Among the 30 million inbound visits in 2009, 4.2 million included visits to art galleries and 7.7 million to museums, earning the country a combined income of £1 billion in revenue from overseas tourists.

The statistics come from the International Passenger Survey in which VisitBritain sponsored questions on a range of activities visitors may have undertaken during their stay. 

The French proved the top museum fans just ahead of American, Germans and Spanish tourists. Americans topped the list for art galleries with well over 500,000 visits.

Sandie Dawe, chief executive, VisitBritain said: “This survey showcases the international appeal of Britain’s culture and heritage – where else could you see Grand Masters next to cutting edge installations, a Spitfire hanging next to a Dali?

“We are fortunate in the authenticity of what we have to promote and the connections that our rich culture makes across the world.”