ALVA (The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions) have revealed the top visitor attractions in the UK for 2021, and, unsurprisingly, outdoor attractions dominated last year’s rankings, including gardens, parks, forests and zoos.
The total number of visits to ALVA sites in 2021 was 67.8 million, a 25% increase from 2020 due to reopening after coronavirus restrictions. The top attractions in the UK last year were divided between outdoor attractions and London attractions,.
Below we have listed the top 20 attractions in Britain last year according to ALVA’s figures. Where you’re a keen walker, a budding scientist or an animal lover, there is something for everyone to see and enjoy across the country.
1. Windsor Great Park
It’s no surprise that Windsor Great Park, in the shadows of the magnificent Windsor Castle, the preferred home of Her Majesty The Queen, was the top attraction in Britain last year, welcoming a staggering 5,400,00 visitors throughout the year. Walk through historic parkland with resident deer, award-winning gardens, ancient woodland and forest trails. The famous Long Walk is also must for your visit: an impressive three-mile long tree-lined avenue, beginning at the castle’s George IV gateway and finishing at the magnificent copper horse statue.
2. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are 300 acres of botanic gardens to explore and it is the most biodiverse place on earth. Coming in second on the list, Kew Gardens is only 30 minutes from central London and easily accessible by rail, road and river. With over 50,000 different types of plants to discover, a beautiful arboretum, Japanese Landscape, a lake and much more, this is the perfect way to get closer to nature without having to go far from the the city.
3. Chester Zoo
In third place is Chester Zoo, the star of popular television show ‘The Secret life of the Zoo.’ Opened in 1931, Chester Zoo is one of the UK’s largest zoos with over 20,000 animals to see and discover, and 128 acres of zoological gardens to explore.
4. Natural History Museum
At number four on the list, and also claiming title of the most visited indoor attracting in the UK, is London’s The Natural History Museum . A favourite with families, enjoy a fascinating delve into the earth’s explosive history and discover objects, and creatures, from billions of years ago, including dinosaur skeletons and meteorites from outer space.
5. RHS Gardens, Wisley
At number five is Wisley, one of the world’s greatest gardens. Owned and beautifully cared for by the Royal Horticultural Society, it is also their flagship garden. With 240 acres to enjoy, Wisley is the perfect spot for walks, picnics and a spot of horticulture. The late summer Wisley Flower Show is also well worth a visit, featuring spectacular flower displays, specialist nurseries and inspirational expert talks.
6. The British Museum
The world’s oldest national public museum, the British Museum’s permanent collection of eight million works is the largest and most comprehensive in existence. Documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to now, you’ll discover two million years of history, art and culture on your visit, including real-life Egyptian mummies, and enjoy exhibitions such as ‘The World of Stonehenge.’
7. Tate Modern
Part of the network of Tate galleries, the Tate holds the nation’s collection of modern art from 1900 to the present day. Housed in the former Bankside power station on London’s Southbank, just a short walk from Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate regularly holds exciting exhibitions, evening workshops and family-friendly art-themed activities.
8. Somerset House
Somerset House is London’s working arts centre, situated at the heart of the capital. Housed in a stunning neoclassical complex and surrounding one of the most beautiful courtyards in Europe, its well worth a visit just for the beautiful architecture alone. However the varied and interesting exhibitions and events that are held may also entice you, such as the Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition, musical performances throughout the summer, and an ice rink for Christmas too.
9. Science Museum
See, touch and experience science first-hand at the Science Museum, and enjoy its interactive and thought-provoking displays of human ingenuity and discovery. There’s an iMax theatre, an interactive Wonderlab gallery which the whole family will enjoy, as well as exhibitions, such as the upcoming ‘Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of the Imagination.’
10. Jeskyns Community Woodland
Home to 360 acres of newly planted woodlands, meadows, and orchards in Kent, Jeskyns Community Woodland has a great network of waking trails, children’s play areas, cafés, a dog activity trail and even a horse trail. Visit a Fairy and Elf Village, meet the Gruffalo and his friends, or enjoy a picnic by the lake – the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.
11. Victoria and Albert Museum
The world’s leading museum of art, design and performance, the V&A was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and her beloved Prince Albert. With a permanent collection of over 2.7 million objects, it is also the world’s largest museum of applied arts, decorative arts and design and shows a range of exhibitions including the current ‘Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature.’
12. Moors Valley Country Park
A family friendly country park and forest, Moors Valley Country Park in Dorset, is set in over 800 acres of beautiful woodlands and has a whole host of activities on offer, from walking and cycling trails, an authentic steam train and a golf course, to a high-wire Go Ape challenge if you’re feeling adventurous!
13. Southbank Centre
Comprising of the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, Hayward Gallery, National Poetry Library and Arts Council Collection, the Southbank Centre has something for everyone, all year round. Enjoy music, art, dance, food, films, literature and a range of workshops and masterclasses.
A beautiful stately home and the seat of the Marquess of Bath, Longleat is also home to the UK’s number one safari park. Nestled within 900 acres of gardens designed by Capability Brown, the house itself is a spectacle, a leading example of an Elizabethan prodigy house. Throw in some lions, tigers and wolves, along with hundreds of other animals, and you’ve got yourself a grand day out.
15. The National Gallery
Housing over 2,300 paintings from the mid-thirteenth century to 1900, The National Gallery tells the story of European art, masterpiece by masterpiece The crowning jewel of London’s iconic Trafalgar Square, the permanent collection is free to visit, and there are regular events and exhibitions too, such as the current Raphael exhibition.
16. Sherwood Pines
Home to the legend of Robin Hood, Sherwood Pines in Nottinghamshire has over 3300 acres of forest to discover. There is a campsite, walking, cycling and mountain bike trails, treetop cabins to stay in, a Go Ape treetop adventure, horse riding, and, of course, a Gruffalo-themed trail.
17. ZSL London Zoo
London Zoo is the world’s oldest scientific zoo. The animals originally housed in the Tower of London menagerie were transferred to the zoo in 1831 or 1832, and although it was originally intended as a centre for scientific study, was open to the public in 1847. Housed on Regents Park’s Outer Circle, there are 755 species of animals to see and discover here.
18. Royal Museums Greenwich
Comprising of four fascinating museums, the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory, Queen’s House and the iconic tea clipper Cutty Sark, the Royal Museums, Greenwich are all within walking distance of each other within a beautiful a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Discover amazing stories of the sea, space, history and creativity.
19. ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
The UK’s largest zoo, Whipsnade Zoo, alongside London Zoo, is also owned by the Zoological Society of London, a charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. There are 600 acres of zoological park to explore, and animals such as rhinos, elephants and giraffes to see.
20. National Museum of Scotland
In the heart of Edinburgh’s city centre, the National Museum of Scotland features fascinating collections relating to Scottish antiquities, culture and history alongside science and technology, natural history and world cultures. There are some great exhibitions on too such as the current ‘Audubon’s Birds of America, until May 2022.
Read the full list of ALVA’s top UK attractions for 2021 here.