diamond geezer

 Thursday, February 22, 2007

London's most popular

Just released, figures which reveal London's most visited tourist attractions. And what do you know - the Tate Modern is the most popular attraction in the capital with nearly 5 million visitors last year (that's an impressive 13600 visitors a day or, if you like, 26 visitors a minute). According to the official list, a total of 14 attractions welcomed more than a million visitors in 2006 (up from 13 the year before). And right down at the bottom of the pile was the Theatre Museum, whose visitor numbers were so feeble that the place was forced to close down last month. Great headline-grabbing stuff, this rank-ordering.

London's Top Tourist Attractions 2006
per year
per day
(1 adult)
Tate Modern4,915,00013600free
British Museum4,837,87813400free
The National Gallery4,562,47112600free
Natural History Museum3,754,49610400free
Science Museum2,421,440 6700free
Victoria and Albert Museum 2,372,9196600free
Tower of London2,084,4685800£15
St Paul’s Cathedral1,626,0345200£9.50
National Portrait Gallery1,601,4484400free
Tate Britain1,597,0004400free
National Maritime Museum1,572,3104300free
Kew Gardens1,357,5223700£12.25
British Library1,182,3933300free
Westminster Abbey1,028,9913300£10
London Zoo905,3032500£12
Houses of Parliament890,4552500free/£12
Imperial War Museum712,3212000free
Hampton Court Palace473,0131300£12.30
Cabinet War Rooms296,656820£11
Kensington Palace273,566760£11.50
HMS Belfast268,774750£9.95
Kenwood House194,408540free
Theatre Museum178,013700free

But hang on a second, there must be more than 23 visitor attractions in London, surely? Where's Buckingham Palace? Where's Madame Tussauds? Where's the London Eye? It turns out that the above list is restricted only to attractions with current membership of ALVA - the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. If you didn't take part in the organisation's latest survey then you're not on the list. It's not exactly definitive is it? I'm perfectly willing to believe that Tate Modern is the genuine number 1, but I have very little faith that Tate Britain is really number 10.

Still, at least the visitor numbers are fascinating. It's striking how much more popular the National History Museum is than its scientific neighbour. It's instructive that the Tower of London is the only attraction in the top half of the list which charges for admission. It's mysterious how the Houses of Parliament seem to have so many visitors when they're only open to the public during the summer recess. And blimey, more people visited my blog last year than visited HMS Belfast - surely that can't be right?

The full ALVA list also contains attractions outside London, which means that even the Tate Modern is eclipsed by the success of Blackpool Pleasure Beach - Britain's most-visited in 2006, with 5.7 million dropping in. All the rest of our top attractions are still in the capital, however, right down until Edinburgh Castle appears as the UK's number 14. Meanwhile, at the very bottom of the full UK list, a rather more folorn picture is painted:

per year
per day
(1 adult)
National Wool Museum17,53550free
National Museum of Costume 10,71750£3

It's quite sad that only 50 people a day head down to deepest Camarthenshire to "discover the spellbinding story of the Welsh woollen industry". Similarly it's a shame that only 50 people a day head for a small village south of Dumfries to "open the door on fashion and society through the ages". That's as many visitors daily as the Tate Modern gets in two minutes. For every mega-attraction in central London, it seems there are several carefully-crafted mini-museums in the provinces which never get the support they deserve. Let's hope that a few more tourists frequent these overlooked treasures in 2007.

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