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The Most Visited Museums In The United Kingdom

The museums of the United Kingdom are storehouses of wonders of art, craft, natural history, scientific innovations, and more.

The list below offers a closer look at the top 10 most visited museums in the United Kingdom. It is based on the number of visitors recorded for 2015.

10. Scottish National Gallery

The Scottish National Gallery.

The Scottish National Gallery is located in Edinburgh, Scotland and is the country’s national art gallery. It received 1,377,710 visitors in 2015.

Construction of this neoclassical building began in August of 1850 - it opened to the public in 1859. This gallery’s origins lie in the Royal Institution for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts, established in 1819, which first began acquiring paintings. In 1828, the organization opened its first building and by 1838, some artists from the Institution formed the Royal Scottish Academy with the intention of procuring a national collection.

Today, some of the famous works found at the Scottish National Gallery include: Portrait of Diego Martelli (by Edgar Degas), El Medico (by Francisco de Goya), The Big Trees (by Paul Cézanne), and Haystacks (by Claude Monet).

9. Saatchi Gallery

The Saatchi Gallery is located in London, England, where it holds a large contemporary art collection. In 2015, 1,413,605 visitors came to view its art.

This gallery was first opened in 1985 by Charles Saatchi in an old paint factory with a total area of 30,000 square feet. Since opening, the gallery has moved several times and exhibited a wide range of rotating art. Some of these exhibits have included US artists, young British artists, and abstract art.

Some of the many artists showcased at this gallery include: Alex Katz, Boris Mikhailov, Laura Owens, Elizabeth Peyton, and Jessica Stockholder.

8. National Museum of Scotland

The exterior of the National Museum of Scotland.

The National Museum of Scotland is located in Edinburgh, Scotland and is part of the public entity National Museums Scotland. It received 1,810,948 visitors in 2015.

This museum is comprised of 2 buildings: the Museum of Scotland and the Royal Museum. It showcases a wide variety of collections, including: medieval objects, archaeological discoveries, geological artefacts, art exhibits, and objects from various cultures around the world. The origin of the National Museum of Scotland dates back to the founding of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1780. Its collection was handed over to the Scottish government in 1858, leading to the formation of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland.

Today, this museum houses several noteworthy pieces, including: the flags raised by the Jacobites and the Hanoverians at the Battle of Culloden, Celtic brooches, the stuffed body of Dolly the Sheep, and The Maiden (an example of early guillotines).

7. National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery, London.

The National Portrait Gallery is located in London, England, where it houses the portraits of many famous and historically significant people. In 2015, it received 2,145,486 visitors.

This gallery opened in 1856 as the first portrait gallery in the world after Philip Henry Stanhope, a Member of Parliament, made several proposals to the legislative body. Queen Victoria approved the idea and the project was financed with approximately $2,500. Since opening, the gallery has been added to on 2 separate occasions, the most recent of which was in 2000 with the Ondaatje Wing.

Some of the works here include representations of Queen Victoria, Edward VI, Prince Albert, William Shakespeare, and Charlotte Bronte.

6. Science Museum

In 2015, the Science Museum was the 6th most visited museum in the UK, receiving 3,356,212 visitors. This museum is located in London, England and is known for its collection of more than 300,000 items.

This museum was originally founded in 1857. At that time, it held a collection from the Royal Society of Arts and was combined with the present-day Victoria and Albert Museum to form the South Kensington Museum. In 1885, the collections at this museum were separated and those belonging to the scientific category were renamed the Science Museum. In 1931, this museum added one of the first children’s galleries with interactive learning exhibits.

Today, some of the most noteworthy artefacts housed here include: the first jet engine, Jame Watson’s original DNA model, plans for the first typewriter, and some of the earliest known steam engines.

5. Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Victoria and Albert Museum received 3,432,325 visitors in 2015. It is located in London, England and once made up part of the South Kensington Museum along with the Science Museum.

This museum sits on 12.5 acres of land and has 145 distinct galleries. A visit to this museum allows visitors to view art and artefacts from a 5,000-year period of time and from various cultures around the globe. Its collections of paintings, jewellry, ceramics, costumes, ironwork, prints, and medieval objects are some of the most complete in the world. Additionally, it has the largest collection of Italian Renaissance artefacts found outside of Italy.

4. Tate Modern

The Tate Modern Museum is the 4th most visited in the UK, with 4,712,581 visitors received in 2015. It is located in London and is the country’s national gallery of international modern art.

This museum was opened by the Queen in May of 2000 and is considered one of the largest modern and contemporary art museums in the world. Because the site has been more popular than previously expected, expansion plans began in 2004. Three large, underground oil tanks have since been converted to additional art areas and a 10-floor tower was built over the tanks as additional gallery space. The tower was opened to the public in 2016.

The Tate Modern Museum is the 4th most visited in the UK, with 4,712,581 visitors received in 2015. It is located in London and is the country’s national gallery of international modern art.

This museum was opened by the Queen in May of 2000 and is considered one of the largest modern and contemporary art museums in the world. Because the site has been more popular than previously expected, expansion plans began in 2004. Three large, underground oil tanks have since been converted to additional art areas and a 10-floor tower was built over the tanks as additional gallery space. The tower was opened to the public in 2016.

3. Natural History Museum

The 3rd most visited museum in the UK is the Natural History Museum in London, which received 5,284,023 visitors in 2015.

This museum got its start when the British government purchased the extensive collection of Sir Hans Sloane in 1756, storing it in the then-British Museum. The Natural History Museum officially separated from the British Museum in 1963, when it formed its own, independent Board of Trustees.

The collection at this museum encompasses over 80 million artefacts in the following categories: mineralogy, paleontology, botany, entomology, and zoology. It also houses a research department that focuses on identification, conservation, and taxonomy. Its most famous exhibit is perhaps the dinosaur skeletons on-site.

2. National Gallery

National Gallery, London, England.

The National Gallery is the second most popular museum in the UK. In 2015, 5,908,254 visitors came to London to see the collection offered by this museum.

This museum got its start in 1824, when the British government bought 38 paintings from the estate of John Julius Angerstein. It continued growing over the years with the help of private donations and under the management of Sir Charles Lock Eastlake. Since 1989, it has exhibited paintings from various artists, including: Ana Maria Pacheco, Peter Blake, John Virtue, Alison Watt, and George Shaw.

1. British Museum

By far the most visited museum in the UK is the British Museum, which received 6,820,686 visitors in 2015.

This museum was established in 1753 with most of its collections having previously belonged to Sir Hans Sloane. It has continued growing over the last 250 years and today, this museum has over 8 million works of art, culture, and human history from around the world. The British Museum is divided into 9 departments, including: Greece and Rome; Ancient Egypt and Sudan; Asia; Middle East; Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; Coins and Medals; Prints and Drawings; and Conservation and Scientific Research. It is considered to have one of the most complete documentations of human development from ancient times to present.

Which Are The Most Visited Museums In The United Kingdom?

RankMuseumLocationCountryVisitor count (2015)
1British MuseumLondon England6,820,686
2National GalleryLondon England5,908,254
3Natural History MuseumLondon England5,284,023
4Tate ModernLondon England4,712,581
5Victoria and Albert MuseumLondon England3,432,325
6Science MuseumLondon England3,356,212
7National Portrait GalleryLondon England2,145,486
8National Museum of ScotlandEdinburgh Scotland1,810,948
9Saatchi Gallery[3]London England1,413,605
10Scottish National GalleryEdinburgh Scotland1,377,710
11National Maritime MuseumLondon England1,357,663
12Tate BritainLondon England1,284,519
13Kelvingrove Art Gallery & MuseumGlasgow Scotland1,261,552
14Riverside MuseumGlasgow Scotland1,131,814
15Imperial War MuseumLondon England1,104,670
16Royal Academy of ArtsLondon England1,096,608
17Ashmolean MuseumOxford England847,716
18Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Birmingham England823,424
19Royal Observatory, GreenwichLondon England778,941
20National Football MuseumManchester England776,000

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