London is one of the world capitals when it comes to art and culture. It’s home to some of the most famous art pieces in the world. And it regularly hosts some amazing exhibitions. There are so many fantastic cultural institutions you can visit there. To make your choice a bit easier, I compiled this list of the best museums in London you should visit during your next trip to that great city.
The best museums in London
To be sure to include only the best museums in London on this list, I asked some of my fellow travel bloggers to help me out. And here are the places we’ve chosen for you.
TIP: A fantastic thing is, most of the best museums in London are free of charge. Combine that with the famous London rain, and you should definitely put some of them on your London bucket list. However, often you’ll need to buy a ticket for some temporary exhibitions.
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Address: Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG / Online ticket: Free of charge
If you can visit only one museum in all your travels, make it the British Museum. It’s one of the highlights of the city, and a true testament of London’s multiculturalism. Founded in 1753, it’s the first national public museum in the world.
You’ll get to see pieces of every great civilisation throughout history in one building. Of course, the responsible for this wonderful collection is the imperialism. And nowadays the museum is facing several lawsuits from countries around the world trying to get their treasures back.
Beyond the political angle, a visit will allow you to walk from Egyptian mummies to a Caryatid from the Acropolis. And from Assyrian stone sculptures, Easter Island Moai, Aztec double-headed serpent to the Rosetta stone.
You can spend so much time there, but half a day should be enough to see the highlights. The museum has free entrance, so you can go back if you find some extra time!
Coni from Experiencing the Globe
TIP: Museum is huge, so my recommendation is to visit it with a guided tour. Here is a British Museum guided tour I recommend!
⤷ Read about some of the best art exhibitions in Europe 2020 here!
Address: 183 Euston Rd, London NW1 2BE / Online ticket: Free of charge
The Wellcome Collection is one of the best museums in London for those looking for an educational day out. And the best part is, it’s free!
It is the collection of Henry Wellcome, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur. During his life, Wellcome was an avid collector of medical artefacts and books, which now make up the bulk of the museum.
It has several galleries, a cafe and a library (the Reading Room), which is open to the public. There are two permanent collections: the Medicine Man and the Medicine Now. The Medicine Man showcases Wellcome’s extensive collection and gives the visitor insight into his life. While the Medicine Now uses mixed media to educate on modern medicine.
Additionally, some temporary exhibitions and installations are regularly changed. These always deal with some aspect of medicine. Past exhibits have included Aryuvedic medicine, the science of memory and body snatchers.
The Wellcome Museum is one of the most unusual places to visit in London. And an exciting place for both adults and kids to learn more about how our bodies work.
Dagney from Cultura Obscura
London Transport Museum
Address: Covent Garden, London WC2E 7BB / Online ticket: Click here for the ticket!
You’ll probably arrive at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden by London transport, either a bus or an underground train.
However, the museum will take you back to the origins of transport in London, from horse-drawn carriages to underground trains, all the way to the future of London transport.
The museum has its origins in the early 20th century when the London Omnibus Company preserved some of its retired buses. It moved to its current location in 1980 and now has a remit to cover all the various forms of transport in London.
Some of the interesting exhibits include one of the earliest underground carriages which were built without windows as it was believed passengers wouldn’t need to see out as they travelled in a tunnel. One of the steam locomotives that hauled the earliest underground trains is also on display. And it makes you wonder just how dirty the original system would have been with the trains belching smoke underground.
Also, on display are buses from beautifully painted Victorian horse-drawn carriages to early trams a trolleybus, and of course the iconic London Routemaster.
An animated map showing the changes in the network from its inception to recent times shows the massive growth of the system across London. It also showcases Harry Beck’s famous map design which has been adopted by transit networks around the world.
Lee and Stacey from One Trip at a Time
⤷ Read more: 15 best museums in Europe you should visit
National Maritime Museum at Greenwich
Address: Park Row, Greenwich Peninsula, London SE10 9NF / Online ticket: Free of charge
Whether or not you have an interest in maritime history, the Greenwich Maritime Museum, opened by King George VI back in 1937, is a brilliant way to learn more about Britain’s murky past.
The National Maritime Museum is part of the Royal Museums Greenwich, which also includes the Cutty Sark, the Queen’s House and the Royal Observatory. The Maritime Museum holds some fascinating exhibits including the very uniform which Nelson was wearing when he was fatally wounded during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
If you’re visiting the National Maritime Museum with kids, you’re in for a treat. There are two interactive gallery areas for children where they can learn about semaphore, dress up, work in a dockyard and much more. There’s also a giant map of the world in the centre of the museum which children enjoy playing on.
There are some brilliant guided tours of the museum where actors playing the part of a sailor from history take visitors on an engaging trip through naval history.
The National Maritime Museum is free to enter while the other Greenwich museums carry a charge.
Annabel Kirk from Smudged Postcards
Tower of London
Address: St Katharine’s & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB / Online ticket: Click here for the ticket!
The Tower of London is much more than a museum, having had a place in British history for over 1000 years. During its fascinating past, the Tower has been an armoury, a prison, a royal mint, a palace and even had a zoo. Three of Henry VIII wives were executed there, including Anne Boleyn, whose ghost allegedly still haunts the Tower.
Guy Fawkes and Sir Walter Raleigh were held prisoner within the Tower’s walls. And the young Princes in the Tower are alleged to have met their deaths here, at the hands of Richard III.
The Tower was London’s stronghold and still remains so today, keeping safe the nation’s treasures in the form of the stunning collection of Crown Jewels.
Today the Tower and its large buildings remain one of the best museums in London. Exhibitions tell the history of the Tower, London and Britain itself. Yeoman warders, commonly known as Beefeaters, still live at the Tower and give tours to visitors. The famous ravens patrol the grounds and legend has it that if they fly away, the Tower will fall.
For a trip through some of the most famous events in British history, with the added sparkle of the crown jewels, the Tower of London is not to be missed.
Josie from Where Jo Goes
⤷ Read more about the Tower of London here
The Cinema Museum
Address: 2 Dugard Way, Prince’s, London SE11 4TH / Online ticket: Click here for the ticket!
Do you love movies and are visiting London? If so, spend a few hours at the Cinema Museum, a love letter to cinema-going, and one of the best museums in London, with a fascinating history.
Established in 1986, the museum is housed in a Grade 2 listed building, dating from 1871. This was formerly the administration block of the Lambeth Workhouse.
Workhouses, which flourished in the early 1800s were home to the neediest in society, who had to work hard to live in squalor. The Lambeth Workhouse had one illustrious resident, Charlie Chaplin, who spent his formative years there.
Fittingly, the Cinema Museum has an impressive range of Chaplin memorabilia. There is also vintage equipment on display, fixtures and fittings, including the illuminated Art Deco signs. Banks of burgundy velour flip-seats and a fabulous collection of fan magazines, lobby cards and film posters could be sen there, too.
A visit is by two-hour guided tour only and costs £10 for adults. Check the museum’s website for dates.
Bridget from The Flashpacker
London Postal Museum
Address: 15-20 Phoenix Pl, London WC1X 0DA / Online ticket: Click here for the ticket!
The London Postal Museum may not seem appealing at first, but it is a fascinating look into London’s history. From the Great Train Robbery to the first letters carried by the Royal Mail this museum is brilliant for both kids and adults.
The Postal Museum is divided into two sections. There is Mail Rail which consists of the legendary driverless tube trains. They used to carry the mail under London between Paddington and Whitechapel, which closed in 2003. Across the road is the Museum which takes you through from the first mail sent in England to the present day.
The Mail Rail ride takes around 20 minutes, and the tunnel walls themselves are used to project video onto with a detailed narration about how the rail was used. You get to see the old tunnels and the way stations were the original mail cars still lie abandoned. There are sandbags in certain places if the Thames River floods and other interesting sites and trivia about the Royal Mail.
There are some terrific interactive displays to try out. From designing your own stamps to playing with the pneumatic tubes and even trying on antique postal uniforms.
It’s fascinating to see the Great Train Robbery. But, also some interesting memorabilia around the Blitz in London, and how the mail still got through.
You can also try your hand at deciphering Morse Code and learn exciting facts like why England is the only country in the world that doesn’t need to list its country on a stamp.
The London Postal Museum is absolutely one of the best museums in London. And it makes for a perfect rainy day out in London for both adults and kids.
Faith from XYU and Beyond
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Victoria & Albert Museum
Address: Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL / Online ticket: Free of charge
V&A is one of the best museums in London, and one of the world’s leading museum of art and design. It’s home to some 4.5 million exhibits from over five centuries of civilisation.
Set up by Prince Albert following the Great Exhibition, it moved to its current site in 1857. It was renamed after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1899. The Queen herself laid the foundation stone. The architecture of the building, as well as the exhibits, were designed to inspire and educate.
Travel through time, from the oldest carpet in the world to the Victorian casting room, where the wonders of the ancient world were “cast” for all to see. Then enter the modern world at the cutting edge Mary Quant exhibition.
For those with a theatrical bent, head for the stage area, where you can see the original puppet from War Horse and exuberant pantomime costumes from yesteryear. They are standing alongside outfits worn by Bowie and Elton John.
Don’t miss the fabulous café, this being the first museum in the world to recognise that clientele might want to stop for a cup of tea. All three rooms are incredible, from the olive William Morris plasterwork to the crystal chandelier hung central atrium.
Helen from Holidays from Hels
Address: Bankside, London SE1 9TG / Online ticket: Free of charge
Tate Modern is, without a doubt, one of the best museums in London. It hosts an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, both from British and international artists, from the 1900s to the present day.
Besides its own collection, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions which highlight the art of both classic artists and newcomers, from different creative fields such as paintings, sculptures, visuals, modern art, fashion, video, film, even live performances.
The permanent exhibitions include works of famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali or Joseph Beuys.
Tate Modern is free to visit (donations are welcomed and encouraged). Still, for some of the temporary exhibitions, you will need to pay a fee.
The home of Tate Modern is a work of art as well, with spaces for artists to express their creativity in a raw, industrial area. The newly built Blavatnik Building also features a top-floor terrace from where you can admire some of the best panoramic views of London.
Tate Modern is part of the Tate Group which also has under its umbrella Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives, and it was opened in May 2000.
Joanna from The World in my Pocket
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Winston Churchill’s War Rooms
Address: Clive Steps, King Charles St, London SW1A 2AQ / Online ticket: Click here for the ticket!
One of the coolest London museums is Winston Churchill’s War Rooms. Beneath the streets of London lies the World War II-era bunker of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It’s a fascinating look into the British government’s war effort and the life of the man who helped lead Britain to victory.
The maze of corridors, offices and living spaces are remade to show you just what life was like for the officials, generals, staff and family members living beneath the city during the war. Besides the fascinating recreation of history, there are interesting and informative exhibits in a separate war museum.
A section is also devoted to the life of Winston Churchill, that of his family and the mark he left on the United Kingdom and the world. His legacy is genuinely as fascinating as the glimpse into the war efforts.
The most exciting thing to discover is that the location remained hidden entirely to the Germans during the war. It’s massive, yet no one knew it was there, and that’s a good thing because it wasn’t even fortified. If it weren’t for some luck, a single bomb could have massively altered the history of Britain and the world.
Derek and Mike from Robe Trotting
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Tower Bridge Exhibition
Address: Tower Bridge Rd, London SE1 2UP / Online ticket: Click here for the ticket!
You may have seen the famous blue and grey Tower Bridge in the recent Sherlock Holmes movies. But did you know that the bridge has a museum inside? It’s called the Tower Bridge Exhibition and was founded in 1982.
From the Tower Bridge Exhibition, there are amazing bird’s eye views of London and the Thames River. But aside from the city, you can also learn about how the bridge was built and how it works.
The Tower Bridge Exhibition is educational, and you’ll learn a ton about how the hydraulic system raises its bascules to allow boat traffic to flow through on the Thames.
The exhibition area also offers a glass walkway where you can test your fear of heights! You’ll be walking on top of the cars underneath, so it’s definitely not for the acrophobic.
Tower Bridge is not just a bridge, it is also a museum and that, in and of itself makes it one of the best museums in London.
Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear
With so many amazing places to visit, it’s hard to make a list of the best museums in London. Here are just some of our favourites, although this list could grow much longer. However, if you’re going to visit this fantastic city, be sure to pay a visit to some of its excellent museums.
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