The figures for what we visited last year have been released by ALVA, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. Among their 42 members, they are responsible for nearly 1,600 different attractions. But not every attraction is a member and not every member provides figures so there could be more popular places around.
Last year more of us visited their attractions than ever before. The figures were up by nearly 11% over 2009 which may not be that surprising given that 2009 was a year when more of us holiday at home.
Rather obviously, those that didn’t make an entry charge filled the top 5 positions with the British Museum being the leading attraction in the country with over 5.5 million visits. This was down on 2009 but figures go up and down depending on the appeal of new exhibitions and improvements. The other four were the National Gallery, Tate Modern, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum all of which are in London. The first attraction which charges was the Tower of London with 2,389,000 visitors, less than half that of the British Museum.
Outside London, the leading attraction was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow (again, free entry). It was followed by Chester Zoo, (because of all the TV exposure?) Edinburgh Castle, the Baths and Pump Room in Bath and the Eden Project in Cornwall. Apart from Kelvingrove the others all charge for entry. The first Welsh entry is St Fagans just outside Cardiff.( also free)
One place that did show a decline in visitors is Liverpool. After being one of the two European Cities of Culture in 2008, it had a large increase in visitors in 2008. Having seen it then, many decided to stay away in 2009. So the Mersey Maritime Museum saw numbers drop by 7%, the World Museum by 23%, the Walker Art gallery by 46% and the Tate by 50%. Just to confuse my logic, the Lady Lever Art Gallery increased numbers by almost a quarter!
Overall, 21 attractions each had more than 1 million visitors and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire managed to attract an extra 40%. Still, if it attracted 10 times as many visitors it would still only match those of the British Museum and that would really please its owner, the Duke of Marlborough.