Must-see museums and galleries in West London
Explore art and culture in West London, home to London's 'museum quarter', Exhibition Road, a stunning royal palace and two galleries in a park.
The museums and galleries in West London need little introduction: they are among some of the most famous in the UK.
In South Kensington you'll find that three of them are actually neighbours – one of which, the mighty V&A, demonstrates how Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, was the driving force behind the cultural and creative development of this area.
Historic palaces, renowned art collections and thriving programmes of exhibitions are plentiful here – see our recommendations for your next trip west of central London.
Explore our full listings for more museums, galleries and exhibitions across London.
Champion of new ideas in contemporary art, the Serpentine presents a year-round programme of exhibitions, architecture and events across two Grade II listed galleries in Kensington Gardens. A five-minute walk apart, the South Gallery occupies a former tea pavilion, while the North Gallery is based in a former gunpowder store, with a celebrated extension by Zaha Hadid. Architecturally magnificent and with a critically-acclaimed roster of exhibitions, the Serpentine has promoted some of the most globally recognised artists of our age.
Founded by designer Terence Conran and voted European Museum of the Year 2018, the Design Museum is dedicated to exploring the process and impact of contemporary design across architecture, graphics, manufacturing, fashion and more. Its permanent exhibition, Designer Maker User, displays nearly 1,000 items of 20th and 21st-century design, while the special exhibitions have been among the first to showcase the work of figures including fashion designer Christian Louboutin and architect Zaha Hadid.
A residence for the British royal family since the 17th century, Kensington Palace is the place to explore the realities of royal life – from the lavish King’s State Apartments to recreations of Queen Victoria’s childhood rooms. Explore unique treasures in the Jewel Room, the memorial statue to Princess Diana in the Sunken Garden, and the only place in London to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea on royal palace grounds.
Taking an unusual angle on the past, the Museum of Brands looks at history through our discarded objects. Charting 200 years of consumer culture, the permanent Time Tunnel exhibition places popular brands dating back to the Victorian era within the context of their time, while temporary displays explore topics such as the relationship between branding and consumer choice, or how brands respond to societal issues.
Masterpieces in painting, sculpture and furniture adorn the already ornate rooms at Hertford House, a historic building that’s now a national museum. This is the Wallace Collection, one of the largest ever bequests to the nation; particularly strong in 18th-century French art, it’s filled with exemplary works by painters including Velázquez, Van Dyck, Rubens and Titian. Major exhibitions highlight these holdings, while insightful events round out the programme.
The Natural History Museum holds 80 million objects spanning billions of years in its collection – from the Imilac meteorite, a gem as old as the solar system, to the world’s most intact stegosaurus fossil ever found and a flawless, 2kg topaz. Carefully researched special exhibitions exploring the wonders of our planet are presented in a remarkable building decorated with extinct and living creatures, and featured in films such as Paddington (2014) and Eternals (2021).
The collection at the V&A spans 5,000 years of art and design, with complete period rooms and thousands of portrait miniatures among a number of national collections that are some of the finest in the UK. Accompanied by special exhibitions that have seen the museum smashing its own record visitor numbers, and housed in a building crafted by leading Victorian artists, the V&A is a shining example of human creativity.
Discover the history of human innovation through immersive exhibitions, live demonstrations and interactive displays at the Science Museum. Here, the galleries hold milestone artefacts such as the spacesuit worn by Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut, and the Wonderlab gives children access to a dedicated team of science Explainers. Complete with an IMAX cinema, family-friendly café and extremely tempting shop, this is a must-visit for curious people of all ages.
The more you see, the more we do.
The National Art Pass lets you enjoy free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, while raising money to support them.