VisitEngland has revealed its annual survey for 2021, showing gardens and museums were once again popular, along with Brighton Pier and a number of wildlife attractions.

Kew Gardens & Brighton Pier

Kew Gardens and Brighton Pier were among the most visited tourist hotspots in Britain last year. 

The survey, which gathered information from more than 1,100 English attractions, shows the most visited ‘paid for’ attraction in England last year was the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It’s the the second year in a row that the attraction has topped the table, with two million people visiting in 2021, up 61% on 2020. Chester Zoo was second with 1.6 million visitors and RHS Garden Wisley third with 1.4 million, which was up 14% on 2019.

Topping the list of free attractions in England last year was Brighton Pier with 4.3 million visitors, up 4% on 2020. Second was the Natural History Museum with 1.6 million visitors and the third most visited free attraction in England in 2021 was the British Museum with 1.3 million visitors.

VisitEngland director Andrew Stokes said: “From our world-renowned museums, galleries, castles and historic houses to our rural, wildlife and outdoor attractions, our outstanding visitor attractions are crucial to our tourism offer, also boosting local economies across England.” 

The top 20…

 Rank Name of ‘paid for’ attraction 2021 visitors Name of free attraction 2021 visitors
 1  Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew  1,963,171  Brighton Pier  4,260,485
 2  Chester Zoo  1,601,327  Natural History Museum  1,571,413
 3  RHS Garden Wisley  1,410,785  British Museum  1,327,120
 4  Windermere Lake Cruises  1,065,707  Abbey Gardens (Bury St Edmunds)  1,276,864
 5  Trentham Gardens  772,678  Tate Modern  1,156,037
 6  ZSL Whipsnade Zoo  754,896  Somerset House  984,978
 7  ZSL London Zoo  742,359  Science Museum  957,223
 8  Tatton Park  740,000  Victoria and Albert Museum  857,742
 9  Longleat Safari & Adventure Park  727,800  Clacton Pier  741,000
 10  Blenheim Palace  599,601  National Gallery  708,924
 11  Beamish, The Living Museum of the North  593,985  The Horniman Public Museum & Public Park Trust  653,200
 12  Eden Project  577,929  Wollaton Hall and Park  651,602
 13  Cliveden  553,041  Tate Britain  525,144
 14  Westonbirt, The National Arboretum  552,230  British Library  403,312
 15  Chatsworth  540,927  Needham Lake and Nature Reserve  390,212
 16  Attingham Park  536,382  National Railway Museum  346,313
 17  Tower of London  525,569  World Museum Liverpool  330,593
 18  Dunham Massey  522,346  Imperial War Museum London  320,542
 19  Royal Academy of Arts  468,693  Midlands Arts Centre (MAC)  306,268
 20  Land’s End  429,886  The Station (in Richmond)  294,535

Four wildlife attractions made the top ten in the most visited ‘paid for’ attractions, proving wildlife experiences are on the rise. Chester Zoo finished in second spot, with both ZSL zoos (Whipsnade and London) in sixth and seventh spot, as well as Longleat Safari & Adventure Park in ninth.

London visits dominated the free attraction list, with seven out of the top ten located in England’s capital. The Station (in Richmond) saw an increase in visitors across 2021 with just under 300,000. 

The survey also shows that while visits to visitor attractions in England increased by 30% overall last year compared to 2020, as attractions began to reopen and build back from the pandemic, 2021 visitor numbers were still down from 2019.

You can see a full report of the findings by clicking here