Free entry lifts museum visits

Free entry to many famous museums helped admissions to England’s leading visitor attractions rise 3 per cent in 2010.

Figures published yesterday showed that the biggest draw last year proved to be the British Museum in London where free admission boosted numbers to 5.84 million – nearly 5 per cent more than in 2009, VisitEngland said.

The second-biggest attraction last year was the admission-free Tate Modern in London which welcomed 5.06 million visitors – 6.6 per cent more than in 2009.

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Among free-admission tourist spots where numbers increased the most last year were the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (up 15.8 per cent to 2.63 million), the Natural History Museum in London (up 13.2 per cent to 4.64 million) and Tate Britain in London (up 10.9 per cent to 1.66 million).

The most popular admission-charging attraction last year was the Tower of London which had around 2.41 million visitors – 1.0 per cent more than the 2009 figure.

But some famous paid-for attractions suffered dips in visitor numbers last year.

Westminster Abbey was 3.8 per cent down at 1.39 million, Kew Gardens in south-west London was down 12.4 per cent at 1.14 million and London Zoo was down 4.5 per cent at 1.01 million.

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Visits to museums and art galleries rose 5 per cent in 2010, with higher rises than this among those that were free.

Country parks were up by 5 per cent, and workplaces and places of worship up by 4 per cent.