Whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool art snob or someone who can’t tell a Monet from a Manet, London has an art museum for you. We’re talking the British Museum, a treasure trove of global antiquities, the Tate Modern with its cutting-edge works, and smaller galleries where emerging artists get to shine. Here, history and modernity coexist in a kaleidoscope of colors, styles, and mediums. Each art museum and gallery is a world unto itself, inviting you to step in and let your mind roam free as you explore the permanent collections.
Ready to unlock the secrets of the art world without even needing a secret handshake? London’s art scene is not an exclusive club but a thriving, inclusive landscape that beckons to all. So let’s skip the chit-chat and plunge right into this artistic wonderland–prepare to be amazed, bewildered, and, most importantly, inspired.
Best Art Museums and Galleries in London
You seriously don’t wanna miss the Tate Modern if you’re looking for an art museum. It’s one of the most famous contemporary art gallery and museums in London – and the world for that matter – because of its impressive permanent collection. Get ready to get lost in this huge space filled with thought-provoking shapes and artworks that challenge your mind. This art museum is a must for modern art lovers visiting London. It’s often a favorite London art museum among tourists and locals alike.
The National Gallery
The National Gallery is simply remarkable. Smack in the heart of London, this gallery’s got it all: works by classic and international artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, and Rembrandt. In terms of variety, it seems like one of the largest collections in the city. Plus, the stunning architecture of this public art gallery and the surrounding Trafalgar Square only adds to the experience – grab your camera, and make sure to explore this iconic London attraction.
The British Museum
You haven’t really seen London’s museums until you’ve visited the British Museum. It is home to a jaw-dropping collection of rare and historic artifacts. How rare and historic? Like Rosetta Stone and Parthenon rare. Totally mind blowing, right? Do yourself a favor and put this one on your list, even if it’s not just an art museum.
If the Tate Modern’s your thing, you’ll love the Tate Britain too. Showcasing British art from the 16th century to the present day, you’ll be amazed by the range of work on display, from Turner and Blake to Hockney and Hepworth. You’ll leave with newfound appreciation for British art, and maybe even a favorite new artist to admire.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Also known as the V&A, the Victoria and Albert Museum is a sight to behold. Dedicated to decorative arts and design, this museum takes you on a journey through the history of fine craftsmanship. From intricate jewelry to mesmerizing textiles, you’ll be in awe as you explore the 145 galleries – don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending hours here. Soak it up, and enjoy this truly unique London experience.
Notable Regular Exhibitions and Collections
National Portrait Gallery
You can’t miss the National Portrait Gallery when in London! Known for its exhibitions and permanent galleries featuring portraits of famous Brits, it’s a great place to see both historical and contemporary art in a single exhibition space. The gallery of historic and contemporary artists showcases paintings, photographs, and sculptures of influential British figures throughout history. Keep an eye out for their temporary exhibitions, too – who knows, you could stumble upon works by old masters, modern artists, or even the latest contemporary art trends. On some visits, the temporary exhibits just might be the best part.
Royal Academy of Arts
The Royal Academy of Arts is your go-to spot for fine art exhibitions. Founded in 1768, it features a constantly changing program of blockbuster exhibitions that you’ll appreciate, whether you’re into old masters or modern art. So don’t miss out on their temporary exhibitions. And don’t forget to wander through the Annenberg Courtyard before you go to soak up the timeless atmosphere!
Natural History Museum
While the Natural History Museum might be famous for its huge collection of awe-inspiring dinosaurs, it also hosts intriguing art exhibitions that you shouldn’t miss. With exhibits combining art, science, and nature, you’ll get to appreciate various forms of artistic expression as well as the beauty of the natural world. There’s more to this museum than meets the eye.
Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries
London has some fantastic spots for you to explore modern and contemporary art and design. You’ll find amazing pieces from talented young artists to well-known names in contemporary design.
Barbican Art Gallery
Located in the heart of the Barbican Centre, this gallery showcases modern and contemporary art, design, and architecture. You’ll find a diverse range of exhibits, from solo shows to thematic group exhibitions. You’ll also get a chance to see work by new and emerging talents, providing a unique window into the most exciting trends in the art world. Visit the Barbican Art Gallery for a mix of big names and fresh faces that’ll blow you away.
The Charles Saatchi Gallery, situated in the stylish Chelsea neighborhood, is known for its daring exhibitions featuring cutting-edge artists, many of whom have gone on to become household names. With a focus on showcasing the latest in contemporary art and design, it’s an ideal spot for art aficionados looking to keep up with the most recent trends. Enjoy the variety of exhibitions this renowned gallery offers and discover the newest sensations in the contemporary art scene.
Nestled in London’s East End, the Whitechapel Gallery has been a cornerstone of contemporary art since its establishment more than a century ago. The gallery is famous for presenting innovative, thought-provoking art from around the globe and supporting local, young, and emerging artists. A visit here promises a unique perspective on various styles and themes within the realms of modern and contemporary art. Seeking bold, ground-breaking art? The Whitechapel Gallery is your go-to destination.
Art Museums and Galleries by Location
In Kensington, you’ll find a cluster of must-visit museums. The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is a vibrant and ever-evolving art and design spot, housing exhibits on everything from fashion to textiles. Further north, you’ve got the Design Museum, focusing on contemporary design in all facets of life.
Some other famous Kensington and South Kensington art museums and include:
- Serpentine Galleries: Two galleries lying on either bank of The Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park that specialize in temporary exhibitions.
- Le Dame Art Gallery: A gallery focused on unabashed contemporary art.
- Leighton House: Once home and studio of Victoria-era artist Lord Frederic Leighton.
As you make your way down to Chelsea, get ready to discover a wealth of contemporary art galleries. Big names like the Saatchi Gallery showcase cutting-edge artwork from both emerging and established artists. But stroll through this swanky part of London, and you’ll come across plenty of smaller galleries, too, each offering a unique experience.
Some noteworthy Chelsea galleries to check out:
- Box Galleries: A contemporary gallery specializing in art investment.
- 88 Gallery: Right near the Saatchi, this gallery focuses on collectible, contemporary design.
Unusual London Art Museums
The Fan Museum
Looking for art a little off the beaten path? Head out to Greenwich.
The Fan Museum is a unique institution dedicated to the history, art, and craft of handheld fans. The museum houses over 5,000 fans from around the world, dating all the way from 12th century. Apart from its stunning collection, the museum often holds temporary exhibitions and even offers fan-making workshops. It’s a delightful exploration of a delicate art form, set within two beautifully restored Georgian townhouses.
God’s Own Junkyard
And, if it’s quirky you’re craving (or neon), you can’t leave London without a visit to God’s Own Junkyard.
God’s Own Junkyard is a kaleidoscopic wonderland of neon signs and art pieces. Located in Walthamstow, this place is both a workshop and a showroom for the late artist Chris Bracey, who created neon art for over 40 years. From movie props to salvaged signs and original artworks, the space is an electric blaze of colors, phrases, and glowing visuals. It’s a mesmerizing blend of pop culture, art, and a little bit of retro chaos. Plus, there’s a café on-site, so you can sit back and soak in the vibrant ambiance with a coffee or a bite to eat. It is a truly unique London gem, unlike anything else you’ll see in the city.