Hosting the Olympics and Queen’s Jubilee celebrations last year only attracted 1% more foreign tourists to London than 2011, new figures show.
The capital still managed to attracted 15 million visitors from overseas in 2012 – more than half the total travelling to the UK.
The overall figure was 31 million visits, according to VisitBritain which hopes to draw 40 million by 2020.
The total number of visits to London increased by almost 4% in 2011, and more than 3% in 2010, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
Edinburgh, which had 1.25 million visitors, was the second most popular UK city last year, followed by Manchester at 932,000.
Despite "intense competition" from other destinations, it was hoped the UK would attract a million more visitors in 2013, VisitBritain's strategy and communications director Patricia Yates said.
Tourism minister Hugh Robertson said he was "encouraged" by the rise in visitors to the UK, and confident the figures would "continue to grow".
The resorts of Bournemouth and Penzance, and the Suffolk town of Ipswich saw increases of up to 68% in visitors, VisitBritain said.
Nearly four million French tourists crossed the Channel last year but visitors from the US were the most valuable for the UK economy, spending £2.4 billion.
Top five UK destinations:
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