Museums much searched on Google are found by millions from overseas, says survey

Science Museum

London’s Science Museum…much searched, often found

Measuring popularity by the number of Google searches has become a pretty regular metric. A quick glance at Google Trends top chart will tell you that Pharrell Williams is more popular than Benedict Cumberbatch, more of us want to make chocolate cake than carrot cake, and the thing we most want to know how to do is to draw.

The latest top 5 in the Google league tells us that museums and galleries in London are the most searched in the world. According to London & Partners, the Mayor’s official promotional company, the Google museum search list has London institutions at 1,2, and 3.

  1. Science Museum, London
  2. Natural History Museum, London
  3. British Museum, London
  4. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  5. Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC

London and Partners caution that Google’s methodology means that the results may vary day to day and the Science Museum comes top “on average”.

Perhaps more telling therefore is not how many people search the museum name on Google but how many people come to visit.

According to London and Partners a visitor survey conducted through 15,000 face to face interviews at 13 museums and galleries by research company Morris Hargreaves McIntyre concluded that they received 17.9 million overseas visitors in 2014 and 2015 out of a total visitor number of 31.5 million. That’s 57% of visitors, and an increase of 19% over the past 4 years.

French and American tourists were the most frequent, in line with figures for London visitor numbers, as reported by Urbs. Along with people from Italy, Spain and Germany they accounted for 9.7 million of the 17.9 million overseas museum visitors, according to the survey.

Source data

See also

Good news for tourists and Londoners as city dominates for visitor attractions

French biggest group of visitors but Americans spend most

London ranked as top global city destination

Where the arts-loving Londoners live – not in Newham







Good news for tourists and Londoners as city dominates for visitor attractions

British Museum - the Uk and London's top visitor attraction

British Museum – the UK and London’s top visitor attraction

Planning a day out, with or without the kids, means being spoilt for choice in London. According to data from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, London has most of the top sites in the UK.

But expect a crowd when you get there.  20 of the 31 visitor attractions in the UK that have more than 1 million visitors are in London and that includes 9 of the top 10.

The data for 2014 shows that the venerable British Museum is top once again with 6.7 million annual visitors. The top 5 are:

  1. British Museum
  2. National Gallery 
  3. Southbank Centre
  4. Tate Modern
  5. Natural History Museum

The figures show that Tate Modern, the art gallery housed in the old Bankside power station on the Thames, has seen particularly strong growth in visitors year on year since 2013.  High profile exhibitions like the Matisse show helped push up visitor numbers by 18%.

All the top five have free entrance, though there are charges for some special exhibitions. Museum and gallery spaces outscore simple sightseeing.  The highest position for London’s landmark buildings is St Paul’s Cathedral in 12th place, but it has seen a drop in visitors of 17% since 2013.

The highest placed attraction outside London is the Library of Birmingham, opened in 2013, in 10th place.  The Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is at 14.  Chester Zoo, with a little over 1.4 million visitors is the top animal attraction and outscores London Zoo with 1.3 million.

The only site in the rankings attracting more than a million people that is outside a city is Stonehenge in Wiltshire.   Stonehenge added a new visitor centre at the end of 2013 and 1.3 millon people trooped through last year.

The Associate of Leading Visitor Attractions includes museums, galleries, historic places and gardens but its list does not include theme parks such as Thorpe Park and  Chessington, just outside London.  Thorpe Park has annual numbers of around 2 million.  Chessington has around 1.5 million thrill-seekers. The capital’s top paid for tourist attraction remains the London Eye with 3.75 million visitors.

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Where the arts-loving Londoners live – not in Newham

hLondon enjoys an international reputation as a city of arts and culture. The museums,  art galleries and West End musicals are packed but are they all tourists or are locals making use of the capital’s rich cultural offering?

A nationwide survey by local authorities suggests that Londoners are generally an arts friendly bunch.  62% said they attended 3 or more arts events in the past year. That’s a touch below the national average.  But a higher proportion of Londoners make use of galleries and museums than people in other areas of England.  London has a huge selection of museums and galleries and 59% said they had visited one in the past 12 months.

London benefits disproportonately from spending on the arts.  A well-regarded indepdendent report Rebalancing our Cultural Capital, published in autumn 2013 found that spending per head in the previous year was £68.99 in London and £4.58 for the rest of England. This included funding from the Arts Council and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.  The record of lottery money allocation for the arts shows a similar pro-London bias. From 1995 to 2013  it was £165 per head in London and £46.77 in the rest of England.

Across London there are some wide variations in the engagement with the arts. The people of Haringey appear to be the keenest in the capital  Over 80% said they went to 3 or more arts event.  In comparison it is just 18% in Newham.

80% of adults in Kensington and Chelsea have been to a museum or gallery in the past year, and Westminster and Barnet are not far behind.  In Harrow and Barking they are far less interested.

Londoners make more use of libraries than people in England generally.  46% had used a library in the previous 12 months compared to 39% for the rest of the country.  Once again there are variations between boroughs.  Residents in Bromley and Haringey love their libraries and are 3 time more likely to use them than people in Newham, Southwark or Hammersmith and Fulham.  The provision of libraries is broadly similar across these boroughs (9 – 14 establishments) but is lower in Hammersmith and Fulham, which has 6 public libraries.

Source data

The active participation survey is done every 2 years and the most recent data available is for 2012-13.