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Most visited museum in UK is Natural History Museum

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

London's Natural History Museum was the most visited museum in the UK in 2022.

New figures reveal it welcomed 4,654,608 visitors last year, making it the most-visited indoor attraction in Britain and the second most visited attraction overall. Visitor numbers were also up a whopping 196%.

A skeleton of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling of a grand hall at the Natural History Museum
Hintze Hall at the Natural History Museum

The figures have been revealed by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), which said that the total number of visits to ALVA sites in 2022 was 123.4million — a 69% increase on the previous year. But that was still a decline of 23% on the 161.2 million visits in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

The British Museum was the second most visited museum last year, enjoying a 209% increase in visitors, to 4,097,253. The third most-visited museum was Tate Modern who saw a 202% increase, to 3,883,160 visitors.

The National Gallery saw a 274% increase and returned as one of the top 10 most-visited attractions in Britain with 2,727,119 visitors. It was the fourth most-visited museum. Rounding out the top-five most visited museums was the V&A in South Kensington, with 2,370,261 visitors and a 176% increase.

The Natural History Museum’s director Doug Gurr said: “We are thrilled to have become the UK’s most popular indoor attraction for a second year running.

“It is testament to our innovative and inspiring public programme of events and exhibitions, which included Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix it, Dippy Returns and Wildlife Photographer of the Year, as well as the dedication of our visitor experience team who work so hard to ensure visitors have a brilliant day out.”

ALVA said that overall, museums & galleries reported a surge in visits (+158%) compared with 2021.

Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, commented: “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.

“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."

The visitor figures for the UK reflected those seen around the world. The Louvre Museum in Paris was named the most visited museum in the world in 2022, with visitor figures up a whopping 173% up on 2021. But it was still down 20% on the 9.6 million people who visited in 2019. It welcomed 7,726,321 visitors in 2022. The Art Newspaper — who compiled the global figures — said 141 million visits were made to the world’s top 100 art museums in 2022, way down on the 230 million visits enjoyed in 2019.

Top 10 most-visited museums in UK in 2022

1. Natural History Museum — 4,654,608 visitors | up 196% on 2021

2. The British Museum — 4,097,253 visitors | up 209% on 2021

3. Tate Modern — 3,883,160 visitors | up 202% on 2021

4. The National Gallery visitors — 2,727,119 visitors | up 274% on 2021

5. V&A South Kensington — 2,370,261 visitors | up 176% on 2021

6. Science Museum — 2,334,930 visitors | up 144% on 2021

7. National Museum of Scotland — 1,973,751 visitors | up 199% on 2021

8. Royal Museums Greenwich — 1,628,580 visitors | up 137% on 2021

9. Scottish National Gallery — 1,277,230 visitors | up 322% on 2021

10. Riverside Museum — 1,173,242 visitors | up 276% on 2021

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