Last month Visit England released their annual list of England's most visited tourist attractions, which is always a fascinating barrel-load of data. Where's popular, who's getting busier, who's losing out? A few caveats. It's too early to have statistics for 2013, this data is for 2012. 2012 was a peculiar year, with rotten weather, a Jubilee and the Olympics. The figures come from a questionnaire, and the numbers aren't checked. The survey these numbers come from has a response rate of only 29%. The list is unverified and incomplete. There's no London Eye, for example, no Madame Tussaud's, no Buckingham Palace. And several attractions took part last year but not this - for example Tate Britain and the Museum of London no longer appear. But it's still very interesting to see roughly who's getting how many visitors, so I've rejigged London's statistics into the grouped list below. The list is complete down to 50,000, but I've omitted a few attractions below that. In each category, the attractions appear in descending order. I've used arrows for attractions switching category or with a greater than 10% change. I've used two arrows where the change is 30% or more. Attractions that weren't in last year's list are asterisked.
Visitor attractions, London - number of visitors, 2012 Over 5 million visitors: British Museum, ↑Tate Modern, National Gallery, ↑Natural History Museum 2-5 million: ↑Victoria & Albert Museum, Science Museum, Tower of London, ↑National Portrait Gallery 1-2 million: St Paul's Cathedral, Old Royal Naval College, Westminster Abbey, British Library, *Royal Academy, ↑↑National Maritime Museum, Houses of Parliament, ↓Kew Gardens, ↑Fusiliers Museum 500,000-1 million: ↓London Zoo, Imperial War Museum, ↓Royal Observatory Greenwich, Horniman Museum, Hampton Court, ↓↓Serpentine Gallery, ↑Tower Bridge Exhibition, 200,000-500,000: Museum of Childhood, Wallace Collection, ↑↑Kensington Palace, Cabinet War Rooms, *Cutty Sark, Army Museum, Monument, RAF Museum, Courtauld Gallery 100,000-200,000: Museum in Docklands, Stamford Bridge Tour, Southwark Cathedral, ↓↓HMS Belfast, ↑BBC TV Centre, Sir John Soane's Museum 50,000-100,000: ↓↓Queen's House, ↑Guildhall Art Gallery, ↓Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, ↑Thames Chase Visitor Centre, Eltham Palace, ↑↑Spitalfields City Farm, 20,000-50,000: *Foundling Hospital, Chislehurst Caves, ↓↓Household Cavalry Museum, ↓Osterley Park, ↓Apsley House, ↓Museum of Freemasonry, ↓Jewel Tower, Twickenham Stadium, *Forty Hall, ↑↑Brunel Museum, ↓↓Wellington Arch, ↑Order of St John 10,000-20,000: Handel House, Burgh House, ↓↓Kenwood House, Canal Museum, ↓Chiswick House 5000-10000: Richmond Museum, Kelmscott House, ↑Barnet Museum 2000-5000: Wimbledon Windmill, Crossness Engines, St Bartholomew's Museum, Twickenham Museum, Lambeth Palace, ↓Marble Hill House 1000-2000: ↓Rangers House, Kempton Steam Engines, Wimbledon Museum less than 1000: ↑Wandle Industrial Museum, College of Arms
The British Museum retains its place at the top of the pile, while Tate Modern leapfrogs the National Gallery for the number two spot. The Tower of London is the most popular paid-for attraction on the list, followed by St Paul's Cathedral. The National Maritime Museum has the largest increase inside the Top 20 thanks to its new extension, while the Queen's House nextdoor plummets somewhat. Barnet Museum has one of the best two-year increases, so well done to them. The Royal Observatory in Greenwich has lost over 50% of its visitors since choosing to charge an entrance fee, whereas Kew Gardens probably lost out in 2012 because of the weather.
As usual it's the bottom of the list that's most fascinating. Five London attractions were visited by less than two thousand visitors last year, with two not even managing to hit a thousand. Only 200 souls visited the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry Museum at Lincoln's Inn, but that's only open by appointment, and closed at weekends. Email Major Michael O'Beirne if you'd like to up the numbers. And only 221 people visited the Wandle Industrial Museum last year, but that is up 24% on 2011 so in fact they're doing well. Pop in on a Wednesday or a Sunday afternoon, down in Mitcham, to discover more about southwest London's non-lost river. As for the Kempton Great Engines, they're rather splendid but quite out of the way, whereas the Ranger's House in Greenwich Park ought to be much more successful but insists on pre-booked tours.
Intriguingly, the six lowest-performing properties on 2011's list all failed to send back a questionnaire for 2012. Carshalton House, Little Holland House and Carew Manor in Sutton are probably still at the bottom of the heap, but we'll never know. And as for Rainham Hall and the Roman Bath, they're amongst a dozen National Trust properties that longer appear on the list this year - only Osterley Park House survives. Do not trust this list as gospel, it is woefully incomplete.
If you fancy digging around in the data there's a spreadsheet to download, and then you can explore figures across the whole of England. The top attraction outside London is Hylands House and Estate in Essex, which nips in at number 10 (presumably due to hosting a big music festival). Bristol Museum turns out to be more popular than Stonehenge, while HMS Victory sees more footfall than the Cutty Sark. And at the very bottom of the heap is North Ings Farm Museum, a repository of agricultural equipment in Lincolnshire, which managed just 67 visitors in 2012. They only open on a few Sundays each year, but they have a narrow gauge railway which you'd think would lure a few more in, and you could still visit on 6th October. So go on, why not visit one of England's other fine attractions this weekend and help bump them up the 2013 rankings?