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10 Best museums in London

One of the great attractions of the British capital is its cultural offer. Whatever the visitor's taste, he or she is sure to find something that interests him or her. Proof of this is the variety of themes in the best museums in London.

Joaquín Montaño

Joaquín Montaño

14 min read

10 Best museums in London

Entrance to the British Museum | ©Brian Tomlinson

Visiting the best museums in London should always be on the list of things to see and do in London. Given the breadth of the offer, no one will be able to say that they have not found one that interests them, including those traveling with children and fear that they might get bored in one of these facilities.

The British capital offers visitors from historical museums with objects from around the world to museums dedicated to fictional characters such as the famous Sherlock Holmes. Those who prefer natural sciences, the history of war or modern art, among other disciplines, will also be able to enjoy specific museums on these subjects. In short, London has an offer in this field hardly surpassed by any other city in the world.

1. British Museum

British Museum at Night| ©Jey han
British Museum at Night| ©Jey han

If there is a must-see when traveling to London, it is the British Museum. Not in vain, statistics state that it is the most visited tourist attraction in the whole city.

This museum was inaugurated in 1753, a date that makes it one of the oldest in the world. Today, it houses more than eight million objects exhibited in no less than ninety-four different galleries.

Its collection covers the entire history of mankind and all its cultures. The museum has been divided into different departments to make the visit somewhat easier: Ancient Egypt and Sudan; Middle East; Ancient Greece and Rome; Great Britain, Europe and Prehistory; Asia; Africa, Oceania and the Americas and the collection of engravings and drawings.

Although it is estimated that only about 1% of all the material is exhibited in its rooms, when you visit you will realize that it is practically impossible to see it all. Unless you want to go for several days in a row, my advice is to select beforehand what you want to see depending on your interests. Undoubtedly, along with the changing of the guard in London, it is the main attraction of the city.

Information and tips for the visit:

  • Audio guide: to enjoy the visit in a more complete way it is essential to rent an audio guide. With it you will receive information in Spanish on more than 260 objects housed in 61 different galleries. To pick it up you will have to go to the counter located in the Great Atrium, the first covered central courtyard that you find after entering.
  • British Museum opening hours: except for unforeseen changes, the British Museum opens its doors every day at 10 am and closes at 17:00. The last access is at 15:30. On the other hand, some rooms remain open on Fridays until 20:30.
  • Tickets for the British Museum: the museum does not charge admission to visitors.
  • Address and directions: The museum is on Great Russell Street. The best way to get there is the London Underground, as it has several stops (Tottenham Court Road and Holborn) just 50 meters away. Another option is bus lines 1, 7, 8, 8, 19, 25, 25, 38, 55, 98 and 242, stopping at New Oxford Street, as well as lines 10, 14, 24, 29, 73 and 390 at Tottenham Court Road.
  • Take the opportunity to... visit the nearby King's Cross station. In addition to its architectural beauty, it is one of the must-see stops for Harry Potter fans. This is where the young wizard is supposed to have boarded the Hogwarts Express train, on platform 9 ¾, a place that is properly signposted.

Book a visit to the British Museum

2. The National Gallery

Exterior of The National Gallery| ©Skaja Lee
Exterior of The National Gallery| ©Skaja Lee

If you prefer paintings, the National Gallery is the best option to contemplate works of the best painters in history. This gallery, located in the central Trafalgar Square is smaller than other famous galleries like the Louvre, but its collection will not leave anyone indifferent.

The origin of this museum lies in the purchase by the British government of a private collection of just 38 paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Titian and Rubens. After the acquisition, which took place in 1824, the government undertook the construction of a building to house them with the intention of expanding their number.

The museum opened in 1838 in a neoclassical building that extends in the northern part of Trafalgar Square.

Today, the National Gallery houses paintings by European artists since 1250. More than 2,300 paintings make up its permanent collection, including works by Velázquez, Van Gogh, Titian and Rembrand.

Information and tips for the visit:

  • Audioguide: although they are paid it is an essential resource to enjoy the museum.
  • Hours: The National Gallery is open from Saturday to Thursday between 10:00 and 18:00. On Fridays, the opening hours are extended until 21:00.
  • Tickets for the National Gallery: admission to the permanent exhibition is free. Temporary exhibitions are paid, but each has a different price. In addition to the general guided tour, there are also exclusive guided tours for children.
  • Address and directions: to enter the museum you must go to the Sainsbury Wing, where the security checkpoint is located. There I recommend you take a map of the facilities. To get there you can use the subway stations of Charing Cross, Embankment, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, as well as bus lines 3, 6, 9, 12, 13, 15, 23, 24, 29, 53, 87, 88, 91, 139, 159, 176 and 453.
  • Take the opportunity to... walk around the vicinity of Trafalgar Square and head to the Embankment area on the river. It may be a good time to take a cruise on the Thames.

Book a visit to the National Gallery

3. Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds in London| ©grassrootsgroundswell
Madame Tussauds in London| ©grassrootsgroundswell

If I have to be honest, most wax museums around the world bring more disappointment than joy. The exception may be, without a doubt, Madame Tussauds in London, where you can see several hundred figures representing historical, fictional or famous characters with great realism, as you can see in this article about the main wax figures of the Madame Tussauds museum.

The museum opened its doors in 1835, when the sculptor Madame Tussauds opened her first exhibition of wax figures. At that time, admission cost only 6 pence, but the success of the exhibition caused the exhibition had to find a new venue and increased their prices.

Today, this museum is one of the least expensive in the city, which does not prevent it is also one of the most visited. Since it is a must-see, I recommend that you buy tickets for the Madame Tussaud's Museum well in advance and try to arrive very early or at lunchtime. Note that there are also combined tickets for the London Eye and Madame Tussauds with which you can save on your trip to the English capital.

Information and tips for the visit:

  • Hours: daily between 9:00-10:00 and 16:00-18:00 (times vary depending on dates).
  • Tickets: adult admission costs around £35, while children between 3 and 15 years old must pay around £30. For children under 3, admission is free.
  • Address and directions: Madame Tussauds is located on Marylebone Road, on the corner with Allsop Place. The nearest tube stop is Baker Street and you can reach it with the Jubilee, Bakerloo, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City and Circle lines
  • Take the opportunity to...go to the Sherlock Holmes Museum or, if you feel like taking a walk, to the British Museum.

Book tickets for Madame Tussauds

4. Natural History Museum

Exterior of the Natural History Museum| ©Diliff
Exterior of the Natural History Museum| ©Diliff

One of the most spectacular museums in London is the Natural History Museum. Inside you will be able to contemplate a collection that shows millions of specimens and objects related to the natural world.

Opened in 1880, the Natural History Museum of London (Natural History Museum) was born with the intention of housing skeletons, plants and fossils that until then were in the British Museum. The collection grew over the following years and in 1986 absorbed the nearby Geological Museum.

More than 5 million visitors come every year to see all the exhibits, although, certainly, its main attraction are the dinosaur fossils and stuffed specimens of species that are now extinct.

At the very least, you should calculate that the visit will take you about 2 or 3 hours, although it can easily take much longer.

If you go with children, keep in mind that the room most visited by them is the dinosaur room. In one of them there is an impressive life-size reconstruction of a T-Rex with movement and sound. In addition, the entire tour is punctuated with games for the little ones to enjoy the visit.

Information and tips for the visit:

  • Audioguide: This museum does not have an audio guide.
  • Hours: Every day from 10:00 to 17:30, with the exception of December 24 to 26 when it is closed.
  • Tickets for the Natural History Museum: Free admission for the general public.
  • Address and directions: The museum is located on Cromwell Road in the Kensington district. You can get there on the District, Circle and Piccadilly subway lines, which stop at South Kensington station. By bus you can choose between lines 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414, 430 and C1
  • Take the opportunity to...visit two of the best parks in London: Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Both are separated by only one street and the former is home to a famous statue depicting Peter Pan.

Book tickets for the Natural History Museum

5. Victoria and Albert Museum

Visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum in London| ©Diliff
Visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum in London| ©Diliff

The Victoria and Albert Museum, better known by the acronym, **V&**A, is perfect for all lovers of design and art. Its permanent collection houses almost 2.5 million objects created by humans over the last 5,000 years.

This great sample of human creativity is represented by samples of fashion, textiles, jewelry, sculpture, architecture, furniture, ceramics, glass and books, among other subjects. Currently, the collection is divided into five categories to facilitate the visit: Asia, Europe, materials and techniques, modern objects and exhibitions.

The large size of this museum makes it impossible to see it in one day. For that reason, I advise you to get a floor plan and focus on the parts that are most interesting to you.

Information and tips for the visit:

  • Audioguide: This museum does not have an audio guide.
  • Hours: The museum is open daily (with the exception of December 24, 25 and 26) between 10:00 and 17:45. On Fridays the opening hours are extended until 22:00.
  • Tickets: like other major museums in the city, the V&A is free, although some exhibitions are fee-paying.
  • Address and directions: it is located in Cromwell Road, in the neighborhood of Kensington. The Circle Line, District Line or Piccadilly Line subway lines to South Kensington are the easiest way to get there.
  • Take the opportunity to...stroll through Kensington to discover the secrets that, like all the neighborhoods of London, are hidden in its streets.

6. Tate Britain

Exterior of Tate Britain| ©Ewan Munro
Exterior of Tate Britain| ©Ewan Munro

Although less known than other London museums, art lovers should not miss a visit to the Tate Britain. This gallery houses the largest collection of British art and is part of Britain's Tate network.

Founded in 1897, its rooms contain examples of over 500 years of British art. The collection is divided into three sections:

  • Historical art: works from the period from 1500 to 1900 can be seen. Among the best known works are those of William Blake.
  • Modern British Art: this section houses works made between 1900 and 1960, highlighting those of Henry Moore and Stanley Spencer.
  • Contemporary British Art: you can see works made from 1960. Some of the artists represented are Francis Bacon, Peter Blake and Damien Hirst.

Information and tips for the visit:

  • Audio guide: the museum offers a paid audio guide to enhance the visit.
  • Hours: every day from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (with the exception of December 24, 25 and 26)
  • Tickets: although some exhibitions are paid, general admission is free.
  • Address and directions: it is located in Millbank, Westminster SW1P. The most pleasant way to get there is with the Tate Boat, a boat that takes you from the Tate Modern to the Tate Britain and leaves every 40 minutes. Alternatively, you can also go by subway to Pimlico, Vauxhall (Victoria line) or Westminster (Jubilee, District and Circle lines).
  • Take the opportunity to... visit Westminster Abbey, about 10 minutes from the museum.

7. Imperial War Museum

Impressive Imperial War Museum| ©commons
Impressive Imperial War Museum| ©commons

Despite not being a typical museum dedicated to art, the Imperial War Museum is one of the most impressive visits that can be made in London for history buffs. Its building houses some 800,000 objects related to the history of modern warfare.

This military museum opened its doors in 1920, after the end of the First World War. After being located in two different sites, in 1936 it moved to its current location in the Southwark district.

Despite its military character, the museum is focused on showing the ravages of war among the population. Its entire collection impresses visitors, right from the entrance door, to which two cannons point.

Inside you can see more than 15,000 paintings, posters and drawings, some 30,000 sculptures and a large number of uniforms, medals and even a warship and a fighter plane.

Other sections of the museum are dedicated to the Holocaust and the Gulf War. Likewise, there is also a flight simulator of the Jericho Operation of the Second World War.

Information and tips for the visit:

  • Audio guide: the museum offers a paid audio guide to enhance the visit.
  • Hours: daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (last admission 5:30 pm). Closed from December 24 to 26.
  • Tickets: although some exhibitions are paid, general admission is free.
  • Address and directions: the Imperial War Museum is located on Lambeth Road, the same name as the nearest tube stop. Waterloo and Southwark stops are also quite close.
  • Take the opportunity to...although you have to walk a little, you can take the day of the visit to the museum to go up to the London Eye, the London Ferris wheel-viewer. This area is also great if you are looking for places to eat near the London Eye.

8. Tate Modern

The famous Tate Modern| ©Christine Matthews
The famous Tate Modern| ©Christine Matthews

If you are in London and you are one of those who prefer modern art you are in luck. The *Tate Modern is a total must-see since it opened in 2000. Not only does it contain an impressive collection, but the building itself (the former Bankside power station) is worth a visit.

Its permanent collection is considered one of the most complete in the world in this type of art. Among the works are some of the most important artists of the last century, from Andy Warhol to Edvard Munch, through Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

Joaquin's Traveller Tip

do not leave the museum without going up to the tenth floor, where there is an observation deck. The views of London from there are really impressive.

Information and tips for the visit:

  • Audio guide: you can rent a paid audio guide, although if you have the London Pass is free
  • Hours: Sunday to Thursday is open from 10:00 to 18:00. Fridays and Saturdays, meanwhile, the closing is delayed until 22:00.
  • Tickets: although some exhibitions are paid, general admission is free.
  • Address and directions: it is located in Bankside, very close to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The nearest subway stop is Southwark (Jubilee Line). Finally, you can go on the Tate Boat, a boat that connects this museum with the Tate Britain every 40 minutes.
  • Take the opportunity is worth visiting the aforementioned Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and climb to the viewpoint The Shard, one of the tallest skyscrapers in Europe.

9. Sir John Sonae's Museum

Entrance to Sir John Sonae's Museum| ©Tony Hisgett
Entrance to Sir John Sonae's Museum| ©Tony Hisgett

Like all cities, there are secret corners in London that few tourists know about. One of them could well be this museum, located in the house of Sir John Soane, an architect of the nineteenth century. Its interior is a real time capsule where you can find the legacy of one of the most important collectors of his time.

Soane accumulated during his life a large number of antiques of all kinds, paintings by authors such as Turner or Canaletto, furniture and sculptures.

One of the rooms that should not be skipped is the one that houses an impressive burial chamber with the alabaster sarcophagus of the Egyptian pharaoh Seti I

Information and tips for the visit:

  • Audio guide: the Bloomberg Connects app offers a multimedia tour with which you will have information about what you are seeing.
  • Hours:Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed on Sundays, Mondays and holidays.
  • Tickets: Admission is free.
  • Address and directions: the museum is located at 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields. You can get there on the Central and Piccadilly Underground lines. The nearest stop is Holborn
  • ...Take the opportunity to walk around the Lincoln Inn area and see the buildings and the park in that area. There is also the "Cittie of York" pub, considered one of the most historic pubs in the city.

10. Sherlock Holmes Museum

Visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum| ©Anders Thirsgaard
Visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum| ©Anders Thirsgaard

According to the experts, the books of Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, are the most taken to the cinema in history. It is not surprising that there is no one who does not know the character and that his followers are counted by millions. If you are one of these, you can not miss a visit to the museum dedicated to the famous detective.

If you have read some of his stories you will not be surprised to know that the museum is located at 221B Baker Street, where Conan Doyle located the home of Sherlock Holmes between 1881 and 1904.

In each of its rooms you will be able to immerse yourself in the spirit of the character and get a good idea of his life and the stories he starred.

At the door of this Georgian style house you will be greeted by a London Bobby dressed in his traditional uniform. All the guides present in each room are also dressed in costumes of the period in which the books are set.

In addition to objects related to the cases solved by the detective, the house also offers a good display of furniture and other items typical of the Victorian era.

Information and tips for the visit:

  • Audio guide: there is no audio guide, but a small guide written in several languages is provided at the entrance.
  • Hours: Every day from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm.
  • Tickets: adults must pay around 15 pounds, while the price for minors is around 10 pounds.
  • Address and how to get there: as I said, the museum is located at 221B Baker Street. To get there, the best option is the Bakerloo, Circle, Jubilee, Metropolitan or Hammersmith & City subway lines, stopping at Baker Street itself. Also, Baker Street is part of the route of a tourist bus in London
  • Take the opportunity to... visit the Madame Tussauds wax museum or take a stroll through Regent's Park, one of the royal parks of London.

Other visits that may interest you

Although it is not a museum as such, there is another art center that you can visit and that is really interesting for a cultural getaway to London. I'm talking about the Old Royal Naval College in London, an architectural complex considered a World Heritage Site located on the banks of the Thames in Greenwich.

It is a complex of two buildings with more than 500 years of history that has two large domes, the work of the masters Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawkswoor. Inside, it houses the Painted Hall, a real artistic gem and one of the most visited places by art lovers.

You can book tickets for the Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College to discover what has been considered the "Sistine Chapel of London". With the audio guide provided with your reservation you will learn about the history of this essential place of the British capital.