10 Best Museums in London

If museums and culture are your jam, you’re in luck. With over 170 museums in London, there’s something in this vibrant city for everybody The best part? The majority of London museums are free.

If you’re staying in London for 2 days or more, you should definitely visit at least one of these best museums. It was difficult to choose my 10 favorite museums in London, which I think are the 10 best, but here goes (full disclosure, I haven’t visited all 170!)

I absolutely love the British Museum. Like many museums in London, the entranceway is extremely grand, and you know you’re in for a treat when you are immediately greeted by The Lion of Knido. The outside of the building is typical collonade architecture, but the interior lobby is a fusion of marble and modern glass and steel.

British museum entrance and lobby

The museum is filled with objects and artifacts the Brits collected (the polite English term for “pillaged”) from around the world. Both the Rosetta Stone and Parthenon Marbles are controversial exhibits at the museum.

Like many objects in the British Museum, they were removed from their place of origin during the expansion of the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Multiple requests by the Greek government to the British government to return the Parthenon sculptures to Athens have been refused. Discussions continue between the two governments.

2. Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London is the world’s largest museum of sculpture and decorative arts and design. The museum is massive and has so many huge rooms and exhibition spaces. The collection is also huge and quite diverse.

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It’s located in the super hip area of South Kensington, sitting majestically on Cromwell Road across from its sister, the Natural History Museum. The V&A is beautiful and you could spend days absorbing the different cultures and the beautiful items displayed.

3. British Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum in London is simply magnificent! The building itself is an architectural masterpiece, and it’s worth arriving early to completely soak up the amazing masonry on the exterior. Is it the best museum? Some of the exhibits are timeless, but some are now a bit dated. The whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling will never get old.

National History Museum, London

The closest tube station is South Kensington and it’s a very short walk to the museum. I remember seeing the dinosaurs in particular as a child, and I still felt the same awe and excitement as we entered seeing the massive hump-backed whale hanging from the ceiling.

National History Museum in London - a whale of a time

There are a multitude of fantastic exhibits and you could spend a week here and still not see everything!

4. Science Museum

The Science Museum is must-see for families as part of any trip to London. The museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, and is filled with iconic objects, beautiful galleries, and hands-on workshops. Like most of the museums in London, you need a couple of days to fully explore everything this museum has to offer.

The Science museum London

5. The Museum of London

There’s no mistaking what this museum is about. It’s in London and about the best of London, and some of the worst of London.

The Museum of London documents London’s history from prehistoric to modern times, and is located in the City of London on the London Wall. It’s very clearly laid out from the beginnings of London to the present day, in chronological order. The highlight of the museum for me was the Victorian walkway where several shops had been brought to life. The section devoted to the Great Fire of London was also fascinating to learn how this happened, the impact it had on London, and how it shaped the London we know today.

6. Tate Modern 

Tate Modern is Britain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art, and is the world’s most visited contemporary art gallery. Many of the exhibits are shown for limited times, so depending on when you visit, you could experience the best of the best modern art in the world.

View of the Thames from the Tate Modern museum london

It stands in a beautiful area on Bankside facing St. Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London. It has become a London landmark, not just for the beautiful art it houses, but also for the architecture of the building itself. The location, building, and stunning exhibitions make it a truly wonderful experience.

tate modern museum

7. National Gallery London

The National Gallery holds one of the most important collections of paintings in the whole world. There’s also a separate Portrait Gallery with an impressive collection of, well, portraits.

national gallery, london

The Gallery was built in 1824 in the heart of London, and is an architectural masterpiece in itself. The Gallery’s collection spans centuries and many artistic styles, and there are over 3,200 pieces on display. The National Gallery is home to some very famous paintings from some very famous artists including; Leonardo da Vinci’s, ‘Virgin of the Rocks’, Van Gogh’s, ‘Sunflowers’, Seurat’s, ‘Bather at Asnieres’, and Monet’s, ‘The Water Lily Pond’, to name just a few.

Van Gogh in the National Gallery, London: Wheatfield, with Cypresses
Van Gogh – ‘Wheatfield, with Cypresses’

I’d suggest spending visiting over 2 days to truly explore this Gallery – you can really get lost in here. This is Julian’s favorite museum, so even though you might think the kids will be bored, they might appreciate the diversity and incredible paintings in this museum.

8. Imperial War Museum 

The Imperial War Museum was founded during the First World War to give a voice to the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people, forced to live in a world torn apart by conflict.

imperial war museum in London

The museum offers a fascinating view of the background, causes, and consequences of the two world wars. The museum also covers the Falklands War, Iraq Wars, Bosnian War and other post-war conflicts. The social impact of the conflicts are well documented with a  considerable level of objectivity.

We were fortunate to see the exhibition ‘Refugees: Forced to Flee’, exploring 100 years of refugee experiences. It was extremely emotional and hard to imagine the pain these people had endured. This exhibit clearly demonstrates how conflict creates chaos and war turns ordinary people’s worlds upside down.

9. Cutty Sark Museum in Greenwich, London

The Cutty Sark is the world’s oldest surviving tea clipper ship, and is moored in the borough of Greenwich and is a focal point by the Greenwich Pier.

cutty sark clipper ship musuem in greenwich

The small interior is well laid out with lots of information and interactive exhibits on each deck. The tour around the Cutty Sark is informative, interactive and interesting. The Cutty Sark is an impressive museum and captivating for people of all ages.

10. Royal Observatory Greenwich

Greenwich is known for its maritime and scientific history and boasts some of the most impressive views of London. The Royal Observatory is where the historic Prime Meridian Line is located. The Prime Meridian Line is where east meets west at Longitude 0° and literally everywhere else on the planet is measured from this very line.

royal observatory the borough of greenwich, london

The Royal Observatory also serves as the exact point of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), meaning all time is either officially set ahead or behind this line. The Royal Observatory highlights three areas: Astronomy, Time, and Navigation, explaining how they interconnect. We learned how important the accurate measurement of time is on both land and sea.

The Meridian runs right through the Greenwich Observatory

The 10 best museums in all the museums in London definitely isn’t an easy list to distill. We were lucky enough to be in London during the coronavirus pandemic, and most museums restricted occupancy to 1/2 or 1/3 of normal. A huge bonus for us – there’s nothing like having an entire section or gallery to yourself.

For all museums: check the venue opening times and make an online booking before you visit. You’ll enjoy faster entry when you have a reservation.

What do you think is the best museum in London?

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About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hot Hubby | 18th Nov 20

    My fave was the National Gallery! The Tate was really awesome as well.

    • Samantha | 24th Nov 20

      I loved the Imperial War Museum! xx

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