The Best Museums In London
Last Updated: 2nd September 2019 | Image: British Museum/Viktor Forgacs
London has a museum for pretty much everything.
So consider this your own personally curated collection of all the best museums in London – covering the realms of flora, fauna, design, science, history and culture. Amongst its treasures, London has the most visited modern art gallery in the world; the original manuscripts of Charles Dickens, Virginia Wolf and Jack Kerouac; mummies; 2300 artworks tracing the complete development of Western European painting; a museum dedicated solely to the tube system of London; flight simulators; earthquake simulators; and homages to the world’s finest thinkers in restored Georgian townhouses.
So behold, our picks of the best museums in London –
London’s landmark animal and natural phenomena museum displays a rotating collection of approximately 22 million insect and plant specimens, the UK’s most prodigious dinosaur display, an escalator ascending into the core of Earth itself, and most importantly, a life-sized model of a foetus in a womb. Which means you can also observe unsuspecting parents having ‘the talk’. READ MORE
NHM Lates: the last Friday of every month, including themed cocktails, pop up science stations, film screenings, silent discos and more.
Details: Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD | Free entry
Museum of the Moon | Until 5th January 2020 | Free
An illuminated, fully accurate replica of the moon, suspended in one of the museum’s beautiful gothic galleries.
Not just one of the best museums in London but also the world’s largest collection of decorative arts and design, the V&A is comprised of more than 150 separate galleries over seven floors of furniture, ceramics, sculpture, paintings, posters, jewellery, metalwork, glass, textiles, dress, architecture and photography spanning several centuries. Plus it’s home to the beautiful William Morris tearoom and a water-filled courtyard; both excellent spots for a scone break. READ MORE
V&A Lates: The V&A was originally open late to tempt the public towards culture instead of the gin palace. Nowadays, they open their doors on the last Friday of every month (except May & Dec), with DJs, performance artists, talks, workshops and screenings… and gin.
Details: Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL | Free entry, exhibitions from £12
Mary Quant | Until 16th February 2020 | £12
A collection of 200+ items of clothing, make up and sketches by the iconic 60s designer Mary Quant.
FOOD: Bigger Than The Plate | Until 20th October | £17
An exhibition of the culture, politics and sustainability of food – including edible water bottles and a toilet made out of cow poo.
One of the world’s oldest museums of history and culture, grown from the collection of one man who was interested in everything. Exhibitions include abstractions like life and death and showcases of Ancient Iran, the prehistory of Europe, the Middle East, the Rosetta Stone, Lindow Man, the Lewis Chessmen and the Sutton Hoo ship burial. And mummies. They have mummies. READ MORE
British Museum Lates: every Friday night, with events taking place on the second Friday of the month including free tours, live music and performances ranging from stand-up comedy to Shakespeare.
Details: Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG | Free entry, exhibitions from £19.50
170 million items and 330 miles of shelf space make this not only one of the best museums in London, but also one of the biggest. It also hosts regular, curated exhibitions based around its rare collections; including displays of the original manuscripts of Charles Dickens, Virginia Wolf, Jack Kerouac, Lewis Carroll and varying instalments of maps, sacred texts, newspaper and sound archives.
Details: 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB | Free entry, exhibitions from £14
Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion | Until 8th September | £7
500 years after he died, browse through three of the most intriguing notebooks of the Italian polymath, one of which hasn’t been in the UK since it was bought by er, Bill Gates. See da Vinci’s studies of bubbles, famous mirror writing, and a design for underwater breathing equipment.
Love this. That’s an order. Because it’s filled with everything you know about, but probably don’t really know about. Like exhibitions on space exploration with the Apollo 10 command module; a flight simulator; a three-metre-high, 600kg Spacelab 2 X-ray telescope; an immersive VR descent from space with astronaut Tim Peake; and displays on developments in contemporary psychological science, medicine, climate and 3D printing. And an IMAX theatre. Thank God for Science.
Science Museum Lates: the last Wednesday of every month, showcasing lectures from leading academics, comedy shows, silent discos, workshops and cocktails.
Details: Exhibition Road, SW7 2DD | Free entry
Driverless: Who Is In Control? | Until October 2020 | Free
A free exhibition showcasing some of the early prototypes of driverless cars, drones and submarines…
A temple to the work of British artists over the past 500 years, with a vast collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, two rooms of Henry Moore sculptures, a free picture library filled with rare and fragile sketches from major artists, and a restaurant with a mural by Rex Whistler.
Late at Tate Britain: On the first Friday of every month, Tate Collective Producers curate an evening exploring a different abstract theme, with a little help from DJs, activists, artists and more.
Details: Millbank, SW1P 4RG | Free entry
France-Lise McGurn: Sleepless | Until 8th September | Free
A collection of abstract paintings by the Glaswegian artist, inspired by the ‘inherently sexual’ process of living in a city.
Mike Nelson: The Asset Strippers | Until 6th October | Free
A sculptural installation using disused parts of old buildings, monuments and machinery, to represent a lost era and what it represented as a vision for society.
1824: The première of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9; the Egyptians capture Crete; ‘New Holland’ becomes ‘Australia’; some government guys in Britain bought 38 paintings. Now: Beethoven’s no longer in the charts, Australia still has an identity crisis, and The National Gallery has over 2,300 works tracing the complete development of Western European painting from virtually every European school of art. And a café. READ MORE
Details: Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN | Free entry
Bartolomé Bermejo: Master of the Spanish Renaissance | Until 29th September | Free
A collection of 12 rarely seen portraits by the prodigious painter of breathtakingly realistic textures, Bermejo.
Adjoined to the National Gallery, the NPG specialises in faces through the ages. Also housing paintings by era, you can start with the flamboyant ruffs and frills of the Jacobeans and work through to the gritty, photorealistic images of contemporary artists, celebrating ordinary people.
NPG Lates: Every Friday until 9pm, with music, drinks, film screenings, talks, and drop-in life drawing in the galleries.
Details: St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE | Free entry
Cindy Sherman | Until 15th September | £18-20
A critically acclaimed retrospective of the American artist, who photographer herself in different guises and settings.
BP Portrait Award 2019 | Until 20th October | Free
The 40th year of the national portrait award show, which showcases the best in contemporary portrait painting.
The most-visited modern art gallery in the world, partly because it holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day, as well as international modern and contemporary art, but mainly because the 6th floor members’ cafe has one of London’s best views. Which is like art in itself, man. READ MORE
Tate Lates: Regular after-hours events, featuring free music, art, performance, fashion shows, workshops and film screenings.
Details: Bankside, SE1 9TG | Free entry
Natalia Goncharova | Until 8th September | £16
A colourful retrospective of the Russian avant-garde artist.
Takis | Until 27th October | £13
A room full of bleeping, buzzing, technical installations from across the artist’s 70 year career.
Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life | Until 5th January 2020 | £18
Indoor rainbows, coloured fog and mirrored tunnels.
One of the best museums in London about London, LTM traces the history of London’s Tube, Bus and Cab systems, and equally as importantly – considers its future. READ MORE
LTM Lates: A series of late-night themed openings during which you can explore the exhibitions, take part in workshops, and listen to experts and speakers while sipping cocktails.
Details: Covent Garden Piazza, WC2E 7BB | Annual tickets £17.50 (small discount online)
45,000 odd objects. 30,000 architectural drawings. 80 visitors at a time. 3 floors. 1 Georgian townhouse. READ MORE
Soane Candlelight Nights: A monthly programme of stonkingly atmospheric candlelit late openings, events, tours and more.
Details: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP | Free entry, but book ahead
After something slightly quirkier? Try our excellent guide to unusual museums in London.