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Three London museums totaled more visitors than Venice
In St. Mark's Square and the Grand Canal, Venice has some of the world's recognizable tourist attractions. But the Italian city was eclipsed in terms of visitor numbers last year by just three London museums — the Victoria and Albert, Natural History Museum and Science Museum.

London's popularity, combined with the relative weakness of the pound making UK holidays less expensive, has helped to produce a bumper year for tourism across the country, with a record 124.4 million visitors (domestic as well as overseas) flocking to top attractions, the Guardian wrote.

Blockbuster exhibitions such as Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the V&A combined with late-night openings and membership events were driving interest from a younger and culturally curious new audience, according to Bernard Donoghue, the director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva).

The record 2015 attendance was a 3.2-percent increase on 2014, although that was down from a 6.5-percent rise the previous year.

But more than half of those visitors — a staggering 65.2 million — headed to venues in London, meaning last year the city contained all of the top 10 most visited UK destinations.

Donoghue said, "2015 continued to be a record year mainly due to our members continuing to show how diverse the UK is to both domestic and overseas visitors. More people visited the V&A, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, combined, than visited Venice. Visitors have responded to some extraordinary creative and interactive programming — they clearly no longer want to just walk past displays behind glass."

The famous South Kensington-based trio of Victorian museums — the V&A, Natural History Museum and Science Museum — together attracted 11.9 million visitors.

Last week, London Mayor Boris Johnson said the city beat Paris and New York as the most popular global destination with 18.8 million international visitors in 2015.

Despite controversy over its sponsorship by oil giant BP, the British Museum continued to be the most popular attraction overall for the ninth year running with 6.8 million visitors, thanks to major exhibitions such as Indigenous Australia and the Celts.

Second was the National Gallery, which pulled in 5.9 million visitors, with the Natural History Museum in third with 5.2 million.

Temporary exhibitions played a crucial role in this year's figures, Alva said. The largest single increase in visitor numbers among the top 10 attractions was at Somerset House, which recorded an increase of 31 percent (to 3.2 million and eighth place) — thanks to temporary exhibitions and Film4 summer screenings. The Royal Academy credited its 33 percent leap in numbers to Ai Weiwei and its hugely popular annual Summer Exhibition.

Elsewhere, Tate Liverpool experienced a 12-percent increase with an exhibition devoted to the American artist Jackson Pollock, and the city’s World Museum bolstered its attendance by eight percent largely thanks to its temporary exhibition, the Mexican-themed Mayas: Revelation of an Endless Time.

Visitors to Scottish attractions were also up by 5.48 percent, with Edinburgh Castle the most visited north of the border — ahead of the National Museum of Scotland for the first time in five years.

"The current weakness of the pound to the dollar and euro is making the UK a more affordable destination and 2016 is on target to be another memorable year for Alva members," Donoghue said.

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