London has one of the most impressive collections of museums in the world. Whether you are interested in film, art, biology, fashion or literature, London has a museum for it. The sheer volume of museums in London can seem a little bit overwhelming, so here is a list of the ten best museums that you have to visit – whether you’re a tourist or a local, they cannot be missed.
1. Science Museum
One of London’s most popular museums is the Science Museum, found on South Kensington’s Exhibition Road. This fascinating hands-on museum is great for both kids and adults, filled with seven floors of entertaining and educational exhibits. The museum features the Apollo 10 Command Module and a sixteenth-century artificial arm as well as the interactive Wonderlab where you can immerse yourself into the world of science with live chemistry experiments where you can see liquid nitrogen freeze a gummy worm or lighting strike right in front of you. The Science Museum has so much offer, you could spend hours on end in here and never be bored.
2. Natural History Museum
Another of London’s most famous museums, the Natural History Museum can be found just next door to the Science Museum. Full of nature-based exhibitions and displays of plants, animals and minerals and, of course, the iconic dinosaur fossils. Within the Natural History Museum you’ll also find a sequoia red wood tree, an earthquake simulator and a blue whale skeleton.
Visit the current moon installation by artist Luke Jerram (available until January 2020) and visit the Darwin centre for a talk to get the full experience of the Natural History Museum.
Both the Science Museum and the Natural History museum hold ‘museum late’ events, serving drinks and putting on different activities to enjoy the museum after dark.
3. Victoria and Albert Museum
The third museum to join this famous trio on Exhibition Road, the Victoria and Albert museum is a must when you’re in London. Known as the world’s leading museum for art and design, the V&A is home to a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects including furniture, fashion, textiles, jewellery and painting – to name a few.
The museum’s collections span over 5000 years, showcasing eras worth of human creativity and innovation. The V&A is known for being one of London’s most aesthetic museums, lit with gas lighting and filled with ornate and elaborate objects.
A number of temporary exhibitions are usually available – currently the museum is hosting the immensely popular Christian Dior exhibition until this fall.
4. The British Museum
Opened in 1759, The British Museum houses some incredible global artefacts discovered by British explorers over the last few centuries. The museum’s collection is made up of over eight million objects, of which only about 50,000 are on display.
The museum’s collection is undeniably vast (as well as controversial) so you won’t be able to see everything in just one visit. Free exhibitions include Playing With Money: Currency and Games and Collecting Histories: Solomon Islands.
The British Museum was the first national museum to be open to the public, so it is definitely worth a visit.
5. The Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum is an organisation, owning five branches across the UK, the most famous being the Imperial War Museum being on Lambeth Road in London. The museum’s aim is to explore the history of modern war and the experience of wartime.
Their current permanent exhibitions includes Curiosities of War, a permanent display of unexpected objects from the museum’s vast collection, including a wooden horse used to train army recruits in WWI. The Imperial War Museum is also home to a Holocaust Exhibition, telling the story of Nazi persecution in WWII with posters, photographs, artefacts and film as well as personal stories.
6. London Film Museum
In February 2008, Jonathan Sands founded and created the London Film Museum, dedicated to the British film industry. Their most famous exhibition is entitled Bond In Motion, displaying the vehicles used in the James Bond film franchise that has been running since 1962. The collection includes the iconic Aston Martin DB5, the Lotus Espirit from The Spy Who Loved Me as well as Goldfinger’s Rolls Royce. Every vehicle in the collection is the original used in the film as well as original concept art and story boards used in the production of the film.
Whether you’re a movie fanatic or not, this museum is definitely worth a visit.
7. Freud Museum
Located in Maresfield Gardens, the final home of Sigmund Freud is now a museum commemorating his life’s work. Discover the life and work of the pioneer of psychoanalysis at this museum through artefacts from his life, including the iconic therapist couch.
The museum’s current exhibition Between Oedipus and the Sphinx: Freud and Egypt, exploring the Egyptian artefacts that lie behind his ‘archaeological metaphor’.
The museum also holds interesting events such as Attention Seeking this autumn, featuring Adam Phillips and Lisa Appignanesi in conversation on curiosity.
8. Royal Observatory
One of the four Royal Museums located in Greenwich, the Royal Observatory allows you to discover the home of GMT and explore the clocks and timepieces that have cultivated the way we understand time today. You can also take part in the Meridian Line experience, standing on the historic Prime Meridian of the world and see the laser that marks GMT from Greenwich hill (you can also get a great view of the London skyline from here).
The Royal Observatory also offers planetarium shows such as The Sky Tonight Live, in which you can explore the night sky in real time, guided by one of the observatory’s astronomers.
9. Tate Modern
This modern art museum is one of the world’s most famous, found in the heart of London. Located in a former power station on the South Bank, this became the most visited museum in the UK back in 2000 when it opened. The museum features artists such as Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, and Rothko, organised thematically rather than by artist.
Current exhibitions include Natalia Goncharova, a leading character in the Russian avant-garde and Takis, a sculptor of magnetism, light and sound. The Tate Modern is home to some of the most creative and innovative pieces of art ever created, leaving you extremely inspired as you leave.
10. Saatchi Gallery
Another contemporary art gallery, the Saatchi can be found on King’s Road in Chelsea. Opened in 1985 by Charles Saatchi, this museum has displayed a huge range of work in its lifetime. Beginning with a focus on US artists and minimalism, the museum has also featured some contemporary Chinese art as well as a lot of work from British artists. The Saatchi has been a hugely influential museum in the London art world.
Its current collections include Beyond The Road, an immersive exhibition into the world of visual art and Nancy Cadogan: Mind Zero.