London is a treasure trove of museums, and is able to boast some of the most extensive and famous collections in the world. The best museums in London are often wildly busy, and having a game plan for what you want to see and when will help you make sure you make the most of your time in London.
Best Museums in London
The British Museum is world renowned, and contains some of the most famous collections in the world. No trip to London is complete without a stop here. History at the museum covers British and European history as well as Ancient Greece and Rome, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas. Originally founded on the collection of Hans Sloane, a physician who collected objects and specimens from around the world, the museum has expanded on this mission creating a library of the human experience. While the natural history and archival material has been moved to the Natural History Museum and the British Library, the collection is truly encyclopedic, with objects and archives that document everyday life, ceremonial pieces, and art and monuments.
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum is by far one of the best museums in London as well as one of the most famous. A museum of art and design, the museum covers thousands of years of history and boasts collections from cultures all over the world. For more than a decade the museum has been involved in a renovation program and has constantly been updating its galleries and featuring new exhibits for visitors to enjoy. The museum gets its name from the famous monarch and her husband, who put together The Great Exhibition of 1851. The results of which formed the basis of this famous collection. The museum doesn’t just exhibit art and design, it delves into the history of the cultures and people who created it, exploring the tastemakers of the time and how style evolved.
Natural History Museum
From blue whale skeletons and giant squids to tiny bugs, the Natural History Museum has you covered. The museum covers all the usual natural history favorites like geology and dinosaurs, and is a huge hit with kids. The museum is divided up into different sections so visitors can find their topics of interest. The museum also has a host of special events and programs for visitors to get hands on with natural history.
Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum was founded during WWI as a way to commemorate the War to End All Wars. When it became obvious that WWI would not be the last, the museum’s mission expanded to collection the history and experiences of those involved in war. The Imperial War Museum has sites all over the country, but its HQ is at the IWM London. The exhibits document war through objects, documents, photographs, film and audio recordings. If you can’t get enough history at the main museum, the HMS Belfast and the Churchill War Rooms are also outposts of the museum in London.
If you ever wanted a chance to explore how you feel about modern art, the Tate Modern is the place to try it. The museum divides its collections up into themed areas that cover different aspects of the art, artists and their tools of trade. The museum also hosts a number of temporary exhibits, many of which sell out quickly. Make sure to get tickets in advance or get there early (bonus: the advance tickets tend to be cheaper, too!)
Museum of London
The Museum of London traces the fascinating history of the city from the prehistoric through today. The museum includes exhibits on the paleolithic past, the Great Fire, the plague and the two World Wars. There are also newer galleries that feature a more contemporary London including fashion from the 60s and exhibits about London artists. If Londonphile – make sure you check this one out.
The National Gallery contains artwork from the late medieval period through the French Impressionists, with special exhibits injecting fresh perspective and artwork into the mix. The building is massive and a work of art in its own right. The Gallery features some of the most famous painters of all time including Vermeer, Holbein and van Gogh. If you’re an art lover, it should definitely be on your list.
National Maritime Museum (Royal Museums Greenwich)
The British Empire was famous for it’s naval superiority and other maritime achievements. The National Maritime Museum celebrates and looks back on the long history of the country on the high seas. The museum is also situated at the UNESCO World Heritage Maritime Greenwich Site. You can find objects surrounding the British legend, Lord Nelson as well as lots of history about British history on the high seas.