London tourist attractions: Natural History Museum, Tate Modern footfall remains down after the pandemic

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Tourist footfall at London’s major attractions in 2022 was up on 2021 but remained down on 2019, before the pandemic.

Visitor figures for 2022 reveal the London’s top attractions are still not back up to the level of footfall enjoyed before the pandemic.

Windsor Great Park was the most popular location in the country, with more than 5.6m visits, but London otherwise dominates the latest figures.

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The Natural History Museum, in South Kensington, tops the capital’s list with 4.6m visits in 2022, but this remains down on the 5.4m visits in 2019. In 2020 the number fell to 1.3m.

Overall, the top 10 attractions in London experienced footfall in 2022 that was 30% lower than in 2019 - 29.m visits, down from 43.4m.

The 2022 figures were released today by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), at the start of English Tourism Week and during Scottish Tourism Month.

The total number of visits to ALVA sites in 2022 was 123.4m, which was a 69% increase on the previous year but a decline of 23% on the 161.2m visits in 2019 to the top 349 ALVA sites.

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Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA)

Bernard Donoghue, ALVA director, said: “These figures show that visitors flocked back to their favourite places in 2022 to breathe, heal, repair and to enjoy special moments with special people in special places.

“The year ended strongly with attractions reporting a very busy Christmas, strong visitor numbers and strong retail sales.

“People clearly wanted to create special memories with their loved ones after two difficult years and a challenging economic climate.

“We are still experiencing the tourism equivalent of ‘long Covid’ with many attractions still not back up to 2019 visitor levels due, mainly, to the absence of international visitors, notably from China and the Far East, but I am confident that they will return this year and we will see a continuing healthy recovery."

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Guests mingle beneath a blue whale skeleton at the Natural History Museum in 2017. (Picture: Yui Mok/AFP via Getty Images)Guests mingle beneath a blue whale skeleton at the Natural History Museum in 2017. (Picture: Yui Mok/AFP via Getty Images)
Guests mingle beneath a blue whale skeleton at the Natural History Museum in 2017. (Picture: Yui Mok/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

The Design Museum, Westminster Abbey and Shakespeare

Among the largest percentage increases was new ALVA member the Design Museum, which saw a 515% increase to 511k visitors.

Also in London, Westminster Abbey saw a 551% increase to 1.06m and rose 105 places to 21st, and The Monument to The Great Fire of London had a 729% increase with 81k visitors.

Another notable rise was The Royal Shakespeare Company, which moved 116 places with an increase of 557% and 672k visitors.

London’s Top 10

Attraction Visits in 2022 Visits in 2019
1Natural History Museum 4,654,608 5,423,932
2The British Museum 4,097,253 6,098,340
3Tate Modern 3,883,160 6,098,340
4Southbank Centre 2,947,155 4,360,255
5The National Gallery 2,727,119 6,011,007
6V&A, South Kensington 2,370,261 3,992,198
7Somerset House 2,346,580 2,841,772
8Science Museum 2,334,930 3,301,975
9Tower of London 2,020,121 2,984,499
10Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 1,963,885 2,316,699
29,345,07243,429,017
A gallery assistant looks at the latest Hyundai Commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall by Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuna in October.(Picture: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images)A gallery assistant looks at the latest Hyundai Commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall by Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuna in October.(Picture: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images)
A gallery assistant looks at the latest Hyundai Commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall by Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuna in October.(Picture: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Coming in 2023

Several new openings will be taking place in 2023 including the  reopening of the National Portrait Gallery in June, following a major redevelopment. The opening exhibition programme includes a first look at intimate never-before-seen portraits of The Beatles taken by Paul McCartney.

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In July Young V&A – London’s new museum created with and for young people – will open. It will feature three new galleries and curated spaces designed for young people from babies to teens.

Tate Britain will unveil a complete rehang of its displays in May, and Titanic Belfast has just reopened with four new themed galleries.

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