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British Museum bounces back from scandal to be UK’s most visited attraction

by Staff

The British Museum (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

The controversy over thefts from the British Museum has not dented its popularity with the Bloomsbury institution being named the most popular visitor attraction in the UK last year.

The museum recorded around 5.8 million visits in a difficult 2023 which saw the museum engulfed in scandal after it was revealed around 2,000 objects were missing, stolen or damaged from its collection and a member of staff sacked.

That controversy saw its director Hartwig Fischer resign and Sir Mark Jones take the helm as an interim appointment while the search goes on for a permanent successor.

Figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) found the museum had 5,820,860 visits last year – a 42% increase on 2022 numbers.

The second most visited attraction was the Natural History Museum in South Kensington which had its best ever year and saw a 22% increase in visitors to 5,688,786.

The Natural History Museum in central London (Philip Toscano/PA) (PA Archive)The Natural History Museum in central London (Philip Toscano/PA) (PA Archive)

The Natural History Museum in central London (Philip Toscano/PA) (PA Archive)

The third most popular was Windsor Great Park which had 5,487,856 visitors, while Tate Modern was fourth with 4,742,038 visits and the Southbank Centre was fifth with 3,193,966 visitors.

The V&A had 3,110,000 visitors over the same period.

ALVA Director Bernard Donoghue said: “Our members are not yet back tohosting the same number of visitors that they did in 2019, but they are really delighted that even in a challenging cost-of-living climate visitors are still prioritising spending special time with special people at special places.

“Whilst the extension of tax relief for museums, theatres and galleries was a very welcome announcement in the recent Budget, there was a missed opportunity to reintroduce tax free shopping for overseas visitors, which would have improved the UK’s international competitiveness, and reduce VAT for tourism and hospitality which would have helped businesses repair their balance sheets.”

Despite only being open for half the year from June 22, 2023, the newlyrefurbished National Portrait Gallery had 1,164,018 visits and the Young V&A in Bethnal Green, which opened on July 1, welcomed 405,000 visitors

The largest increase in the capital came at Guildhall Art Gallery which had a 137% increase to 110,211 visits.

In Coronation year, Westminster Abbey had a 49% increase of visitors andworshippers to 1,587,866, Windsor Castle saw a 66% increase to 1,374,607 visits and Buckingham Palace welcomed 501,499 visitors, which was a 75% increase, during its summer opening between July 14 to September 24.

London Zoo had 1,327,902 visitors.

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