Free visitor attractions saw a 6% rise in visitors last year while paid-for attractions suffered a 1% fall.
The British Museum retained its top spot with 5.8 million visitors, up 5% on 2009, according to a VisitEngland survey of 1,082 sites. The most popular free attractions were the Tate Modern, the National Gallery and the Natural History Museum, all in London.
Outside the capital, other popular free attractions included the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the Merseyside Maritime Museum, Museums Sheffield and World Museum Liverpool.
The Tower of London topped the paid-for section with 2.4 million visits followed by St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Windermere Lake Cruises and Flamingo Land theme Park and Zoo.
James Berresford, VisitEngland's chief executive, said: "Competition on the world stage is tough and it is the quality of our attractions that will help to ensure that people come back time and time again to visit something new, exciting and unique to England."
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