London has one of the most vibrant cultural hubs in the world. Rich with a history that spans several centuries, its museums and galleries are filled with material that inspires and will transport you back to the moments that have shaped the world we live in today.
There’s so much to do in London, but a trip to the English Capital just simply wouldn’t be complete without visiting at least one of its museums. What’s more, most of them are free of charge so there is no excuse not to! So whether you have a keen interest in history, arts and culture or you just want to immerse yourself in a cultural fiesta – London is the perfect place that will offer it all in abundance.
In no particular order, below are some of London’s best museums to get you started.
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Victoria and Albert Museum
One of London’s most well-renowned, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A for short) has been described as the finest museum for art and design in the world. Home to human creativity dating back over 3,000 years its immense collection is unmatched in terms of scope and diversity. Its permanent collection is free to view in several galleries such as the Medieval Renaissance Galleries, the William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery and the British Galleries, each capturing the history of the country through art and design from over the centuries – and it doesn’t stop there! The museum also hosts several temporary exhibitions and events all year long from fashion designers, architects, activists and more.
Location: Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL
The British Museum
Established in 1973, the British Museum houses a collection of artefacts including mummies from Ancient Egypt, cases from Ancient Greece and timepieces from early European periods. A collection that covers more than 2 million years of human evolution. Exhibits on display come from all over the world which is why visitors are stunned and drawn to the sheer variety that it has to offer all under one roof. With more than 6 million visitors every year it is the most popular tourist attraction in the city and it’s no secret as to why. The museum provides insight into how earlier civilizations operated across continents with over 4 million objects on show for you to marvel at. There are special exhibitions that happen regularly but also guided tours and other activities that are always taking place at the museum. Located near Covent Garden and Soho it’s a perfect destination for you to visit if you are nearby. It will be a lot to take in on one day but the museum is free to visit so you can come back at any time.
Location: Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG
Located just off London Bridge, the Tate Modern can be found inside a former Bankside Power Station, along the banks of the River Thames. Its never-ending stream of exhibitions and displays is ever-changing so you can be sure that every time you visit you will have a different experience. Work from some of the greatest artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Bonnard and Warhol are on display alongside many other renowned artists. Visitors also like the Tate Modern as it’s not only a Gallery, but it also boasts an incredible viewing tower that overlooks the London skyline and is absolutely breathtaking – and it doesn’t cost a thing. The Tate Modern is also a popular place for business people to grab a coffee, host business meetings or get on with some work.
Location: Bankside, London SE1 9TG
The Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is undoubtedly one of the best museums in the world as it tracks the beauty of our natural world right from the very beginning to the present day. The museum first opened its doors in 1881, but its origins sketch back to 1753 and detail the career of Sir Hans Sloane. Sloane was a high society physician and travelled the world collecting natural history specimens and cultural artefacts. After his death in 1753, Sloane allowed Parliament to buy his collection of more than 71,000 items which formed the foundation of the British Museum which later went on display to the public. The stand-out feature of the museum is its dinosaur collection. Featuring life-size models of dinosaurs that fill the vast rooms. Visitors are always left speechless when they see just how big these animals were that used to roam the land of our planet.
Location: Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD
The National Gallery
The National Gallery is a museum in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. The National Gallery is different from other museums in continental Europe as it was not formed by nationalising an existing royal or princely art collection but came into being when the British government bought 38 paintings from the heirs of John Julius Angerstein in 1824. Angerstein was friends with many of the most prominent men of the day including King George ||| and William Pitt the Younger (Prime Minister). He lived in Greenwich for most of his life and also had a London townhouse, at 100 Pall Mall. When the government bought Angerstein’s paintings they also took over the lease of his Pall Mall townhouse, where the public was able to view the collection before the modern Gallery was constructed in Trafalgar Square.
Location: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
The National Portrait Gallery
Containing more portraits than any other establishment in the world, The National Portrait Gallery really does take you on a journey through time, displaying notable faces of British people from the Tudor era all the way to the modern-day. It is also the first-ever portrait gallery to have been built in 1896. The collection includes all different types of media in various shapes and sizes including photographs and caricatures, paintings, drawings and sculptures. One of its most renowned images is the Chandos portrait, the most famous portrait of William Shakespeare. They also host regular photograph exhibitions.
Location: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
The Royal Airforce Museum
The Royal Airforce Museum can be found on the former Hendon Aerodrome. It includes five buildings and hangars showing the history of aviation and the Royal Air Force. The museum officially opened to the public in 1972 by Queen Elizabeth ||. Inside the museum lives 36 aircrafts. Over the years, the collection has increased in size substantially. Some of the hangars include the RAF Stories and First of the Future which display the first 100 years (1918-2018) of the RAF. It explored the different roles taken by the people of the RAF, alongside the changes in technology.
Location: Grahame Park Way, London NW9 5LL
The Imperial War Museum
What is war actually good for? Filling up museums apparently! The Imperial War museum goes beyond just the mere mechanics of the war but actually aims to encapsulate the effects of the conflict on the ordinary people that it impacted. In the museum, you can find recreations of the WW1 trenches and the Blitz, with many tankers and planes and revolving military exhibitions. It aims to show visitors what the war was like through the eyes of the soldiers that experienced it first-hand. This is a museum that will fill you with emotion and an experience you won’t forget.
Location: Lambeth Rd, London SE1 6HZ
These are only a few of the museums that uncover Britain’s long but fascinating history. Now that we enter 2022 and the pandemic hopefully comes to an end, why not take yourself on a trip through history and culture – it would be a shame to miss out.