Top 10 London museums
London's best museums, places to broaden your knowledge on all manner of things from Art History to space travel, interior design to military memorabilia.
These ten venues house an abundance of treasures, from the pre-historic dinosaur skeletons to the spacecraft that delivered astronaut Tim Peake back to earth, from Italian Renaissance paintings to sea charts and maps.
With millions of artefacts on display, each one telling its own story, there is plenty to keep you occupied across the city, whether you head down to the 'Museum Quarter' in South Kensington or venture further afield.
Described as the greatest treasure house in Europe, the British Museum is home to some 8 million artefacts and has become famed for its trail-blazing exhibitions.
The most popular cultural attraction in the UK, the British Museum is an extraordinary treasure trove. With objects dating back millions of years, it tells the epic story of human civilisation from all over the world. Founded as the first national museum in 1753, it opened in 1759 and has been free to the public ever since. Some of its highlights include The Rosetta Stone - the key to our contemporary understanding of hieroglyphs, the Parthenon sculptures and perhaps the museum's most iconic object, a golden helmet found in an Anglo Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk. Together with its fascinating permanent collection, the museum also stages ground-breaking temporary exhibitions curating artefacts from around the world.
Boasting the world's largest collection of decorative arts, the V&A is a glittering jewel of museum in which old-world regal elegance and cutting-edge contemporary design sit side by side.
Founded in 1852 after the Great Exhibition, this wonderful museum has a highly eclectic collection of art and design. A huge department devoted to artefacts from Asia include ancient textiles from 2000 BC to exquisite Mughal miniatures, while the Sculpture galleries feature works from the 4th to the 19th centuries. Highlights from the permanent collection include Tipu's Tiger, a life-sized wooden automaton of a fearsome tiger devouring a man and the beautiful marble neoclassical sculpture, 'Three Graces' by the Roman artist Antonio Canova.
A much-loved museum, this edifice to Victorian enlightenment in the heart of Kensington offers everything from pre-historic animals to preserved bats.
Built in 1881, the Natural History Museum is an extraordinary Romanesque palazzo designed by Alfred Waterhouse who had been inspired by his frequent trips to Italy. Inside is a veritable trove of curios, from stuffed dodos to elephant birds. Both a research institution and a museum, the piece de resistance is the magnificent central hall in which dinosaur skeletons dominate. The splendid Darwin centre houses some 22 million insect and plant specimens while the latest edition to the museum is the human evolution gallery featuring our long-lost Neanderthal ancestors. Often overlooked is the lovely outside Wildlife Garden, well worth a lunch-time stroll.
From the Soyuz TMA-19M descent module to a Red Arrows 3D flight simulator, the Science Museum houses a galaxy of technological innovations for the boldly curious.
The Science Museum is a cabinet of wonders with over 300,000 items in its collection charting more than 250 years of scientific and technological innovation. Some of the highlights include George Stephenson's Rocket, Crick and Watson's model of DNA and perhaps most fascinating of all, Charles Babbage's early computer. The institution is a delight for children and adults alike, and their edifying exhibition program continues to challenge our perceptions of science and technology.
Having re-opened in 2015 after a £40m rebuild, the Imperial War Museum displays the terror and excitement of conflict and war in spectacular fashion.
A museum where the stories of those who endured suffering and loss are given as much weight as the objects that caused them, the Imperial War Museum is both thought-provoking and thrilling. Hanging from the rafters are great icons of the First and Second World Wars, like the Sopwith Camel and the Spitfire, while other items are more poignant, including the battered suitcase of a Jewish refugee. Founded in 1917, the IWM has been at its current location since the 1930s and today tells the story of Britain through the ages from Imperial power to the conflicts of today.
Since opening in 1989, the Design Museum has championed creative thinking, celebrating the talent and thought processes of the world's best designers and architects.
Founded by acclaimed British designer, Sir Terence Conran, the museum explores everyday items from the 20th and 21st centuries, from conception to manufacture, and looks at how they influence the way we live. Alongside the permanent collection, 'Designer Maker User' a programme of temporary exhibitions delve further into renowned designers and architect's innovative ideas and how they came to life, telling the stories of a plethora of products from cars to furniture, shoes to computers and much more.
Set sail on a voyage of discovery to explore Britain's relationship with the sea at the National Maritime Museum, the largest museum of its kind in the world.
This huge venue, all set in a UNESCO World Heritage sight on the banks of the River Thames, houses a comprehensive history of all things nautical. From Admiral Horatio Nelson's bullet torn jacket to an impressive collection of figureheads, navigational instruments used in the time of Christopher Columbus to a colossal ship in a bottle there is something for everyone, you can even research seafaring ancestors at the Caird Library, the world's largest maritime library and archive collection.
Hidden behind The Strand is The Courtauld, the world's leading centre for the study of art history. Its remarkable gallery houses one of Britain's best loved collections of paintings.
Some of the most stunning examples of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism are held at The Courtauld Gallery in London. Among them are important works by Édouard Manet and Paul Gauguin. A Bar at the Folies-Bergere was Manet's last major work and depicts a barmaid standing behind a counter. Nevermore, painted in Tahiti in 1897 was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe's malevolent poem The Raven and is a portrait of Gauguin's Tahitian wife Pahura. Both are highlights of a collection that ranges from the early Renaissance to the 20th century.
A building bursting with the nation's treasures, the National Gallery has paintings from every European school of art from International Gothic to 1900.
Established in 1824 in order to house 38 paintings donated to the nation by the banker John Julius Angerstein, the National Gallery is one of the most popular attractions in London. Its colonnaded splendour radiates across Trafalgar Square. Inside, the gallery offers a thousand lost worlds through its historic collection. Among the 2,000 works of art are some of the finest paintings of the Italian Renaissance, spanning early masters like Giotto and Piero della Francesca to later superstars Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. The Gallery's collection also contains many wonderful Impressionist paintings, including paintings by Cézanne, Renoir, Monet and Degas.
Step over the threshold into the Museum of the Home in Shoreditch and marvel at domestic design and decoration from the last 400 years.
Ever wondered what laying the table in the 1600s looked like? Or how a Victorian parlour was decorated? The Rooms through Time collection replicates interiors of dwellings from the 17th to the 20th century. Find out how developments in design, fashion and technology over the last four centuries has affected fixtures and fittings and influenced how people furnished and decorated their humble abodes.
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.