My Favorite Museums in London

Posted on 05. Oct, 2011 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, United Kingdom

National Museum

Back in the days when I lived in London, I had two dilemmas: a lot of free time (as I didn’t have a full-time job), but no funds to fill my schedule. I never was a museum person, but quickly I came to the realization that I didn’t have much of a choice if I wanted to spend my days doing something more constructive than watching Friends reruns on the telly (no offense, Ross, but you’re not exactly helping my UK experience). That’s when I decided to hop on the bus and visit some of the best London museums. Not only did I get to spend a good amount of time actually learning something, whether about arts or history, but I also didn’t spend a single penny - most museums in London are free of charge (although a contribution is always more than welcome).

Here’s a rundown of my personal favorites!

Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum

Always a history buff, the Imperial War Museum is actually the first one I visited when I was in London. Slightly outside the tourist zone but definitely worth the detour, the permanent Holocaust exhibition moved me beyond my expectations and was a good introduction to my later visit to Auschwitz. I also enjoyed the Royal Air Force plane exhibition in the entrance hall and the giant 15 inch guns outside.

Tate Modern

The location already says a lot about the kind of place the Tate Modern is. Housed in a former power station, it has been transformed into a world class modern art museum and hosts thousands of pieces,  from the weird to the wonderful, from Picasso to Warhol to Matisse. To enjoy the building even more, you should head to the 7th floor and enjoy an afternoon tea at the Tate Restaurant, and admire the views on the Millenium Bridge and St.Paul’s Cathedral.

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

I admit that I only visited this museum because I didn’t know what else to do. I was only interested in the most famous Shakespeare portrait and the moving Victoria & Albert statue - but boy, was I out of line! I ended up spending more than three hours admiring the different galleries. Even though most people skip it, I actually think it is one of the best London museums, if the one. It harmoniously mixes art and history in a fun way, and allows visitor to enjoy some of the world’s most exclusive paintings and photographs in a well-organised and informative visit.

London Transport Museum

I really have a soft spot for this London museum. Not only is it very informative, but it also has a very whimsical and dynamic feeling to it. And while it is not free of charge, the £13.50 ticket is valid for a full year - which means you can enjoy the museum as many times as you want! If however you do not plan on doing so, you can always stick to the acclaimed gift shop and browse the large collection of vintage London posters, as well as the odd roundel memorabilia or funky furniture.

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

Located near the beautiful Hyde Park, the Natural History Museum will please not just small biology buffs but also curious adults. It holds a variety of exhibitions, like “The Power Within” (earthquake simulation included!), a meeting with a T-Rex and a blue whale, and an exposition of our Earth’s rare treasures. The hardcore fans will also want to visit the renowned Darwin Center and its live specimens and interactive activities.

What are your best London museums? Do you have a list of museums you want to visit or have been strongly recommended?

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11 Responses to “My Favorite Museums in London”

  1. Katherina

    06. Oct, 2011

    So far - the Tate is my favorite! It’s the museum itself… but also the area in which it´s located. Although the Natural History Museum is also incredible… and really exciting!
    I want to check out some more of them during rainy days - thanks for the tips!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      07. Oct, 2011

      Glad you are enjoying the London museum scene :-) The next ones on my list is Britain at War and Saatchi, both of which I haven’t visited before.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Audrey

    12. Oct, 2011

    The Tate Modern is my favourite! Though I must admit, I didn’t like it the first time around - it was unlike any gallery I’d ever been to… But now I make sure to go in for a quick visit whenever I’m in London :D

    Reply to this comment
  3. Kathy

    01. Nov, 2011

    London has so many wonderful museums, admittedly not all free. I planned to spend a whole day in the Museum of London and ended up only seeing half of it. I also love the Transport Museum and Tate Modern and Portrait Gallery, but one of my favourites to date is the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury.

    Still on my list is the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton, the Soane, and the Kirkaldy Testing Museum in Southwark. And the Pollocks Toy Museum in Fitzrovia and the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green…

    Reply to this comment
  4. Lesley Peterson

    09. Dec, 2011

    Why does no one mention the Tate Collection in Millbank? http://www.tate.org.uk/collection/ Far more important than Tate Modern and more pleasurable than the National Gallery, IMHO, showcasing British art from the 1500s onwards. Huge collection of atmospheric Turners, romantic Preraphaelites (Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott, 1888), John Singer Sargent’s Carnation Lily Lily Rose (1885-86)…
    If you want to wallow in sheer gorgeosity, the Tate Collection is the place to do it.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Sophie

    09. Dec, 2011

    My 10-y-o adores the Natural History Museum. Have to plan one extra day whenever we’re in London just because of that :)

    Reply to this comment
  6. Nadia | Gap Daemon

    26. Jan, 2012

    I love the Tate Britain - a bit off the beaten track, but a beautiful building and a lovely, laid-back vibe.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      31. Jan, 2012

      I,ve never been to the Tate Britain, but I’ve heard great things about it!

      Reply to this comment
  7. Jenna

    09. Jun, 2012

    So many great museums in London! I once spent a month there with the goal of spending as much time in the museums as possible. The National Gallery, V&A and Natural History museums were my favorites.

    Reply to this comment

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