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The UK’s most lucrative landmarks

13 January 2022 Data Insights
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The UK is home to a whole host of iconic landmarks, from Big Ben to Stonehenge. If you’re lucky enough to own a business in close proximity to one of these, it can bring in lots of visitors due to the increased footfall in that area. Whether you take cash or use a card machine solution, increased numbers of tourists in your area can have a huge impact on your small business. 

At Paymentsense, we know that both domestic and international tourism to these hotspots benefits small businesses all over the UK, so we wanted to find out which UK landmarks bring in the most visitors. If you’re planning on opening up a new business somewhere in the UK, it might be worth looking into these locations…

Based on a wide range of data points, we identified the 50 best landmarks to visit in the UK, and then found out which of these made the most money pre-pandemic, based on average footfall and entry prices. Additionally, we discovered which landmarks suffered the biggest losses in 2020, both revenue and visitor-wise, to find out which local businesses may have been the most affected by COVID-19. 

Pause your business planning for now - the best place to open in the UK is about to be revealed.

The best landmarks in the UK

The top landmark to visit in the UK is Hardwick Hall, in Derbyshire, scoring an impressive 74.3 out of 100 on the index. The Elizabethan country house scores an average of 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor, and its peak month is July - so it’s clearly a hit in the summer. There are over 40,500 monthly searches on Google for the attraction, highlighting its popularity. The entry fee is also fairly affordable, at £7.90 per adult, and the attraction is dog, child and wheelchair friendly. There’s even a café and a gift shop, so you can have a nice cuppa after you’ve had your share of exploring. Fun fact: Hardwick Hall was used to film some scenes of Malfoy Manor in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. 

In second place is Giant’s Causeway in Bushmills, Northern Island. This natural phenomenon is the result of ancient volcanic eruptions, but the legend has it that it is the result of a fight between two giants. Finn McCool, the Irish giant, retaliated against the Scottish giant threatening Ireland by tearing up chunks of the coast and throwing them into the sea, resulting in the fascinating rock formation left behind now. This attraction has an average rating of 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor, and is £13 a ticket for adults. Worth visiting, we think. 

The third best landmark in the UK is the Museum of London. One of the most well-known museums in England, this contains a whole range of exhibits documenting the history of London, from prehistoric times all the way up to the present day. The museum receives 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor, and is completely free to visit, which is a huge advantage for it. It’s not dog-friendly, so maybe take your pooch elsewhere, but children are more than welcome and it’s wheelchair accessible. A great day out if you find yourself in the capital.

If you are ever in Wales, pay a visit to the fourth best landmark in the UK, Bodnant Garden. This garden overlooking the beautiful Conwy Valley is a National Trust property, so while it’s £14 for an adult ticket, members of the National Trust can get in free of charge. The attraction has 5/5 on TripAdvisor, so it’s clearly a favourite of those that visit. Whether you’re a dog, child or wheelchair user, this is completely accessible to you, so no one has to miss out on the beauty that covers every inch of this garden.

Just making the top five best landmarks in the UK is the jewel of Derby, Calke Abbey. Located near Ticknall, this Grade I listed house used to be an Augustinian priory in the 12th Century, until Henry VIII went on his infamous rampage, shutting priories down all over the country. It has an average rating of 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor, and only costs £6.50 to enter as an adult. It’s a great day out for anyone - you can even bring your dog along to explore with you. 

The best dog-friendly landmarks in the UK

Out of the top ten best UK landmarks, five are dog-friendly, meaning there’s plenty of choice when it comes to choosing a day out for you and your pup. The top three are Hardwick Hall, Giant’s Causeway and Bodnant Garden, all of which have plenty of outdoor space to wander around aimlessly with your furry friend in tow. Sounds like a perfect afternoon plan to us.

The best free landmarks in the UK

The Museum of London is the best free landmark to visit in the UK based on its reviews and accessibility, but there are plenty of other free attractions all over the country that you can enjoy. Most of the top ten best free landmarks are museums and art galleries, including the Tate Britain in London, World Museum in Liverpool and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh is the only top attraction that doesn’t fall under this category. It has a high 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor, so if museums aren’t your thing, this could be a great choice for a day trip.

The benefit of tourism on small businesses

For small businesses in the cities and towns where these landmarks are located, visitors coming from all over to see the attraction can be a gold mine. Not only will it bring more foot traffic into the area the small business is in, leading to more revenue and recognition, but it can encourage repeat customers if holidaymakers really love the place and come back year after year. 

Tourism can also help small businesses grow and develop, giving them more scope to hire locally, which then has a domino effect on suppliers in the local area too. Additionally, as more local businesses succeed, it will encourage others to open their own small businesses in turn. Basically, when one local business thrives, the rest of the area thrives, too.   

The most lucrative landmarks

Using the average footfall and entry costs of landmarks from 2019, we were able to discover the most lucrative landmarks of the pre-pandemic UK. Taking the top spot is Chester Zoo, taking an estimated revenue of £42.2 million in 2019. Costing £20.22 on average, and with 2,086,785 visitors in total, it’s easy to see how this can add up to make this attraction the most profitable in the country. 

In second place are London’s Royal Museums Greenwich. With four separate attractions, the museums made a combined £43.6 million (estimated) in 2019. Overall, the group saw 2,906,000 visitors in this year, and with tickets at an average of £15 each, they were easily on track to be one of the most lucrative landmarks in the UK.

The third most lucrative landmark in the UK is the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London. This is estimated to have taken £23.2 million in 2019, paid by the 2,318,699 visitors that went to appreciate the nature there that year. Tickets cost an average of £10, and the garden is the location for the world’s largest seed conservation project - a moneymaker if we’ve ever seen one.

The attraction category making the most money




Number of attractions in the study

Estimated Earnings in 2019 (millions)

% of the total

Estimated Loss 2020 (millions)

2020 financial loss as %

2020 v 2019 change in visitor numbers





£85.5 million+







£63.8 million+







£44.6 million+







£24.9 million+







£18.3 million+







£21.9 million+







£3.2 million+







£262.2 million+



Attractions which promise to teach visitors all about history are doing the best overall, with 21 historical landmarks or attractions gracing the top 50. They took an estimated earning of £140.5 million overall in 2019. Not veering too far away from this is the museums category, which is the second most lucrative group of landmarks. Of the top 50, 11 attractions were in the museums category, and in 2019 this group took in an estimated £70.8 million. In third place, continuing the apparent fascination tourists have with old stuff, are castles. There are seven castles in our top 50, and these earned an estimated £55.6 million in 2019. Basically, if an attraction either displays something or is something older than 100 years, it’s probably bringing in a whole lot of visitors.


The landmarks that lost the most football due to Covid-19

The pandemic had a huge impact on attractions all over the UK due to strict travel restrictions and, as we all remember, multiple lockdowns. Some suffered more than others, though. The one that saw the biggest losses in terms of footfall in 2020 compared to 2019 were the Royal Museums Greenwich. This attraction had 95.07% fewer visitors than in pre-pandemic years, and having been the second most lucrative landmark in 2019, this will have had a huge effect on their revenue. 

Also losing out on a lot of visitors was Kensington Palace, whose footfall levels dropped by 88.83% when the pandemic hit. The palace’s royal ties didn’t help to keep its visitors coming through the doors, and this decrease in footfall would have had a big impact on the business there - as well as the small business that exist around it.

The landmark that was affected the third most seriously by the pandemic was Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. This museum saw a decrease of 87.22% in footfall, which isn’t surprising, considering the 16th-Century house isn’t exactly a COVID safe environment. While Shakespeare was believed to have been born in this house in 1564, not even this claim to fame could stop the pandemic’s effects.


The landmarks that lost the most revenue due to Covid-19

Losing a significant amount of footfall is one thing, but in paid attractions, this will also lead to a huge decrease in revenue. For small businesses, this may mean forced closures or redundancies, and the losses felt by these large attractions may indicate which areas were most susceptible to these effects during the pandemic. The landmarks that lost the most revenue due to COVID-19 were the Royal Museums Greenwich, which lost an estimated £41.9 million because of the restrictions. As a result, it could be the case that smaller businesses that benefited from the footfall driven to this group of attractions also lost out on a lot of money.

Edinburgh Castle saw the next largest revenue difference, with an estimated £26.9 million lost to the pandemic when compared to 2019’s numbers. The average ticket price is £17.50, so losing out on visitors paying this fairly high ticket price was bound to add up when the restrictions came in. While there is plenty of nature to see in Edinburgh that could have entertained locals during their government sanctioned one hour of exercise time, the lack of tourists in the centre of the city will have had a knock-on effect on the small businesses there. 


The attraction category that lost the most revenue

Once again, the history category tops the list. In total, this category of attraction lost an estimated £85.5 million in revenue due to the pandemic, which would translate to a 39.19% loss compared to 2019. The footfall in this category decreased by 57.87% from 2019 to 2020.

In second place for the category that lost the most revenue is the museum category. In total, the combined loss of the 11 museums in our top 50 was an estimated £63.8 million - a 9.8% loss on the year before. The footfall numbers from 2019 to 2020 declined by 80.04%, showing that museums were hugely affected by the COVID-19 restrictions.

Surprisingly, the garden category suffered the third highest losses. Despite being one of the only open air attractions on our list, the category as a whole lost an estimated £44.6 million due to the pandemic. Footfall decreased by 79.5% from 2019 to 2020, so even though there could have easily been two metres between visitors, these attractions were still majorly affected by the restrictions in place. 


How to maximise revenue in heavy football season

Now that restrictions seem to be indefinitely loosening (fingers crossed), businesses need to make the most of the increasing numbers of visitors at peak times. But how can you use the peak seasons across the year most effectively? 

Depending on the business, it is vital to identify the months of the year where larger numbers of people are walking through - or past - your door. If you are located near the beach, expect summers to bring big business. If you own a novelty gift store, look out for Halloween, Christmas and other holiday surges. If you know when your peak times are, you can be sure that you have plenty of stock in so that you’ll never run out and lose out on potential revenue. Have a look at what popular landmarks are nearby, too, as their peak times are also worth noting. Don’t let all those tourists walk past your business without marketing yourself first! 

At Paymentsense, we are here to help all the passion-led small businesses in the country. Our Paymentsense blog contains plenty of helpful information which you can refer to any time you have a query. To help with money matters, our card machines will help you take in as much profit as possible, keeping costs low so you can focus on selling more. Whether you’re landmark adjacent or not, you can give your business the best chance of success with Paymentsense. 



Paymentsense analysed the top 150 most visited UK attractions from 2019, where at least 6 years worth of data was available (including 2020) from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. These attractions were then scored on their TripAdvisor ratings, Google search volume and average yearly footfall change to reveal the top 50. Additional information was then collected and scored including entry price, dog friendliness and their amenities to create an index out of 100.

To calculate the estimated earnings of each attraction, the average entry fee was calculated by combining the standard price for a child and adult. The average entry fee was then multiplied by footfall figures to work out how much money each attraction could be making from visitors.

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