10 Most Visited Attractions in London

According to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), ten of the attractions in the United Kingdom which had the most visitors for the year 2017 are in London. ALVA is a group of organisations and people who share expertise, provide resources and insights to the UK tourism industry. Its members include the UK’s most popular, iconic and important museums, galleries, palaces, castles, cathedrals, zoos, historic houses, heritage sites, gardens and leisure attractions. The following list of the 10 Most Visited Attractions in London starts with the most number of visitors.

1) British Museum

British Museum was established in 1753 and first opened to the public six years later. It is one of the largest museums in the world and London’s most popular tourist attraction.

The museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection from around the world numbers some 8 million objects. Among its vast collections of art and artefacts were those from Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Roman and Medieval Britain. One of its most prized items is the Rosetta Stone, the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics.

10 Most Visited Attractions in London
The Reading Room in the centre of the Great Court of the British Museum.

Admission is free and museum galleries are open daily from 10:00 am –  05:30 pm (until 08:30 pm on Fridays).

2) Tate Modern

Tate Modern is housed in the former Bankside Power Station and is the world’s most visited modern art gallery. Its collections date back to 1900 and consist of works of international modern and contemporary art.

The main collection displays consist of 8 areas. Each area has a named theme or subject that change periodically. All areas show different works in line with the overall theme or subject and take up the majority of the gallery space.

10 Most Visited Attractions in London
The ten-storey Switch House, one of Tate Modern’s newly opened buildings.

There is no admission charge for access to the collection displays while tickets must be purchased for the major temporary exhibitions. Open Sunday to Thursday at 10:00 am – 06:00 pm and Friday to Saturday at 10:00 am – 10:00 pm.

3) National Gallery

The National Gallery is an art museum located in Trafalgar Square in Central London. It was established in 1824 and home to a collection of over 2,300 paintings from the mid-13th century to 1900.

It is among the most visited art museums in the world. Housed under its roof is an impressive collection of mostly pre-modern art including masterpieces by Canaletto, Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Monet, Renoir, Titian and Van Gogh, to name a few.

10 Most Visited Attractions in London

Entry to the main collection is free of charge. Open daily at 10:00 am – 06:00 pm (Fridays until  09:00 pm).

4) Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is home to a wide range of specimens from various segments of natural history. The museum exhibits life and earth science specimens consisting of some 80 million items. These items are classified into five main collections – botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology.

The museum opened in 1881 and many of its collections have far-reaching historical and scientific values.

10 Most Visited Attractions in London

The Natural History Museum is located in South Kensington and does not charge an admission fee. Open daily at 10:00 am – 05:50 pm (last entry at 05:30 pm).

5) Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. It is home to a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects. The museum was named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Founded in 1852, it has 145 galleries and its collection covers 5,000 years of art. The artworks date back from the ancient times to the present modern day. In addition, its origins come from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. The impressive assembly consists of a vast range of items such as ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery and furniture. Also, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs are part of its varied and comprehensive collection.

10 Most Visited Attractions in London
Photo Credit: Nick Weall

The museum is located in South Kensington. Admission is free. Some exhibitions and events carry a separate charge. Open daily at 10:00 am – 05:45 pm (Fridays until 10:00 pm).

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6) Science Museum

The Science Museum was founded in 1857 and holds a collection of over 300,000 items. Among the famous items in its collection are the oldest surviving steam locomotive, the first jet engine, a reconstruction of a DNA model and some of the earliest remaining steam engines.

It also contains hundreds of interactive exhibits. Also, the museum has a dedicated library and houses many objects around a medical theme such as those in clinical medicine, biosciences and public health.

The Science Museum is made up of a number of galleries. Some of the most impressive items include full-sized aeroplanes and helicopters, an Apollo spacecraft, rockets and exhibits on human space exploration.

10 Most Visited Attractions in London
Photo Credit: Jim Linwood

The Science Museum is located in South Kensington and does not charge visitors for admission. Temporary exhibitions, however, may incur an admission fee. Open daily at 10:00 am – 06:00 pm (last entry at 05:15 pm).

7) Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre is a complex of venues dedicated to arts. Located on the southern side of the River Thames, it is Europe’s largest centre for the arts and has three main performance venues.

Royal Festival Hall – leading classical music venue with a seating capacity of 2,500. Open daily at 10:00 am – 11:00 pm.

Hayward Gallery – world-renowned contemporary art gallery which presents a wide range of artists from around the world. Open every day (except Tuesdays) at 11:00 am – 07:00 pm. Thursdays until 09:00 pm.

Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room – provides a platform for music and performance events, talks and debates as well as readings of classical and modern literature. Open at 10:00 am – 11:00 pm every day (except Christmas Day).

10 Most Visited Attractions in London
Royal Festival Hall (Photo Credit: southbankcentre.co.uk)

8) Somerset House

Somerset House is an arts centre designed for today’s audiences. It offers a wide array of contemporary arts and culture. Its annual cultural programme covers the contemporary arts in all its forms including events and exhibitions.

Under its roof include 100 organisations from the arts and creative industries, and others ranging from advertising, branding, PR agencies and film production, to social enterprise and business support organisations.

10 Most Visited Attractions in London

Admission to Somerset House is free, a ticket may be needed for some exhibitions and events. The Courtauld Gallery charges an admission fee.

Open Hours – Gallery & exhibition spaces
Monday, Tuesday, Saturday & Sundays at 10:00 am – 06:00 pm (last admission at 05:00 pm)

Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays at 11:00 am – 08:00 pm (last admission at 07:00 pm)
Check individual exhibition information for exceptions.

Gallery and exhibition spaces are sometimes open late for exhibitions and special events.

The Courtauld Gallery
Open at 10:00 am – 06:00 pm daily (last admission at 05:30 pm)

9) Tower of London

Tower of London, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Britain’s finest historic castles located on the north bank of the River Thames.

The castle has played an important role in English history. It has served as a royal residence, a prison and place of torture and death, an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England.

10 Most Visited Attractions in London

Open at Tuesday – Saturday from 09:00 am – 05:30 pm / Sunday – Monday from 10:00 am – 05:30 pm

Admission: Free to Members. Adult (16+ years old) = £22.70 / Child (5 – 15 years old) = £10.75

10) Royal Museums Greenwich

Royal Museums Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and location of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Royal Museums Greenwich is an organisation consisting of four existing museums in Greenwich, London. These attractions are located within easy walking distance of each other.

The National Maritime Museum is the leading maritime museum of the United Kingdom and may be the largest museum of its kind in the world. The historic buildings form part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. National Maritime Museum has no admission charge, however most temporary exhibitions levy admission charges.

The Queen’s House now forms part of the National Maritime Museum. Home to an internationally renowned art collection, it displays an impressive assembly of maritime paintings and portraits. Free entry.

The Royal Observatory is the home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), the Prime Meridian of the world and London’s Planetarium. It is open daily from 10:00 am – 05: 00 pm including Bank Holidays. Tickets & prices: Adult = £9.00 / Child = £5.85

Cutty Sark is a British clipper ship. It was one of the fastest and one of the last tea clippers to be built as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion. This celebrated historic sailing ship is today an award-winning tourist attraction in Greenwich. It is open daily from 10:00 am – 05: 00 pm including Bank Holidays. Tickets & prices: Adult = £12.15 / Child = £6.30

10 Most Visited Attractions in London

In case you’re curious, the table below shows the number of visitors in 2017 to the 10 Most Visited Attractions in London. Are you one of them?

Rank Site Total visits
1 British Museum 5,906,716
2 Tate Modern 5,656,004
3 National Gallery 5,229,192
4 Natural History Museum 4,434,520
5 Victoria and Albert Museum 3,789,748
6 Science Museum 3,251,000
7 Southbank Centre 3,232,655
8 Somerset House 3,223,350
9 Tower of London 2,843,031
10 Royal Museums Greenwich 2,607,099

Reference: ALVA – 2017 VISITOR FIGURES

Please also read:

10 More Top Sights and Attractions to Visit in London

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10 Most Visited Attractions in London

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  1. Went to London in high school, so would love to go back and actually spend more time there. The science museum sounds awesome because we love checking out old cars and planes. The British Museum seems fun too, can’t believe it’s free! Thanks for these tips!

  2. Museums seem to be the favorite haunt of most tourists. If I were to prepare my list to visit, these museums would figure in them for sure. You have done well by adding the visiting time, helps to plan.

  3. For a small time that I lived in the UK, I loved visiting the British Museum. I think the world’s best art lives here. There were so much of ancient Indian Art there that I could have spent the life studying it. If you go there, do check out the Jagat Singh’s Mewar Ramayana – something that I later discovered was there.

  4. I definitely loved all these museums. I enjoyed Tate a lot . The sommerset house is also really pretty! This list just made me miss London.

  5. We often use London as a gateway to Europe. There are many on your list that we have missed despite several visits. We often tend to miss the museums when we plan busy days. We loved the interesting sculptures in the Hayward Gallery. My hubby has the Royal Museums Greenwich on his list for our next visit for the maritime history.

  6. I am really surprised that Big Ben is not on this list. It was the first place I went but I also did not visit any museums (which was clearly a bad idea). Time to go back!

  7. London is every traveller’s dream destination for it offers something to every kind of travellers.
    As a history buff, I would love to explore Natural History Museum and National Gallery. Thanks for this list. Have bookmarked it.

  8. Embarrassed to admit I hadn’t heard of several of these art museums at all. The Tower of London I had definitely heard of! Since our family really enjoys visiting art galleries, I’ll be pinning this article for sure. We’re planning our first trip to London next year, and this will be a great resource. Are these art museums the kind that you need to plan several hours each to see? Which ones would be best for kids, if you have to choose?

    1. Thanks! There’s so much to see in all of these museums, so I suggest to spend several hours. Depending on your London stay, maybe a minimum of two hours each. Also, all these museums are massive in terms of area and each museum has its own speciality. British Museum and Tower of London are for history, National Gallery if you want to see paintings by the masters, Royal Museums Greenwich for maritime history, etc. If your kids are into science like astronomy, machines/engines, dinosaurs and the like, you have to check Science and Natural History museums. These two are close to each other including Victoria and Albert (decorative arts). There are other famous landmarks and sights (like the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, London Eye, to name a few) that are not on this list, so you really need to invest a lot of time in London.

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