First quarter visits to national museums and galleries reach five year high

DCMS-sponsored museums and galleries saw over a million more visits between January and March than in the same period last year

Visits to the country’s museums and galleries are at a five year high, according to new quarterly figures from DCMS.

From January to March 2024, visits to 30 DCMS-sponsored museums and galleries – which include the likes of the British Museum, Young V&A, and Royal Armouries Leeds – totalled 9.9m.

Nearly 10 million visits equates to a 13% increase on 2023. The comparison is an important one, as 2023 and 2024 are the first two years since the pandemic which have not had visitor numbers directly skewed by lockdowns.

The improved visitor numbers have been in part bolstered by the re-opening of the National Portrait Gallery and debut opening of Young V&A, both of which happened after 2023’s first quarter.

The DCMS-sponsored museums and galleries included in the most recent data are:

Museum of the Home Locomotion
Horniman Museum (Excluding Visits To The Garden) Science and Industry Museum
IWM London National Coal Mining Museum
HMS Belfast (IWM) National Portrait Gallery
Churchill War Rooms (IWM) Royal Armouries Leeds
IWM Duxford Royal Armouries Fort Nelson
IWM North Royal Armouries White Tower
National Gallery Sir John Soane’s Museum
NHM South Kensington Tate Britain
NHM Tring Tate Modern
Royal Museums Greenwich Tate Liverpool
National Museums Liverpool Tate St Ives
Science Museum V&A South Kensington
National Science and Media Museum Young V&A
National Railway Museum V&A Blythe House

Between last January and March 8.6m were recorded, as were 5.5m in 2022, none in 2021 and 8.8m in 2020.

National museum and gallery visits 27% lower than pre-pandemic levels

The upward trend paints a more positive picture of visitor numbers for the remainder of the year. Annual figures from DCMS for 2022/2023 were more than a quarter lower than before any lockdown restrictions were imposed.