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Friday, 22 May, 1998, 23:31 GMT 00:31 UK
Britain's top tourist traps
Tower of London
The Tower of London was the most popular historic building in 1997
While some may opt to avoid the traffic congestion by staying at home this Spring Bank Holiday weekend, many others will load up the car with kids and head off for a day out.

Some of the attractions you might like to visit have been rated in order of pulling power by the British Tourist Authority.

Mr Blair with his waxwork at Madame Tussaud's
Tony Blair with his waxwork at Madame Tussaud's
The top spot goes to the famous London waxworks museum, Madame Tussaud's. It has regained its winning position as the number one "admission charging attraction" in Britain, after being beaten for five years by the Staffordshire theme park Alton Towers. The waxworks had 2.79m visitors last year.

Alton Towers Logo
Knocked off the top spot
But Alton Towers came a close second with 2.7m visitors. The theme park's latest 12m rollercoaster, which opened earlier this year, is likely to ensure that the hoards continue to troop through the turnstiles.

The Tower of London was the top historic building and the third most popular attraction overall.

The palace where royalty was once imprisoned and which now houses the crown jewels welcomed over 2.5m visitors in 1997.

The Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is still popular
Another London attraction came fourth in the popularity stakes.

The new galleries that opened this year at the Natural History Museum have helped it rise from sixth in 1996 to fourth place in 1997.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle entered the top ten this year
For the first time Edinburgh Castle entered the big league as a top tourist attraction, coming ninth.

In fact, in the last year visitors to all historic buildings across the country have increased by an average 2%.

Blackpool pleasure beach
Blackpool Pleasure Beach attracts millions of tourists
If some of the sites are too rich for your blood there are plenty of places to which do not charge an entry fee.

The most popular free attraction is Blackpool Pleasure Beach which pulled in an estimated 7.8 million visitors in 1997.

Elgin Marbles
The Elgin Marbles at the British Museum
But if highbrow culture is more your style then a trip to the British Museum or the National Gallery is in order.

Both still maintain a policy of not charging visitors, although recommended donations are gladly accepted. The institutions had 6.05m and 4.8m visitors respectively last year.

Millennium Dome
Millennium Dome: the No 1 attraction in the year 2000?
Future attractions in Britain are likely to include the Millennium Dome, currently being built in Greenwich.

By the year 2000 the dome will be open for business it may well become Britain's most popular tourist attraction.

Visitors to the top ten sites

  • Madame Tussaud's, London - 2,798,801
  • Alton Towers, Staffordshire - 2,701,945
  • Tower of London - 2,615170
  • Natural History Museum, London - 1,793,400
  • Chessington World of Adventure, Surrey - 1,750,000
  • Canterbury Cathedral - 1,613,000
  • Science Museum, London- 1,537,151
  • Legoland, Windsor- 1,297,818
  • Edinburgh Castle - 1,238,140
  • Blackpool Tower -1,200,000
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