Museums play a crucial role in the success of UK tourism by attracting millions of international and domestic visitors. According to the National Museum Directors Council,
Museums are key drivers of British tourism and play a significant role in attracting visitors and in building the British brand overseas.
UK is among the top three countries in the world for culture and heritage. According to VisitBritain, ‘Britain’s culture and heritage attracts £4.5 billion worth of spending by inbound visitors annually, equivalent to more than one quarter of all spending by international visitors, and underpins more than 100,000 jobs across the length and breadth of Britain.’
Below is a list of the best and most visited top 10 museums in the UK.
The British Museum was established in 1753, which became the first national public museum in the world. Right from the beginning it granted free admission and visitor numbers have grown from 5000 a year in the 18th century to almost 6 million today. According to the British Museum Annual Review 2013/2014, ‘the Museum was once again the leading visitor attraction in the UK with a record-breaking 6.8million visitors and a virtual audience of 35.3 million.’
Open Daily 10:00- 17:30
Fridays 10:00- 20:30
British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG
The National Gallery was founded in 1824 and houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating back to the 13th century to 1900. The National Gallery is the fourth most visited art museum in the world, after the Louvre Museum, the British museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. According to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, ‘It is the UK’s second most popular visitor attraction.’ Figures released by the association show the National Gallery had 6,031,574 visitors, an increase of 14% from the previous year.
Open Daily 10:00- 18:00
Friday 10:00- 21:00
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
Tate Modern is Britain’s national museum of modern and contemporary arts. The collections consist of works from all over the world dating back to 1900 until today. A new extension to the building will be completed in 2016 which will be a valuable architectural addition. In the Tate Report 2013/2014, ‘The expansion of Tate Modern has not just been physical. This year’s exhibition programme has featured works from beyond the canon of European and North American art. They also foreshadow the diversity that will characterise the new building, cementing Tate Modern’s role as the pre-eminent gallery of global modern and contemporary art.’
Free Entry (Except Special Exhibitions)
Sunday-Thursday 10:00- 18:00
Friday-Saturday 10:00- 22:00
Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG
The Natural History Museum is dedicated to exhibitions of natural history. The museum is home to more than 80 million objects within 5 main collections- Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology and Zoology. It is world renowned for being a centre specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation.
Free Entry (Except Temporary Exhibitions)
Open Daily 10:00- 17:50
The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD
It is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design which houses a collection of more than 4.5 million items. Founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, it is sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The collection at the museum spans 5000 years of art from all cultures including Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. The exhibited items of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints, printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world.
Open Daily 10:00- 17:45
Fridays 10:00- 22:00
Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
The Science Museum, founded in 1857 has become one of the UK’s major tourist attractions today, attracting more than 3.3 million visitors a year. At present it houses a collection of more than 300,000 items including the first jet engine, the oldest surviving steam locomotive, Stephenson’s Rocket and documentation of the first typewriter. There are hundreds of interactive exhibits as well a 3D cinema showing science and nature documentaries.
Free Entry (Except Some Exhibitions and Attractions)
Open Daily 10:00- 18:00 (Last entry 17:15)
Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD
The National Museum of Scotland was formed by an Act of Parliament in 1985, merging together the former National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland and The Royal Scottish Museum. The National Museum of Scotland not only incorporates the collections of the former National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland and the Royal Museum but also houses other Scottish archaeological finds and medieval objects and artefacts from around the world. The Museum today houses a collection covering science and technology, natural history and world cultures. One of the major highlights of the museum is the stuffed body of ‘Dolly the Sheep’, the first ever clone mammal from an adult cell.
Open Daily 10:00-17:00
National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF
It is the leading maritime museum in the United Kingdom and one of the largest museums of its kind in the world. The historic buildings are part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site including the Royal Observatory and the 17th century Queens House. In 2012, Her Majesty The Queen officially approved ‘Royal Museums Greenwich’ as the new overall tile for the National Maritime Museum, Queens House, The Royal Observatory, Greenwich and the Cutty Sark.
Greenwich has a rich history and has been associated with the sea and navigation. It was one of the landing places for the Romans, once home to Henry VIII and where Charles II founded the Royal Observatory in 1675 for ‘finding the longitudes of places.’ It is home to Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian since 1884. The Museum houses the most important assets in the world on British history at sea with more than 2 million objects including maritime art, cartography, manuscripts and navigational instruments.
Free Entry (Except Special Exhibitons)
Open Daily 10.00–17.00
National Maritime Museum, Park Row, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
The National Portrait Gallery was the first portrait gallery in the world when it opened in 1856. The art gallery houses portraits based on the significance of the sitter and not the artist. The collection consists of historically important and famous British people including photographs, caricatures, drawings and sculptures. According to Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, ‘The Gallery aims to bring history to life through its extensive display, exhibition, research, learning, outreach, publishing and digital programmes. These allow us to stimulate debate and to address questions of biography, diversity and fame which lie at the heart of issues of identity and achievement.’
Open daily 10:00-18:00
Thursday-Friday 10:00- 21:00
National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland and the most visited museum in the UK outside London. The museum has one of the finest collections of arms and armour in the world and the art gallery houses outstanding European artworks. The famous painting on display at Kelvingrove is the masterpiece ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’ by Salvador Dali.
Open Daily 10:00- 17:00
Between 24th July – 2nd Aug Opening times 10:00- 20:00
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Argyle Street, Glasgow, City Of Glasgow, G3 8AG
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