British Museum is the most visited UK attraction again

Damien Hirst Damien Hirst's retrospective was the most visited solo show in the Tate Modern's history

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    62.Otto Sump
    Yes, by our great grandfathers, not us! .

    In that case, I presume you would be willing to repatriate the loot?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Since the British had no problem in pillaging and vandalising the rest of the world, I do not feel guilty about living in their country now."
    Yes, by our great grandfathers, not us! . Also by Spain, France, Portugal and the USA etc. Africa had an internal slave trade for centuries (and still has), Britain abolished slavery first. And look at modern brutality like Rwanda. hush your prejudice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    We have to start charging for museums and galleries as they do everywhere else. It's ridiculous in this day and age that we don't take advantage a such vast source of revenue that could be invested in the funds starved arts.
    Having said that, it would all go (yet again) to London and the elite - Royal Opera and Ballet etc.. So maybe not................

  • 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!

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    54.Naughtie Was Right
    "...proud that our museums are free....but for how much longer ?"

    History shows that Conservatives introduced charges in '74 and Labour did away with them, until the Conservatives reintroduced them (under Thatcher), and Labour did away with them (under Blair).

    So, you are right to be concerned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    #57 I had a Greek girlfriend and lived in Athens for a while. If you channel flick on Greek TV you can usually find something in English (even if it is "Friends"). Greek kids start learning English at school from age 6. Their language skills put ours to shame.

    Its worth pointing out there's no Egyptian signs on the huge amount of Egyptian relics in the Athens archaeology museum either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    I understand that Greek is a minority language, but since the BM and the UK government refuse to return the Parthenon marbles to Greece, you would think it only fair that Greeks who travel to the UK to see them might actually be able to read something about them in their own language when they get there, since the majority of Greeks do not speak good English or French.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.


    The gvt used to charge for these museums. . . . but now they don't. . . . . . .I wish people would stop trying to pick fault. . . . .after all, almost NOTHING is free nowadays. . . . . .These museums are, so stop picking and be grateful you can have a day out for nothing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    51. TB
    The British Museum is largely full of foreign plunder. The last time I visited in about 2004 they were show-casing their 'latest acquisitions from Iraq'. Theft and bandry under the guise of 'heritage' and 'conservation'.

    Oh and only we barbaric Brits do this? get a life.. Why some Amazonian tribes exhibit the heads of their captured prizes.. and no Brit influence in sight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    @9 - I agree we should be proud that our museums are free....but for how much longer ? It wouldn't surprise me if the government started charging soon, after all they know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Having been to London's museums and galleries several times each I'm still discovering more inside them, and others besides.

    I do think there is an argument to be made for charging non-UK citizens in reflection of the vast charges made by such attractions in other countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.


    The British Museum offers a superb day out - and its free! What's not to like?

    Free, but please make a donation to this great Museum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    The British Museum is largely full of foreign plunder. The last time I visited in about 2004 they were show-casing their 'latest acquisitions from Iraq'. Theft and bandry under the guise of 'heritage' and 'conservation'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Free museums and science exhibits are both a brilliant tourist attractions and forms of education. We are fortunate to have some of the best museums here in the UK, and its good to see plenty of people are making the most of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    We are so fortunate to have these world class museums in our country. My heart leaps in my chest every single time I emerge into the great court at the BM & I've been many times. The V&A seems oft overlooked & it is a phenomenal place to visit. For goodness sake, don't complain about children, you were one once....

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    The BM makes me feel better about being an African living in London. Since the British had no problem in pillaging and vandalising the rest of the world, I do not feel guilty about living in their country now.
    Pleased to hear that you don't feel guilty about living here in the UK. I'm sure you are very grateful to be able to live in a country that allows you to speak freely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    42. ruffidea
    It is a few years since I visited the BM but at that time there were guide books available in every language except Greek, and I note that their web site still doesn't include Greek in the languages available.
    Maybe because out of a world population of 6 billion only about 8 million speak Greek (which includes me to an extent BTW) & many Greeks speak good English or French?

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    These top museums/galleries are not free but paid for out of taxation (or borrowing!)
    This may or may not be a good thing, but it is not free.
    I don't live in London so cannot benefit from the nice idea of being able to 'pop in' for just 1/2 an hour.

    We might also argue whether these museums should be free to non-UK visitors who are by definition not paying through their taxes for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    "I am glad to see that Kelvingrove Art Gallery...exhibits, most of which were bought by the museum and not stolen from foreign countries (compared to the BM's Parthenon Sculptures..)"

    Before you attempt a bit of a Scottish dig at the British Museum you migh care to note that the Elgin Marbles were "stolen" by the Scot Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin - Hence the name Elgin Marbles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Being a former archaeologist and classics student I've spent my fair share of time in the British Museum and it remains a fantastic asset for London but without doubt, the best free place to visit is the National Gallery. Constable's Haywain, Van Gough's Sunflowers, Monet's Waterlillies not to mention Michaelangelo, Titian, Rosseau, Cezanne... the list goes on an on and its all free. Marvelous.


Page 8 of 11


More Entertainment & Arts stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.