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London Global Capital of Museums

TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index from the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA)

5 Jun 2017

London UK – Global Capital of Museums

London’s status as the global capital of museums confirmed


• Report reveals London has four of the global top 20 museums by visitor numbers, and seven of the top 20 in EMEA

• The UK also has four of the top 20 most visited theme parks in EMEA

LONDON 5 June, 2017 – London’s status as the global capital of museums has been confirmed by a new study. With four museums in the global top 20 by visitor numbers in 2016, the capital has achieved first place in the global list jointly with Washington DC, which also has four entries in the top 20. New York, Paris and Beijing each have two entries in the global league of the most visited museums. Madrid, Seoul, Shanghai, St Petersburg, Taipei, and the Vatican each have one museum in the list.

The findings are part of the 2016 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index from the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and the economics practice at global infrastructure services company AECOM.

Although 2016 visitor numbers at the British Museum, the capital’s most attended museum, were down 5.9 per cent on the previous year, it still earned sixth place in the global table with its 6.4 million visitors. Other London museums making the global top 20 were the National Gallery (8th), which saw visitor numbers increase by 6.0 per cent to 6.3 million; Tate Modern, which re-opened with a significant expansion in June 2016 and saw a huge 23.9 per cent increase to 5.8 million taking it to 10th place globally; and the Natural History Museum (13th) which had 4.6 million visitors in 2016.

London also has seven entries in the top 20 table for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, with the Science Museum (South Kensington), Victoria and Albert Museum, and National Portrait Gallery joining London’s other four entries.

The report says dramatic changes in attendance at Europe’s top museums are almost invariably tied to an expansion or the opening or closing of a blockbuster exhibition. Less top-drawing blockbusters saw an overall 0.9 per cent decline in attendance amongst the top 20 museums in EMEA in 2016 after an amazing 2015.

Total attendance at the top 20 museums in the world was 107,798,000 in 2016, 1.2 per cent more than the top 20’s combined attendance in 2015.

Margreet Papamichael, Director Economics, AECOM, said: “This year’s Museum Index confirms London’s status as the global capital of museums, with all of the city’s entries in the global top 20 still free to enter. Museums play a vital role in the UK tourist offering. Many of them are among the nation’s top visitor attractions, bringing ‘edutainment’ for all to enjoy. Our museums add to the overall attractiveness of our capital to tourists from all over the world resulting in wider economic benefits, such as employment and wider tourism spending.”

Top 20 Museums Worldwide, 2016


1 NATIONAL MUSEUM OF CHINA, Beijing 7,550,000 7,290,000 +3.6%
2 NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM, Washington DC 7,500,000 6,900,000 +8.7%
3 LOUVRE, Paris 7,400,000 8,700,000 -14.9%
4 NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, Washington DC 7,100,000 6,900,000 +2.9%
5 THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, New York 6,700,000 6,300,000 +6.3%
6 BRITISH MUSEUM, London 6,420,000 6,821,000 -5.9%
7 SHANGHAI SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY MUSEUM, Shanghai 6,316,000 5,948,000 +6.2%
8 NATIONAL GALLERY, London 6,263,000 5,908,000 +6.0%
9 VATICAN MUSEUMS, Vatican 6,067,000 6,002,000 +1.1%
10 TATE MODERN, London 5,839,000 4,713,000 +23.9%
11 AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, New York 5,000,000 5,000,000 0.0%
12 NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM (TAIWAN), Taipei 4,666,000 5,288,000 -11.8%
13 NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, London 4,624,000 5,284,000 -12.5%
14 NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART, Washington DC 4,261,000 4,104,000 +3.8%
15 STATE HERMITAGE, St Petersburg 4,119,000 3,668,000 +12.3%
16 CHINA SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY MUSEUM, Beijing 3,830,000 3,360,000 +14.0%
17 NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY, Washington DC 3,800,000 4,100,000 -7.3%
18 REINA SOFIA, Madrid 3,647,000 3,250,000 +12.2%
19 NATIONAL MUSEUM OF KOREA, Seoul 3,396,000 3,130,000 +8.5%
20 CENTRE POMPIDOU, Paris 3,300,000 3,105,000 +6.3%

Theme Parks

Though no UK theme parks made the global top 20 in 2016, four made the top 20 in EMEA, all of which are operated by the Merlin Entertainments Group. Merlin Entertainments Group is the only UK-headquartered group in the top 10 theme park groups worldwide, in second place behind Walt Disney Attractions. Its attractions collectively saw over 61 million visitors in 2016, 1.2 per cent up on the previous year.

UK entries in the Top 10 Theme Parks (EMEA)


10 LEGOLAND WINDSOR, Windsor 2,183,000 2,250,000 -3.0%
13 ALTON TOWERS, Staffordshire 1,980,000 1,925,000 +2.9%
17 THORPE PARK, Chertsey 1,800,000 1,800,000 0.0%
18 CHESSINGTON WORLD OF ADVENTURES, Chessington 1,670,000 1,640,000 +1.8%

Globally, the world’s top 10 theme park operators saw a 3.9 per cent increase in visitor numbers at their properties, from 420 million to 437 million visitors, Although attendance at the top 25 theme parks dipped by 1.1 per cent mainly driven by a dip in two parks in Hong Kong and the removal of two Chinese parks from the listing.

TEA International Board President David Willrich of DJ Willrich Ltd said: “The TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index is a vital resource, providing our industry with a solid body of relevant research and expertise for more than a decade. In addition to benefiting the attractions industry, the Theme Index is a boon to tourism, travel, finance, business and education sectors. We’re proud of our partnership with AECOM and our joint efforts to document and understand worldwide attendance trends.”

The attendance study, now in its 11th year, is created and distributed by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and the economics practice at AECOM. The new study, and prior editions dating to 2006, is available freely online at at and

About TEA
The TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) is an international nonprofit membership association founded in 1991 and based in Burbank, Calif. TEA represents some 10,000 creative specialists, from architects to designers, technical specialists to master planners, scenic fabricators to artists, and builders to feasibility analysts, working in some 1,300 firms in 40 different countries. TEA presents the annual Thea Awards and the TEA Summit and hosts the annual SATE conference on Experience Design. TEA also produces a variety of print and electronic publications, and is pleased to collaborate with AECOM for the 11th consecutive year on the TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index. Through four regional Divisions, TEA supports the global attractions community. Visit

AECOM is built to deliver a better world. We design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries. As a fully integrated firm, we connect knowledge and experience across our global network of experts to help clients solve their most complex challenges. From high-performance buildings and infrastructure, to resilient communities and environments, to stable and secure nations, our work is transformative, differentiated and vital. A Fortune 500 firm, AECOM had revenue of approximately $17.4 billion during fiscal year 2016. See how we deliver what others can only imagine at and @AECOM.

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