Royal Edinburgh Military TattooSt Michael's MountFanad Lighthouse in County Donegal, IrelandCaerphilly CastleInverary Highland GamesTower Bridge, LondonGuinness Storehouse, DublinPowis Castle and GardensScottish pipe bandBamburgh Castle, NorthumberlandGiant's CausewayFfestiniog RailwayGlenshane Country Farm

Visitor numbers to UK's most popular attractions increase by 19%

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) has released figures which show that the total number of visits to its members’ sites in 2023 was 146.6 million, a 19% increase on the previous year.

museum-458322_1280.jpgThe British Museum in London is the UK's most visited attraction

Indoor attractions saw a 23% increase in visitors, compared to a 2% increase in outdoor attractions. The most-visited attraction in the UK was the British Museum which saw 5,820,860 visits – a 42% increase on 2022 numbers, attributed in part to the success of the China’s hidden century exhibition that ran from May to October.

Wales saw a 25% increase in visitor numbers, London saw a 24% increase and Scotland tied with Northern Ireland with a 21% increase. The region of England outside London with the biggest year-on-year growth was the East of England, which was up 11%, followed by the West Midlands with 10%.

museum-5301598_1280.jpgThe Natural History Museum is the UK's second most visited attraction

ALVA’s members are the UK's most popular, iconic and important museums, galleries, palaces, castles, cathedrals, zoos, historic houses, heritage sites, gardens and leisure attractions and the annual figures provide a snapshot of the popularity of the country’s leading attractions. Despite the increase in visits, the figures are still 11% below the number of visits to the 374 ALVA sites in 2019, before the pandemic.

The second most visited attraction was the Natural History Museum in London which had its best ever year for visits, and the most visited outdoor attraction was Windsor Great Park with 5,487,856 visitors. In fourth place was Tate Modern with 4,742,038 visits a 22% increase on last year.

National_Portrait_Gallery_Forecourt_001_Olivier_Hess_-_Copy.jpgThe National Portrait Gallery © Olivier Hess

Despite only being open for half the year from June 22, 2023, the newly refurbished National Portrait Gallery in London welcomed 1,164,018 visits giving it 27th place. The largest percentage increase in London was Guildhall Art Gallery that saw a 137% increase to 110,211 after moving 43 places up the table and the Royal Albert Hall returned to almost pre-pandemic numbers of 1,605,924, despite having 12 fewer events in 2023 compared to 2019.

In Scotland, the most-visited free attraction continued to be the National Museum of Scotland, which saw an 11% increase in visitor numbers, followed by Edinburgh Castle, which was the most visited paid for attraction in Scotland. National Galleries Scotland had a record-breaking year and saw a 44% increase in visitors, which they attribute to their Grayson Perry exhibition and the opening of their new Scottish galleries.

horticulture-2350871_1280.jpgRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The most popular outdoor attraction in Scotland was Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with 1,041,391 visits. Both Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle saw visitor numbers increase by 24% year on year.

In Northern Ireland, Titanic Belfast continued to be the most-visited attraction experiencing its most successful year since 2012 following their gallery refreshment in January and February 2023. Giants’ Causeway saw a 57% increase and Carrick-a-Rede saw an 83% increase.

bridge-6644615_1280.jpgCarrick-a-Rede, Northern Ireland

The most visited attraction in Wales was St. Fagans National Museum of History with 594,990 visits, a 23% increase. It was followed by the National Museum Cardiff with a 41% increase to 378,349 visits.

Outside London, other English attractions that performed well were RHS Garden Wisley in 21st place, followed by two in the South West. Stonehenge saw a 36% increase with 1,327,423 visitors and six places below was the Roman Baths and Pump Room in Bath with 1,061,240 visitors.


Bernard Donoghue OBE, Director of ALVA, commented: “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.”

Looking forward in 2024

The Queen’s House in Greenwich has just reopened with works from the Royal Museums Greenwich’s (RMG) fine art collection and Beamish in north east England will be opening a Georgian tavern and pottery, a 1950s cinema, toy shop, electrical shop, record shop and Georgian-style self-catering accommodation as part of its Remaking Beamish project.

architecture-2155002_1280.jpgThe Queen’s House in Greenwich

Provand’s Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow, will reopen on March 29 after around £1.6 million was spent on repairs and improvement work. It is part of Glasgow’s Cathedral Precinct and will play a significant part in celebrations of Glasgow’s 850th anniversary in 2025.

Locomotion in Shildon is currently readying itself for the launch of its New Hall in May 2024, which will create the largest collection of heritage rail vehicles under cover and on public display anywhere in Europe.

Exhibitions to look forward to include NAOMI: In Fashion at the V&A South Kensington exploring the extraordinary career of fashion model Naomi Campbell which opens on June 22, and Barbie®: The Exhibition will be at the Design Museum from July 5 and will explore the design evolution of one of the world’s most famous dolls.

old-royal-naval-college-7325103_1280.jpgThe Old Royal Naval College

Michelangelo the last decades opens at the British Museum on May 2 and from March 29, the Old Royal Naval College opens a fascinating new exhibition, Chocolate House Greenwich, about the key role that chocolate played in the revival of 18th century Greenwich.

Game on, the largest interactive exhibition of the history and the culture of video games, will be at the National Museum of Scotland from June 29 and Discovering Degas, showcasing Sir William Burrell’s complete collection of prized works by Edgar Degas displayed together for the first time alongside around 50 further world-class works on loan from national and international collections, will be at The Burrell Collection, Glasgow from May 24th.

At The King’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, the summer exhibition Royal Portraits: A Century of Photography will chart the evolution of royal portrait photography from the 1920s to the present day, revealing the stories behind some of the most celebrated photographs ever taken of the Royal Family.

england-3855063_1280.jpgBuckingham Palace

Following a successful run in London, Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians, exploring life in Georgian Britain through the fashions of the day, will be the first exhibition to open at The King’s Gallery in Edinburgh following its 18-month closure for essential maintenance work.

If you or your group would like to enjoy a tailor-made tour of the United Kingdom, visiting some of the country’s leading tourist attractions, please do contact our friendly team today. 

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