The annual attractions survey by VisitEngland has revealed the most popular free and paid-for attractions visited during 2019. 

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Source: RBG Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, saw a 25% increase in visitors throughout 2019.

Visits to England’s gardens increased by 10% in 2019 compared to the previous year, with farms and places of worship also seeing strong growth in visitor numbers, up 8% and 7% respectively.

Historic houses/castles and wildlife attractions/zoos saw good growth in visits, both up by 5%. Overall England’s visitor attractions saw a rise of 3% in visitors in 2019, the highest year-on-year increase since 2014.

Topping the list of free attractions was the British Museum with 6.2 million visitors followed by the Tate Modern with nearly 6.1 million and the National Gallery with 6 million.

The British Museum

The British Museum was the most visited free attraction in 2019 with more than six million visitors.

The Tower of London remained the most visited ‘paid for’ attraction in 2019 with almost 3 million visits followed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which saw a 25% increase in visitors to 2.3 million and Chester Zoo with 2.1 million.

Sally Balcombe, VisitEngland’s chief executive, said: “From world-renowned museums, galleries, castles and historic houses to rural, wildlife and outdoor experiences, England’s outstanding range of visitor attractions are a crucial and valuable part of our tourism offer, boosting local economies right across the country.”

“England’s attractions continued to provide a rich and varied canvas to capture the imagination of visitors and our stunning gardens were a proven tourism draw, admired for their beauty and variety.”

Sally Balcombe, VisitEngland’s chief executive

“Millions of jobs and local economies rely on tourism and this annual survey is also a timely opportunity to highlight the dedication of visitor attractions across the country who have been working so hard to welcome visitors back safely, adapting and innovating to meet new ways of working and still providing a great experience.”

Here are the top 20 most visited ‘paid for’ attractions, and the top 20 most visited free attractions: 

 RANKMost visited PAID attractions Number of visitors in 2019RANKMost visited FREE attractionsNumber of visitors in 2019
 1  Tower of London  2,984,499 1 British Museum 6,239,983
 2  Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew  2,316,699 2 Tate Modern 6,098,340
 3  Chester Zoo  2,086,785 3 The National Gallery 6,011,007
 4  St Paul’s Cathedral  1,716,417 4 Natural History Museum (South Kensington) 5,423,932
 5  Windermere Lake Cruises, Bowness  1,613,785 5 Brighton Pier 4,901,221
 Stonehenge  1,604,248 6 V&A (South Kensington) 3,992,198
 Wesminster Abbey  1,574,401 7 Science Museum 3,301,975
 Roman Baths  1,325,085 8 Somerset House 2,841,772
 Old Royal Naval College  1,264,683 9 Tate Britain 1,808,637
 10  Royal Academy of Arts  1,248,882 10 National Portrait Gallery, London 1,619,694
 11  Canterbury Cathedral  1,241,030 11 British Library 1,534,860
 12  RHS Garden Wisley  1,236,434 12 The Abbey Gardens and Abbey Ruins 1,228,564
 13  ZSL London Zoo  1,157,076 13 Imperial War Museum London 1,073,936
 14  National Museum Royal Navy  1,122,072 14 MAC Birmingham 993,108
 15  Hampton Court Palace  1,072,823 15 Museum of Liverpool 956,918
 16   Houses of Parliament  1,063,501 16 Horniman Museum and Gardens 952,954
 17  Longleat Safari & Adventure Park  1,011,314 17 Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology 930,669
 18  Eden Project  1,010,095 18 Serpentine Gallery 880,677
 Blenheim Palace  984,913 19 Merseyside Maritime Museum 836,980
 20  Tower Bridge Exhibition  889,338 20 Oxford University Museum of Natural History 792,282

The survey, which gathered information from more than 1,300 English attractions, also showed that there were more local day trips to attractions than in the previous year, up 2%.

VisitEngland said almost 2,500 visitor attractions in England had now applied for the ‘We’re Good To Go’ industry standard and consumer mark to date with more than 22,000 businesses across England signed up to the scheme since its launch. 

Want to know where is accepting group visits?  Check out our list of the attractions and venues