It’s no surprise that a city awash in history like London should have some of the world’s greatest museums. From the somber Imperial War Museum, to the majestic British Museum, this list features 10 of London’s unparalleled museums.
A former private collection of Richard Seymour-Conway and his son Richard Wallace, the Wallace Collection is a small gallery of artwork in Manchester Square. The collection, while small, is incredibly strong in Pre-Revolutionary French art. Many of these pieces were purchased during the Revolution and give the Wallace Collection one of the largest collections of French Pre-Revolutionary decorative arts in the world.
Admission to the Wallace Collection is always free. And the collection is housed within the former townhouse of Richard Wallace. The house is opulently furnished and includes several historic rooms along with the exhibited artwork.
The Tate Britain, not to be confused with the Tate Modern, is an art museum in Westminster in London. The oldest art gallery in the Tate network of galleries, it holds a strong collection of British art, especially works of J.M.W Turner. Beginning with the year 1500, the Tate Britain contains art from up to the present day. Other than Turner, other famous works by John Constable, William Blake and James Abbot McNeill Whistler are also exhibited.
One of the largest museums in the country, the Tate Britain is housed in the Clore Gllery with classical portico and dome. The Tate Britain is also accessible from the Tate Modern, and vice versa, by high speed boat along the River Thames.
The Bank of England Museum covers and displays a collection detailing the history of the bank and English finance from 1694 to the present day. Exhibitions include the Stock Office, as well as displays on the effects that modern technology has had on banking. In the rotunda at the end of the tour, physical exhibits showcase notes, coins, documents, pictures and statues from the bank’s early years.
The museum is always free of charge and is featured within the main office of the Bank of England in the city of London.
The London Transport Museum is a quirky, fun museum devoted to the transportation heritage of the city. The museum is based in Covent Garden and covers every aspect of transportation in the city. The museum has buses, trams, trolleybuses and rail cars from the 19th and 20th centuries as well as exhibits related to the marketing and operation of the vehicles. The museum was established in 1980 and averages over 350,000 visitors a year.
The Tate Modern is a modern art counterpart to the Tate Britain. Specializing solely in modern and contemporary art, the Tate Modern has one of the largest collections in the world. In particular, the Tate Modern holds the official national collection of British Art from 1900 to the present. It also has strong collections in international contemporary art. The museum is also one of the most visited in the world, with over five million yearly visitors. The Tate Modern has a unique design with eight areas surrounding a named theme or subject. There is no admission charge for entrance to these areas.
The Tate Modern is also housed in one of the most recognizable buildings in London. Formerly used as the Bankside Power Station, the smokestack of the Tate Modern has been used in movies and features prominently in the city’s landscape.
For an interesting viewpoint into modern war and the wartime experience, take a trip to the Imperial War Museums. The main branch is located in Bethlem, at a building that was formerly the Bethlem Royal Hospital and contains archives of personal and official documents including photographs, film reels and battle used military vehicles and aircraft. Some of the exhibits include V-2 missiles and Submarine Spitfires from World War II and a Sopwith Camel aircraft from World War I. Another popular exhibit are the Churchill War Rooms, a collection of the documents that made up Cabinet War Rooms during World War II.
One of the largest and most prestigious natural history museums in the world, the Natural History Museum is a sight that can’t be missed. Housing over 80 million items within collections of botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology, the museum has one of the largest collections in the world.
Some notables include a full Diplodocus cast, a complete skeleton of a blue whale, as well as a full skeleton of a Triceratops. The museum’s ornate architecture earned it the nickname the Cathedral of Nature. And the museum’s public status means admission is always free.
Located in Trafalger Square in Westminster, the National Gallery holds over 2,300 carefully curated paintings from the 13th century to 1900. The collection is encyclopedic and contains major work from every art movement in European history. Although the collection is smaller than most European national galleries, the National Gallery remains one of the most visited art museums in the world.
Noteworthy works include J.M.W Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire, Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks. The museum has ample public transportation options due to its proximity to Piccadilly Circus and of course as a national museum, the National Gallery always has free admission.
Often abbreviated as the V&A, the Victoria and Albert Museum is the world’s largest museum of applied and decorative arts. The V&A is over 12 acres and contains 145 galleries including the world’s largest collection of post-classical sculptures. Collections include works of architecture, books, ceramics, glass, prints, clothing, furniture, metalwork, musical instruments and many more categories.
The architecture of the museum is distinct with several new additions added throughout time by different architects. The museum also has a connected garden with an elliptical water feature lined in stone with steps which can be drained for pictures and exhibition purposes.
Dedicated to human history, arts and culture, the British Museum is one of the largest and most prestigious museums in the world. The permanent collection has over eight million works and documents human history from its prehistoric beginnings to the present. Pieces as diverse as Egyptian statues and Parthenon marbles, to Rembrandt paintings, to the original Rosetta Stone can be found here.
The museum’s building is an architectural work of art with a Greek Revival façade and modernist Reading Room with a tiled glass ceiling. The museum is one of the largest in the world with miles of exhibition space and hundreds of galleries available to the public.