The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) has released its 2023 visitor figures from its members, with many seeing a huge rise. 

A view of the iconic Great Court at the British Museum in London.

Source: © The Trustees of the British Museum

The success of the China’s Hidden Century exhibition at the British Museum is said to have contributed to the increase in visitors.

Almost 150 million people visited ALVA sites throughout 2023, an increase of nearly 20% on the previous year. 

What are the most visited attractions?

The British Museum was the most visited attraction, seeing an impressive 42% rise from 2022 - which they attributed in part to the success of the China’s Hidden Century exhibition that ran from May to October. 

In second place was the Natural History Museum which had its best ever year for visits, seeing a 22% increase in visitors. This was followed by Windsor Great Park (the Crown Estate) in third which was also the most popular outdoor attraction with more than 5.4m visitors

The new entrance to the National Portrait Gallery, London

Source: © Olivier Hess.

The National Portrait Gallery in London opened in July 2023 after a major transformation. 

Despite only being open for around six months, from June last year, the newly refurbished National Portrait Gallery welcomed more than 1.1m visitors, giving it 27th place, while the Young V&A, which opened on 1st July was visited by 405,000 people. The Royal Albert Hall also moved 43 places up the table, returning to almost pre-pandemic visitor numbers. 

ALVA’s director, Bernard Donoghue, OBE, said: “Our members are not yet back to hosting 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.”

Burghley House

Burghley House in Lincolnshire saw the biggest rise in the number of visits last year. 

Outside London, other attractions that performed well in England were RHS Garden Wisley, Stonehenge and the Roman Baths and Pump Room.

Burghley House in Lincolnshire saw the biggest increase in visitors (86%) after opening an adventure playground, while the National Railway Museum in York saw a 10% rise which they attributed to the opening of Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery

The top 20 most visited attractions in 2023

 2023 rankAttraction  Total visits in 2023
 1  The British Museum  5,820,860
 2  Natural History Museum (South Kensington)  5,688,786
 3  The Crown Estate, Windsor Great Park  5,487,856
 4  Tate Modern  4,742,038
 5  Southbank Centre  3,193,966
 6  V&A South Kensington  3,110,000
 7  The National Gallery  3,096,508
 8  Science Museum  2,956,886
 9  Tower of London  2,790,280
 10  Somerset House  2,727,677
 11  Royal Museums Greenwich  2,547,821
 12  National Museum of Scotland  2,186,841
 13  Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew  1,974,295
 14  Edinburgh Castle  1,904,723
 15  National Galleries Scotland  1,836,057
 16  Royal Albert Hall  1,605,924
 17  Westminster Abbey  1,587,866
 18  St Paul’s Cathedral  1,499,575
 19  British Library  1,390,378
 20  Windsor Castle  1,374,607

What else do the figures show?

The Coronation effect

Westminster Abbey had a 49% increase in visitors and worshippers while Windsor Castle saw a 66% increase, moving it to 20th place.

Buckingham Palace welcomed 501,499 visitors, which was a 75% increase, during its summer opening. 

Buckingham Palace, London

The Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla is said to have contributed to the rise in visitors to places such as Westminster Abbey in London.

Record-breaking year for Scotland attraction

The National Galleries Scotland: National saw a 44% increase in visitors which they attributed to their Grayson Perry exhibition and the opening of the new Scottish galleries. 

The most visited free attraction in Scotland continued to be the National Museum of Scotland (11% increase) while the most paid-for attraction was Edinburgh Castle (41% increase).

Scotland’s most popular outdoor attraction was the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with more than 1m visits, while The Gallery of Modern Art moved up 40 places which they put down to the success of their Banksy Cut and Run exhibition. 

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Source: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

Edinburgh Castle was visited by almost two million people in 2023. 

Great response to Titanic Belfast transformation

It continued to be the most visited attraction in Northern Ireland, experiencing its most successful year since 2012 with a great response to its gallery revamp. Outdoor sites Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede both saw a surge in visitors with a 57% and 83% increase respectively.

Wales’ most visited attraction was…

St. Fagans National Museum of History with almost 600,000 visits, followed by the National Museum Cardiff which saw a 41% increase in the number of tourists. 

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions’ members are some of the UK’s most popular, iconic and important museums, galleries, palaces, castles, cathedrals, zoos, historic houses, heritage sites, gardens and leisure attractions.

For the full list and more information, visit