Foreigners flock to London museums as home visits stall

What is with foreign tourists and British museums?

The National Gallery in London

The National Gallery in London. Image by Adib Wahab / CC BY 2.0

The National Gallery in London has struggled to maintain the number of domestic visitors through its doors but visitor numbers from abroad have more than doubled from 1.5 million six years ago to 3.6 million in 2014.

And the National Gallery isn’t the only museum to experience such a spike as the National History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Armouries and the Horniman Museum have all kept apace with increased volumes over the same time.

The New York Times reports that London’s popularity as a tourist destination – it now outstrips New York and Paris – has helped in the growth in museum visits.

However, it doesn’t tell the whole story as not all attractions, for example the British Museum, have experienced the same upward surge.

The National Gallery’s position in the tourist hub of Trafalgar Square also gives it a great advantage as it becomes a focal point for international visitors in London for the Olympics or the Queen’s Jubilee.

A spokeswoman for the National Gallery, Mona Walsh, also emphasised that it had done a good job in raising its own profile by acquiring works by George Bellows and Titian while also mounting blockbuster exhibitions such as the Leonardo da Vinci show.

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