Of the 1400 English attractions surveyed VisitEngland’s Annual Attractions Survey shows historic properties experienced significant growth in visitor numbers in 2017. Visits to farm attractions also experienced strong growth in 2017, up 5% on the previous year. Historic houses and palaces along with visitor and heritage centres and places of worship all saw increases of 4% in 2017. 

British museum

The British Museum was the most visited 'free' attraction in England in 2017 for the 10th consecutive year with nearly six million visitors, and the Tate Modern came a close second with more than five and a half million. 

The Tower of London topped the list as the most visited ‘paid for’ attraction for the ninth year running with 2.8 million visitors and Chester Zoo came in second place with 1.9 million. . 

Overall, visits to England’s attractions rose by 2% in 2017. Visitor attractions overall reported increased spending of 7% on 2016.

Overseas visits remained stable. Despite the challenging macro environment, with terror attacks and Brexit to contend with, attractions in England were able to maintain 2016 levels of overseas visitors. The 2017 International Passenger Survey showed an increase in inbound visits to the UK – up 4% compared to 2016.

Local / day trip visits saw a 2% increase on the previous year. At 9%, Yorkshire outperformed the overall average considerably – Hull’s role as the UK City of Culture for 2017 can be considered a key driver of this growth.

However, both child and schoolchildren admissions dropped back (by 7% and 2% respectively), driven by sites based in London and the South East, most likely due to security fears following the terror attacks.

Attractions based in London were most likely to have experienced a reduction in visitors, with the region reporting a 2% drop, following on from a 1% decrease felt in 2016.

Adult admission fees increased by an average of 4% in 2017 – slightly lower than the 6% reported in 2016, and more in line with the rate of inflation across this period (3.6%, Source: Bank of England).

Marketing spend at attractions continues to grow, with 2017 seeing a net increase of +7 (17% increasing spend, 10% decreasing spend), consistent with 2016. Visitor attractions that did report an increased marketing outlay were slightly more likely to have seen an increase in visitor numbers (6%, vs. 5% who reduced spend). Interestingly, this growth was driven by overseas visitors - with attractions who increased marketing expenditure reporting twice as much growth from this visitor type as those who reduced their budget (8% vs. 4%).

RANKMost visited PAID attractionsMost visited FREE attractions 
Name of attraction Number of Visitors in 2017 Name of attraction

Number of Visitors in 2017

(E) = Estimate

1 Tower of London

2,842,970

British Museum 5,906,716
2 Chester Zoo

1,866,628

Tate Modern

5,656,004
3

Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo

1,691,083

National Gallery

5,229,192
4

Windermere Lake Cruises, Bowness

1,611,491

Brighton Pier   

4,684,000 (E)
5

Stonehenge

1,582,532

NHM (South Kensington)

4,434,520
6

St Paul's Cathedral

1,571,197

V&A South Kensington

3,789,748
7

Westminster Abbey

1,547,001

Science Museum

3,251,634
8

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Gardens

1,485,337

Somerset House

3,223,350
9

Roman Baths and Pump Room

1,318,976

Tate Britain

1,777,877
10

RHS Garden Wisley

1,143,175

British Library

1,426,433
11

ZSL London Zoo

1,102,790

National Portrait Gallery

1,271,920
12

Royal Academy of Arts

1,049,962

MAC Birmingham

1,130,186

13

Eden Project

1,024,156 (E)

Imperial War Museum London

992,690
14

Houses of Parliament

1,007,568

Serpentine Gallery

987,092 (E)

15

Hampton Court Palace

984,862

Horniman Museums and Gardens

942,971
16

Drayton Manor Park & Zoo

973,797

Ashmolean Museum

937,568

17

Shakespeare's Globe

924,220

Merseyside Maritime Museum

922,503

18

Blenheim Palace

918,776

The Ice Cream Farm

805,765

19

Tower Bridge Exhibition

812,196

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

768,487
20

Yorkshire Wildlife Park

792,053

Museum of Liverpool

737,120