  8. V&A Museum - 3.02m
  9. Tower of London - 2.74m
  10. Royal Museums Greenwich - 2.45m
  11. National Portrait Gallery - 1.95m
  12. Chester Zoo - 1.9m
  13. Kew Gardens - 1.83m
  14. Westminster Abbey - 1.82m
  15. National Museum of Scotland - 1.81m
  16. Edinburgh Castle - 1.78m
  17. Royal Albert Hall - 1.66m
  18. Scottish National Gallery - 1.54m
  19. St Paul’s Cathedral - 1.52m
  20. British Library - 1.5m
Chester Zoo

Attractions in Scotland had a good year, with audience numbers up 15.6 per cent across the board north of the border, compared to the UK average of 7.2 per cent.

Several attractions, including theme parks such as Alton Towers Legoland, Madame Tussauds and Thorpe Park are not members of the ALVA and therefore were not included in the figures. 

The top 10 attractions outside of the capital are shown below.

Stonehenge
  1. Chester Zoo - 1.9m
  2. National Museum of Scotland - 1.81m
  3. Edinburgh Castle - 1.78m
  4. Stonehenge - 1.38m
  5. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow - 1.26m
  6. Riverside Museum, Glasgow - 1.26m
  7. Roman Baths and Pump Room - 1.22m
  8. RHS: Garden Wisley, Surrey - 1.11m
  9. Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon - 1.07m
  10. Eden Project, Cornwall - 1m

Images: Rex Features

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