Page last updated at 02:40 GMT, Friday, 28 August 2009 03:40 UK

England visitor numbers 'rising'

La Princesse, a giant metal spider makes its way through the streets of Liverpool
The status of capital of culture boosted Liverpool's popularity

More Britons and foreign visitors have been flocking to England's tourist attractions, according to an annual survey by tourism body Visit England.

It found numbers rose by 2% from 2007 to 2008, with the most significant rise (13%) seen around Liverpool, the 2008 European Capital of Culture.

Last year's top paid-for attraction was Westminster Abbey. The British Museum was the most popular free destination.

Farms, art galleries and museums showed the biggest growth in visitor numbers.

'Huge difference'

The other most popular free places to visit were the Tate Modern, the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, all in London.

Kew Gardens, Chester Zoo, Windermere Lake Cruises and Cornwall's Eden Project were among the leading paid-for attractions.

Westminster Abbey
Kew Gardens
Chester Zoo
Windermere Lake Cruises, Bowness
Eden Project
Tate Liverpool
Canterbury Cathedral
Roman Baths
Tatton Park
Source: Visit England

Regionally, the North West saw the greatest growth in visits, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (7%) and London and the West Midlands (both 3%).

Pam Wilsher, acting director of tourism at Merseyside Partnership, said Liverpool being the Capital of Culture had been critical to soaring visitor numbers.

"It was a phenomenal year for us and made a huge difference," she said.

The Tate Liverpool saw visitor numbers increase by 68% in 2008, largely thanks to a Gustav Klimt exhibition that drew international and local attention.

The Mersey ferries, Beatles attractions and museums also proved a hit.

British Museum
Tate Modern
National Gallery
Natural History Museum
Science Museum
Sheffield Winter Garden
Victoria and Albert Museum
Grand Pier, Weston-super-mare
National Portrait Gallery
Tate Britain
Source: Visit England

Ms Wilsher said: "There is evidence that we are still attracting visitors in large numbers but obviously not as many as last year.

"It enhanced our profile and we are now on the radar for people looking for a weekend break."

James Berresford, chief executive of Visit England, said the latest figures were welcome news and showed England had education, history, natural landscapes and the fun and the quirky that could suit all tastes and budgets.

The survey included visitor entry numbers for 1,684 attractions in England for 2007 and 2008.

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