Most Visited Attractions in London
10 Most Popular Attractions in London by number of visitors
As the largest and most visited city in the UK, London offers a wealth of varied attractions.
From hands-on and historic museums to cutting edge art galleries and UNESCO sites, we take a look at the Top Ten London Attractions by visitor numbers. The great thing about these attractions is that free entry applies to eight of the ten listed here.
1. British Museum
With just under seven million annual visitors, the British Museum is the most visited attraction in the UK, and the fifth most visited museum in the world, competing with the likes of the Louvre in Paris.
The British Museum is situated close to Russell Square in the Bloomsbury area of Central London. The British Museum is 100% free to enter and is home to some of the world’s most amazing archaeological finds. It is dedicated to exhibiting a wide array of artifacts depicting human history, art and culture. This includes the Elgin Marbles from the Athens Parthenon and the Rosetta Stone. The glass ceiling of the central hall is a marvel in itself as is the neoclassical round Reading Room.
This museum is in an excellent location in the heart of London but somehow away tucked away from the main hustle and bustle. From the British Museum it’s just a few minutes’ walk to the likes of Oxford Street, Soho and Leicester Square.
- British Museum: 6.42 million visitors
2. The National Gallery
The National Gallery enjoys one of the capital’s most enviable positions at the north end of Trafalgar Square. Built in 1824 the gallery is home to one of the most treasured collections of paintings in the world. Unlike it’s contemporaries in France, Spain and Russia, the National Gallery in London is free to enter.
With over six million visitors passing through its doors each year, the National Gallery is the fifth most visited art gallery in the world. The National Gallery is rated not so much for size, but for the quality of the European paintings collections. Masterpieces on display include Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh, The Haywain by John Constable and the Bathers at Asnières by George Suerat.
- The National Gallery: 6.26 million visitors
3. Tate Modern
Free entry is available here too, at London’s third most popular attraction. The Tate Modern is the UK’s the leading exhibition space for modern and contemporary art and is located in a former power station on the Southbank of the Thames. Despite being under 20 years old, the Tate Modern is the most popular modern art gallery in the world with over five and a half million visitors each year.
Highlights include it’s changing large temporary exhibitions in the Turbine Hall which have in the past included Carsten Holler’s specially commissioned Test Site, a large slide that visitors could enjoy. Permanent highlights includes Nude Woman with Necklace by Pablo Picasso, Marilyn Diptych by Andy Warhol and Mountain Lake by Salvador Dali.
- Tate Modern: 5.84 million visitors
4. Natural History Museum
The most popular museum for natural history in Europe is found in South Kensington close to the Science and Victoria & Albert museums. Like all national UK museums, the Natural History Museum is completely free to enter. For many of the 4.5 million annual visitors, the building itself is as much to marvel at as the never-ending displays of natural history.
Highlights include the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. The Hintze Hall entrance foyer, home to ‘dippy’ (a reproduction cast diplodocus skeleton) for nearly 40 years, is now home to a Blue Whale skeleton, the largest specimen in the museum weighing five tonnes.
- Natural History Museum: 4.62 million visitors
5. Somerset House
Somerset House is found close to Aldwych on the northern banks of the Thames. This 18th century neoclassical building is a centre for visual arts and is famous for opening its courtyard as an outdoor ice skating rink during the winter months and as a water feature in summer. The courtyard is also sometimes used as an outdoor concert venue.
Somerset House is frequently used as a film location for major blockbusters and certainly some of the 3.5 million annual visits could be accredited to this. Films include Love Actually, Tomorrow Never Dies, Sleepy Hollow and The Duchess. General admission is free.
- Somerset House: 3.44 million visitors
6. Science Museum
The Science Museum is located adjacent to the Natural History Museum and whilst it makes sense to attempt both in one day for this reason, each does represent a full day out. The Science Museums lets over three million visitors though its doors each year. General admission is free.
Those visiting with young children may want to pay to go into the Wunderlab exhibit or to see a screening at the IMAX on the top floor. The interactive human biology display is popular with families too whilst the space travel and the history of modern transport from steam engines to Concorde are further highlights.
- Science Museum: 3.25 million visitors
7. Victoria and Albert Museum V&A
Often overlooked by visitors with young children who tend to flock to the Science and Natural History, another three million visitors do make their journey here each year. The Victoria and Albert Museum is unique, in that it’s the largest gallery of decorative arts and design the world.
From medieval art and design to modernism with everything along the way including Renaissance, Art Nouevau and Art Deco, the museum explores our changing attitudes to architecture, fashion and design. Once again general admission is free.
- Victoria and Albert Museum: 3.02 million visitors
8. Tower of London
The Tower of London is a special attraction and one of the capital’s leading landmarks. It’s the first on our list that carries a charge and a family of four can expect to pay around £50 to enter. That being said it truly is one of the best attractions in London.
Home to the spectacular Crown Jewels (expect to queue), the famous Beefeater Guards, the Ravens and a nonstop calendar of events it’s worth every penny. Those interested in the history will discover that this fortification, once outside the main city but now close to the centre, has been standing for almost 1000 years. Also discover the chilling tale of the Princes in the Tower.
- Tower of London: 2.74 million visitors
9. National Portrait Gallery
Another free to enter art gallery, the National Portrait Gallery celebrates some of British history’s greats. Located behind the National Gallery a short walk from Leicester Square, this museum was the first of its kind when it opened in the mid 19th century.
Famous paintings include Shakespeare by Chandos which was one of the first in the collection. The gallery celebrates the sitter before the painter and therefore paintings are in chronological order by regency era, starting with Tudor patronages up to modern times.
- National Portrait Gallery: 1.95 million visitors
10. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Gardens
The tenth most popular attraction in London is also the furthest out of town, located in Richmond in Zone 3. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are one of the most celebrated and oldest such gardens in the world.
This UNESCO site is also home to the world’s largest collection of plants, occupying a space of 300 acres. Visitors can take the Kew Explorer Trail or the Treetop Walkway and enjoy a peaceful day out, a world away from the buzz and noise of central London.
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Gardens: 1.83 million visitors