15 Museums in London you shouldn’t miss

Art and history lovers will be spoilt for choice in London, a city known for having some of the most impressive museums in Europe. Discover some of our favorites.

For a complete experience in the English capital, a visit to one or two of its fantastic museums is practically a must. And with free entry to so many of them, there’s no excuse not to go. You can also make the most of your visit by going on a tour with an expert guide. If you’re not sure which ones to pick, here are 15 of London’s best museums to help you get started.

1. The Victoria and Albert Museum

Perhaps one of the most famous museums in London, the Victoria and Albert Museum (or V & A for short) is utterly magnificent. Entry is free so you can pop in even for just an hour.  The permanent collections date back 5000 years and feature ceramics, costumes, paintings, sculptures, and jewelry from a range of countries and cultures. The museum also hosts several temporary exhibitions from fashion designers, architects, activists and more.

Despite being the subject of some controversy over the years, the British Museum is still among the best museums in London. Its immense collection of artifacts includes mummies from Ancient Egypt, vases from Ancient Greece, and timepieces from early European periods.  Each room in this museum allows you to travel back in time and across continents in order to understand how earlier civilizations operated. You will be taken all over the world and will have more than four million objects to marvel at including the controversial Elgin Marbles and the pivotal Rosetta Stone. You probably won’t be able to take in everything in one day, but with a guided tour you’ll at least get a good grasp of the highlights and discover intriguing details along the way.

The National Gallery sits pride of place in Trafalgar Square in Central London. From its imposing pillars outside to the artistic masterpieces inside, the entire experience is a visual delight. The National Gallery holds over 2,300 works, including Van Gogh’s iconic Sunflowers and Hans Holbein the Younger’ mysterious portrait of The Ambassadors. The dozens of rooms display objects ranging from the 13th century to the modern day. In addition to the permanent collection of Western European art, it also hosts regular workshops and temporary exhibitions.

4. The National Portrait Gallery

If you’re a fan of portraits then you’re going to love the National Portrait Gallery, which contains more portraits than any other establishment in the world. Literally, hundreds of thousands of portraits adorn the museum’s walls, depicting notable British people starting from the Tudor era all the way to today. The portraits come in all shapes and sizes, and all different media, including drawings, paintings, photographs, and sculptures. You might even have an ancestor up on the wall somewhere! Depending on when you visit, you might be able to catch one of the outstanding photography exhibitions.

5. The Natural History Museum

A winner with adults and children alike, the Natural History Museum is undoubtedly one of the best museums in the country, if not the world. Tracking the history of the natural world from the very beginning to the present day, the museum is brimming with fascinating models and information.  The stand-out feature of the Natural History Museum is its dinosaur collection. Life-size models of dinosaurs fill a vast room, with a robotic T-Rex roaring at visitors in its own special alcove. Here, you’ll learn everything archaeologists have uncovered about prehistoric animals, from what they looked like to what they liked to eat and more.

The Tower of London was a multi-purpose structure, which acted as a fortress, palace, and prison. An entry ticket includes access to the white tower, the crown jewels, the prison rooms and more. As you explore you’ll learn all about the fascinating and dark history of this somber complex. Be sure to check out the ravens, also known as the guardians of the tower. Finally, for an even more immersive experience, join a tour guided by none other than a Beefeater guard!

7. The Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum looks beyond the mere mechanics of war and depicts the effects of conflict on ordinary people. In addition to tanks, cannons, and guns, the museum offers a more personal element to war by showing it through the eyes of the soldiers it consumed. An inspiring, yet harrowing experience, the Imperial War Museum includes exhibitions about World War One, World War Two, the Holocaust, and more.

A branch of the Imperial War Museums mentioned above, The Churchill War Rooms are situated in an underground bunker beneath Westminster. From here, Churchill and his cabinet directed and planned the Second World War, which resulted in the eventual defeat of Hitler and the Nazis. Walk through the corridors and check out the secret telephone he used to communicate with the President of the United States. You’ll also discover dozens of artifacts, including personal items, depicting the life of Churchill, one of Britain’s greatest military leaders.

9. The Tate Modern

The Tate Modern sits alongside Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the Southbank and overlooks the River Thames. With a never-ending stream of exhibitions and displays, the Tate Modern is ever-changing, so you can go again and again and have a different experience each time.  As well as the vast collections of art,this museum also boasts an incredible viewing tower. Climb to the top and enjoy breath-taking views of the London skyline, which won’t cost a thing!

10. The Design Museum

Located on the dazzling Kensington High Street, the Design Museum looks exactly how you would expect a design museum to look. Its quirky architectures perfectly complements the exhibitions inside, which showcase the best in architecture and product design. The Design Museum focuses on innovation and technology and looks at ways in which humanity can progress through the use of residential and industrial design. The current housing crisis in London has prompted the museum to analyze the constraints that hold the city back from further development.

11. The Sir John Soane’s Museum

If you don’t already know who John Soane is, he’s the mastermind architect behind the Bank of England and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Hailed as one of the most inventive architects of his time, his former home-cum-museum is filled with architectural sculptures and drawings, furniture, and antiques spanning millennia, making it one of London’s most intriguing museums. Soane spent his life collecting antiquities that fascinated him, and they now give us an insight into what inspired him. The unassuming museum sits alongside Lincoln’s Inn Fields and has remained virtually untouched since Soane passed away in 1837.

12. The Charles Dickens Museum

One of history’s greatest storytellers, Charles Dickens is a household name, regardless of whether you’ve read any of his works. The museum is set in the Dickens’ family home in Central London, which dates back to the Victorian era. It was here that he wrote Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Pickwick Papers. The museum contains a number of artifacts, including Dickens’ writing desk, complete with handwritten scribbles of story ideas. Here, you can delve into the private life of one of the most celebrated writers of the Western world.

13. The Saatchi Gallery

The Saatchi Gallery, located in the fashionable Chelsea area, isn’t interested in global art superstars. The gallery features work from emerging talent or international artists that haven’t yet had their work exhibited in the UK. It provides a platform for promising young artists to display their work to a huge and diverse audience. With a mixture of immersive installations and exhibitions laced with social satire, the Saatchi Gallery will intrigue, surprise and inspire you. Even the building itself is a marvel.

The Science Museum is filled with gadgets, gizmos and hands-on experiences guaranteed to keep the whole family entertained. Each floor is home to a range of exhibits, including sections devoted to technology, mathematics, clocks, the earth’s atmosphere, and the power of flight. The top floor houses the Wonderlab, which has numerous experiments for visitors to try out. If you can’t get enough of science, drop by the nearby Ampersand Hotel for a science-themed tea inspired by the museum.

This captivating museum in Greenwich has a permanent collection with free entry and several temporary exhibitions (usually requiring paid entry) that change throughout the year. The museum narrates the maritime history of Great Britain through artworks and artifacts. Among the most interesting artifacts is The Atlantic Neptune, a fundamental cartographic work created in the 18th century, along with a remarkable portrait collection. And if you still haven’t had enough of maritime adventures, walk five minutes from the museum to the Cutty Sark, a historic Scottish merchant ship.

Planning a weekend in London and not sure know where to start?

Take a look at our 2-day itinerary in London!

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