/ Travel & Leisure

Are you making the most of the UK’s free attractions?

London. Victoria and Albert Museum

Our new satisfaction survey of UK visitor attractions shows that many of us love free art galleries and museums, like London’s V&A. But the question is – would you be prepared to pay hard cash to visit them?

Our latest survey asked 3,001 members of the public for their views on the UK visitor attractions they had visited in the last two years. The Victoria & Albert Museum achieved a customer score of 81% – the highest of Britain’s 20 most-visited tourist attractions.

Other cultural venues that scored around 80% included the British Museum, Natural History Museum and Science Museum.

However, visitors found less pleasure with Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, along with its neighbouring Tower – their score of 58% was the lowest of the 20 sights.

Government funding improves visitor numbers

People won’t necessarily be impressed with a sight just because it’s free, so it’s great to learn respondents found their time at some of these venues engaging and entertaining.

Free culture isn’t, of course, restricted just to London. Government-funded museums elsewhere in Britain include the Tyne and Wear Museums and the National Museums in Liverpool. One of these, the Museum of Liverpool, just opened this week.

We’ve now had a decade to enjoy free entry to government-funded museums and art galleries, and more of us are flocking to them than ever before. The number of visits to attractions that used to charge has shot up from 7 million in 2001 to 18 million in the past year.

But they weren’t free during the 20th century, so with the government on the lookout for areas to make cuts, it’s quite possible that we’ll have to start paying to visit them once again in the not too distant future.

So we shouldn’t take them for granted but should make the most of their free status while we can. I have to admit that I haven’t been to any of these free attractions in the past couple of years, even though London’s offerings are right on my doorstep. It’s partly because I visited a few of them when their free admission was still a novelty.

The high costs of tourist attractions

Our survey proves that you can visit high quality attractions without paying a penny. This is just as well when you see what you might end up forking out for other attractions.

Tickets for a family of four can cost more than £100 at some of the UK’s theme parks. Buying a ticket ‘on the door’ this August, an adult will pay £29 for Madame Tussauds, £19 for the London Eye, or £40 for Alton Towers. And that’s before the extras, such as £6 for car parking at the latter theme park.

What do you think about what’s on offer at the UK’s free museums and art galleries? Would you be less inclined to visit them if charges were re-introduced, or happy to pay to visit these quality attractions?

Phil says:
23 July 2011

I can’t work out if this article is badly researched or just badly written. The author seems to be giving the impression that free museum admission is something new, in fact state museums had free admission for most of the 20th century, up until 1974 when charges were introduced by the Heath administration. They were withdrawn by Labour then re-introduced by the Tories during the 1980s. Some of course never introduced charges at all, the British Museum has been free ever since it was founded in the 18th century.

So, free admission not really a novelty.

I always make a donation when I visit a free museum, if they started charging I’d simply stop making the donation so it wouldn’t make a lot of difference to me.

As far as I’m concerned – If they charge I can’t go – too expensive. As an OAP on £106 a week a trip to an attraction holds no attraction – I can barely afford to eat.

Bit silly really – I get free fares but can’t afford to enter the buildings if they charge.

Interesting too that Tories charge – Labour don’t charge – I wonder who I’ll vote for next time?