The 7 best museums in London: the essential guide (2021)

The 7 best museums in London: essential guide (2021)

London has one of the most impressive museum offerings in the world: from paintings to archaeological remains, sculptures, and impressive contemporary art exhibitions. The main attraction of the London cultural offer is that its possibilities are endless and with our 7 museums in London you will find out very quickly.

The London museums are divided by subject , so we can not consider any of them as a global museum. The National Gallery is, in essence, an art gallery (it only has paintings), the British Museum focuses on archaeological remains brought from British excavations mainly in former colonies, the Tate Modern houses the best contemporary offer in the city and the Museum of Victoria and Alberto everything related to sculptures and decorative arts.

The truth is that trying to visit all the cultural and museum offerings of London in a single visit to the United Kingdom seems overwhelming and at the same time impossible. Of all those that we propose, three stand out for us above the rest: the National Gallery, the British Museum, and the Tate Modern.

In any case, we recommend that you read the London museum guide in its entirety and see which one or which ones interest you the most, taking into account that most of them are free.

The 7 best museums in London

The truth is that I am not very objective because personally I really like paintings, but the National Gallery, both for its collection, large but too much, and for its location, in the heart of Trafalgar Square , is an essential visit.

best museums in london
The National Gallery

As I was saying, more than a museum, the National Gallery can be spoken of as an art gallery. His paintings cover a period of about 700 years and his works include painters such as Jan van Eyck, Bellini, Da Vinci, El Greco, Goya, Monet and Van Gogh. It is not too big so you can spend a couple of hours walking through it, which I am sure you will love.

The entrance is completely free and is open from 11:00 to 16:00 (Fridays until 21:00).

2. The British Museum

The second in contention, and known worldwide for its collection of Egyptian objects, is the British Museum . Located north of Covent Garden, it is the most visited museum in the United Kingdom, the third in Europe and the fifth in the world (second only to the Louvre, the Met, the Vatican Museums and the National Museum of China).

The current building on which the British Museum stands dates from the mid-19th century. Over the years, the surface of the museum has been increased, adapting it to the size that it was reaching. The Great Court, opened in 2000 and designed by Norman Foster, is one of the most important addictions.

london museums
The British Museum

The size of the museum is significant : more than 8 million objects and about 75,000 square meters of exhibits. The most important elements in its collection come from excavations carried out by the British in the 19th and 20th centuries in Greece, Egypt, Iraq or Syria (which has always been a source of dispute and criticism).

As we included in our article on the best things to do in London in 3 days, we recommend some essential works from the British Museum :

  • The Rosseta Stone
  • The Parthenon Frieze
  • The stone list of Egyptian rulers
  • The reliefs of the Palace of Nineveh
  • The moai Hoa Hakananai

The best thing about the British Museum is that it is free and is open every day from 10:00 to 17:30.

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3. The Tate Modern

Crossing the Millenium Brigde , the famous Norman Foster bridge, it is already becoming quite clear that one is advancing towards one of the temples of modernism in the city. The Tate Modern is the most important contemporary art museum in the city and the second most visited in all of London.

It is located on the old Bankside Power Station , which after an intense renovation was given its current appearance, which on the other hand, I personally find it quite ugly. Its permanent collection houses paintings since 1900 including works by Picasso, Dalí, Warhol or Bacon.

london museums
The Tate Modern and the Millennium Brigde

It is open from Sunday to Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Friday and Saturday until 10:00 p.m.) and entry to the permanent collection is free .

4. The Museum of Natural History

I would be lying if I told you that the Natural History Museums are my favorites, but I would also be lying if I didn’t tell you that the London museum is one of the best of its kind in the world.

The Natural History Museum in London was born as a headquarters of the British Museum (from which it subsequently became independent) and is housed in a beautiful Victorian-style building in the London borough of Kensington. Regarding its museum complex, it has one of the best collections of specimens, skeletons and scientific objects in the world.

the museum of london
The Natural History Museum, London

Especially if you go with children, the Museum of Natural History is an essential visit even more knowing that admission is free . It is open from Monday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:50.

In any case, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, for us the National Gallery, the British Museum and the Tate Modern are priorities. Now, if you have already visited these three or one of them does not interest you too much, we would go to the Natural History Museum at once.

5. The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum, renamed in honor of the British Queen, is London’s greatest exponent of sculpture and graphic arts. Located in a beautiful building next to the Natural History Museum, it is a highly recommended visit.

It is not as well known as the rest, despite its size and its collection being gigantic . This houses from paintings (some of them by Dürer), sculptures (Rodin, Donatello) or ceramics to goldsmiths, engravings and photographs.

london art galleries
The Victoria and Albert Museum

Like the great museums in London, the entrance to the Victoria and Albert Museum is completely free , so visiting it will only cost you money although we personally believe that it is well invested. It is not necessary that you travel it from end to end (you can take two days) but if you visit some parts that interest you. It is open every day from 10:00 to 17:45 (on Fridays until 22:00).

6. The Sherlock Holmes Museum

Located at 221B Baker Street (although it is actually between 237 and 241) is the Sherlock Holmes Museum , dedicated to one of the world’s detectives and fictional characters. It features objects from various adaptations of the stories with a fascinating level of detail.

It is open every day from 09:30 to 18:00 and admission is priced at £ 15 (as well as a reduced rate of £ 10 for under 16s) which makes it quite an expensive museum. Unless you are a fan of Conan Doyle’s stories, we would rule out the visit, even more so given that the rest of the city’s museums are free.

7. The Tate Britain

And finally we end this article with a visit to the Tate Britain . Belonging to the same group as the Tate Modern, in this case, his work is characterized by housing paintings by British painters , among which are Francis Bacon and JMW Turner.

the best museums in london essential
The Tate Britain

It combines both historical paintings and contemporary works, making it a mix. It is not too big and is close to major city attractions such as the Palace of Westminster, so if you have the time it is a good option.

It is open every day from 10:00 to 18:00 and admission is free.

Our guide to London museums

I hope this guide to museums in London has been useful to you and that you begin to prepare your visit to the most cultural aspects of the British capital. Meanwhile, we will continue writing more about the city and answering all your questions. Until another!