18 Of Of The Best Museums & Galleries In London

Going to museums is one of the best ways to learn about the history and culture of a country.

There’s no shortage of things to learn about a city that’s existed since AD 43 and no place better to do that than the many museums that line its streets. If you’re not the biggest museum fan, these eight unmissable London museums might just change your mind.

The British Museum

Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom

British Museum
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With thousands of objects spanning over 2 million years of human history, it’s no wonder the British Museum gets about 6 million visitors every year. Here you can see the Rosetta Stone, inarguably one of the most famous rocks in the world. This is the inscribed slab that helped linguists decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics, unravelling secrets of the ancient society we’re still learning about today. Whether you’re a history fanatic or just need a roof to escape from the rain, the British Museum isn’t to be overlooked.

Tate Modern

Bankside, London SE1 9TG, United Kingdom

Tate
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Tate Modern opened in 1897 as a museum of modern and contemporary art from all over the world. It’s located inside the former Bankside Power Station and is one of the biggest museums in England. Collections are separated into abstract themes instead of eras, with art dating back to 1900. Countless famous artists from Matisse to Warhol are represented here and new exhibitions are presented frequently. Don’t miss out on the 8 free guided tours offered every day, lasting about 45 minutes each for an inside look into the world of modern art.

Serpentine Galleries

Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA, United Kingdom

Serpentine Galleries
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The Serpentine Galleries opened in 1970, with one exhibition building on each side of Serpentine Lake in Kensington Gardens. In place of permanent collections, the Serpentine displays one contemporary artists’ work at a time. The galleries have featured over 2,000 artists throughout the years, from up and coming to internationally renowned. There are 8 seasonal exhibitions per year, as well as an annual Serpentine Pavilion every summer, including outdoor installations showcasing impressive architectural innovation. The galleries offer free admission all year round, so stopping by is a no brainer if you’re near Kensington Gardens.

Victoria & Albert Museum

Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom

Victoria & Albert Museum
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Established in 1852, the Victoria & Albert Museum is one of the largest art and design museums in the world. Here you can find 7 floors full of international architecture, fashion, textiles, and more, with over 4 million objects spanning 5,000 years. The V & A is also host to temporary exhibitions that often feature film costumes or the work of famous fashion designers. Don’t skip afternoon tea in the Gamble Room, where you can enjoy a cup of English breakfast among opulent architecture and art.

Natural History Museum

Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom

Natural History Museum
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London’s Natural History Museum possesses over 80 million artifacts across 4.5 billion years, including several meteorites and an 82-foot-long blue whale skeleton. There are over 20 galleries split into 4 color coded zones, so you can explore them all or just pick 1 if you’re short on time. The architecture of the building itself is quite impressive, with grand staircases and a vaulted central hall. There are 5 cafés with various offerings from coffee cake to burgers throughout the building in case all that learning leaves you hungry. Self-guided tours are available on the website, or you can download the museum’s app for easy access.

White Cube

144-152, Bermondsey St, London SE1 3TQ, United Kingdom

White Cube
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As one of the most renowned contemporary art galleries in the world, White Cube has skyrocketed from Jay Joplin’s tiny room in the West End to world-leading creative space that has even expanded to Hong Kong, Paris and NYC. Not only does it refresh its pristinely glossy interior with rotating exhibitions, it is also the hub of British winners of the Turner Prize, including Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst.

Museum of London

150 London Wall, Barbican, London EC2Y 5HN, United Kingdom

Museum of London
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The Museum of London opened in 1976 as the largest urban museum in the world, featuring the history of London ranging from prehistoric times to present day. There are 9 permanent galleries, taking you through recreations of Victorian London, telling the story of the city from its beginning. The museum isn’t too big so you can easily see everything in about an hour and stop by one of the 2 cafés on the premises for a well-earned treat when you’re done.

Tate Britain

Millbank, London SW1P 4RG, United Kingdom

Tate Britain
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Opened in 1897, Tate Britain is one of the biggest museums in England and home to the world’s largest collection of British art from 1500 to today. The gallery presents the development and evolution of British art, including the popular Tudor collection with over 300 paintings on display. As the oldest of the Tate museums, Tate Britain has survived through a lot of history, including a flooding of the Thames and a bombing during World War II.

National Gallery

Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN, United Kingdom

National Gallery
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Centrally located in Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery was established in 1838 as Britain’s national collection of Western European paintings. There are nearly 2,300 works on permanent display ranging from the 13th to the early 20th century, including Van Gogh’s world famous “Sunflowers” piece. Free guided tours as well as audio guides are available, with many choices such as the gallery highlights tour. Watch out for seasonal exhibitions throughout the year as an added bonus on top of the impressive permanent collection.

Charles Dickens Museum

48-49 Doughty St, London WC1N 2LX, United Kingdom

Charles Dickens Museum
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The Charles Dickens Museum is located within the former London home of the famous author, where he wrote one of his most well-known works, Oliver Twist. The house was turned into a museum in 1925 and it stands to be the world’s largest collection of Dickens memorabilia with about 100,000 objects of original furniture and décor, including handwritten drafts of his novels. This is a great stop for Dickens fans, or anyone interested in Victorian London lifestyle.

Churchill War Rooms

Clive Steps, King Charles St, London SW1A 2AQ, United Kingdom

Churchill War Rooms
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Don’t miss the opportunity to tour a once top-secret headquarters where hugely important decisions regarding World War II were made. The Churchill War Rooms are an underground complex that acted as the British government’s command center for the 2nd world war. Its cramped corridors look frozen in time because they were sealed after the war, not to be exposed again until the museum opened in 1984. Look out for the artifacts of Winston Churchill’s private life, as he used this space as a shelter during bomb raids. We recommend taking advantage of the audio guides that come included with the price of admission for a one-of-a-kind learning experience in London.

Sir John Soane’s Museum

13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP, United Kingdom

Sir John Soane’s Museum
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Sir John Soane’s Museum is located in the former home of its namesake, a 19th century neo-classical architect and collector best known for designing the Bank of England. The museum is a treasure trove of 40,000 objects from all over the world including pieces of antique furniture, sculptures, architectural models, paintings, and even the sarcophagus of the Egyptian pharaoh Seti I. The collection is organized by aesthetics rather than chronological or geographical order, but it all comes together while you’re walking through. Sir John Soane’s may be small, but there’s no shortage of things to see. Join the daily highlight tour to ensure you don’t miss a thing in this wonderful museum full of mystery where you never know what you might find in the next room.

Horniman’s Museum and Gardens

100 London Rd, London SE23 3PQ, United Kingdom

Horniman’s Museum and Gardens
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Horniman’s Museum and Gardens was founded in 1901 by philanthropist and avid collector of all things history Frederick John Horniman. This eccentric assortment of artifacts focuses on anthropology and natural history, with over 350,000 relics from an international collection of musical instruments to taxidermy of the now extinct passenger pigeon. The building itself is a beautiful display of Arts & Crafts architecture, emphasizing traditional medieval design with intricate carvings in the stone façade. Perhaps one of the most recognized facets of the museum is the mistakenly overstuffed taxidermized walrus that has become the face of Horniman for its charming scientific inaccuracy. There’s also a “merman” on display, which was believed to be real when it was brought to Europe in the 18th century. Although it was quickly proven to be fake, it stays in the museum today as a reminder of the pseudoscience that dominated the Victorian age. Don’t leave without exploring the 16 acres of gardens and nature trails, including a petting zoo with llamas and pygmy goats and make sure to stop by the garden bandstand for an unbeatable panoramic view of London.

Design Museum

224-238 Kensington High St, London W8 6AG, United Kingdom

Design Museum
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London’s Design Museum opened in 1989, showcasing 20th and 21st century design, architecture, and fashion. The collection includes over 3,000 pieces representing the growth and history of modern design, with occasional pop-up exhibitions featuring various important advents in the design world. The Designer Maker User exhibit walks you through the fascinating design, production, and consumer interaction process every product goes through. Don’t miss the 2012 London Olympic Torch on display, made of gold colored aluminum and standing at 31 inches.

London Transport Museum

The Piazza, London WC2E 7BB, United Kingdom

London Transport Museum
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The London Transport Museum opened in 2007 and covers the history of London’s transportation system across 200 years. Explore 4 floors of over 450,000 items including full scale vehicles from trains to taxis. The museum showcases the importance of public transportation as well as the widespread influence of transport on the city’s culture. There are several interactive elements, including a Tube driving simulator and the ability to go inside many of the displayed vehicles. Museum must-sees include a train carriage from the 1890s and the world’s first Underground steam train.

Science Museum

Exhibition Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD, United Kingdom

Science Museum
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The most visited science museum in Europe, London’s Science Museum includes 800 interactive exhibits and 300,000 objects presenting the history of Western science, technology, and medicine from 1700 to today. There are countless things to see and do, from simulator rides to educational films at the IMAX theater. The gallery focusing solely on space is a fan favorite, with a real piece of the moon on display.

Royal Academy of Arts

Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD, United Kingdom

Royal Academy of Arts
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Founded in 1768 as a school for drawing, painting, and sculpting, the Royal Academy of Arts is the oldest art school in Britain. It now also acts as an art gallery, with many copies of famous Renaissance paintings and art donations from the Royal Academicians that study there. The school hosts the annual Summer Exhibition, an open submission exhibit where anyone can enter, promoting inclusivity in the visual arts.

Imperial War Museum

Lambeth Rd, London SE1 6HZ, United Kingdom

Imperial War Museum
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Located where the infamous Bethlem Royal Hospital used to be is London’s Imperial War Museum. The museum opened in 1936, teaching about the causes of war and how it impacts daily life. There are 6 floors and over 400 objects along with WWI and Holocaust exhibitions. Both personal and official documents are on display, depicting the many lives affected by war throughout the years. Check out the 40-minute tours available if you like a little extra background information while you browse.