Royal wedding at one; protest camp at the other probably swung things west in 2011
WESTMINSTER ABBEY has overtaken St Paul's Cathedral in the most popular attraction stakes, according to the latest tourist figures, but is still some way short of top placed British Museum, which pulled in 5.85 million visitors during 2011.
While St Paul's' numbers saw a 4% drop to 1.8 million, partly due to the anti-capitalist camp parked on its doorstep, the Abbey posted a whopping 36% rise in visitors to a grand total of 1.9 million, probably because of extra interest derived from last year's royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The two other London attractions to clock up big gains were both in Greenwich. The Old Royal Naval College drew 1.7 million visitors, 31% more in 2011 than in 2010 and the National Maritime Museum clocked up gains of 22% to reach 0.8 million. The latter opened the new Sammy Ofer wing half way through the year.
"The figures demonstrate that for Brits who holidayed at home in record numbers last year and for overseas visitors who came to the UK in record numbers, our iconic attractions are a must-see," said Bernard Donoghue of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.
"Those attractions which have invested in refurbishment, new exhibitions, new marketing... have seen a real return on investment and more money for the visitor economy."
That London Attraction 2011 Top Ten in Full:
British Museum - 5.9 million visitors - +0.1% between 2010 and 2011
National Gallery - 5.3M - +6%
Tate Modern - 4.9M - -3%
Natural History Museum - 4.9M - +5%
Science Museum – 2.9M - +6%
Victoria & Albert Museum – 2.8M - +6%
Tower of London – 2.6M - +6%
Westminster Abbey – 1.9M - +36%
National Portrait Gallery – 1.9M - +3%
St Paul's Cathedral – 1.8M - -4%