15 Fascinating museums and galleries in London

Uncover the cultural and historical delights on offer in the capital with our 15 best museums in London. Find the most-talked-about, must-see exhibits here.

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  • 22 September 2021
  • • 15 min read

Now that we are finally seeing the end of the pandemic, it’s time to get back into exploring the wealth of incredible arts and culture that Britain has showcased in the best museums in London. Whether you are into history, science, culture or the arts, London’s vast selection of museums has you covered. Discover the renowned Natural History Museum, the beauty of the undiscovered Garden Museum and the interactive Science Museum. Since it’s 2021, it would be a shame not to explore the quirky wonders exhibited in the Tate Modern, overlooking the Thames. What’s more, the majority of these top museums are free, so you can easily tick off these London attractions if you’re travelling on a budget. Read on to discover the 15 best museums in London to visit in 2021. 

Looking for somewhere affordable to stay in the heart of the city? Check out St Christopher’s Inns

1. Science Museum London

30 minutes via the Circle and Central Line from St. Christopher’s Hammersmith

Visit London’s Science Museum to immerse yourself in the ingenuity of our human race throughout the years. Start your tour by discovering the way medicine has developed over 500 years before delving into some seriously cool futuristic concepts that will leave your head in a spin. Make sure you check out the many exhibitions that they have on at the time of your visit to add an exclusive touch to your trip. You may also want to check out their newly revamped IMAX cinema to allow their top-notch technology to immerse you in a wonderful and insightful experience. Entry is free for everyone but some exhibitions, and to enjoy their IMAX cinema experience, tickets will have to be purchased. Doing so in advance is also recommended to avoid disappointment. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm, with last entries at 5:15pm during term time and Monday through to Sunday at the same times during school holidays, so it would be best to double-check the website. Whether you’re into science or not, you’ll be sure to find something here that grabs your interest at one of the top museums in London.

2. Natural History Museum London

25 minutes via the Circle and Central Line from St. Christopher’s Hammersmith

Step into the breathtakingly beautiful Natural History Museum, which you will have seen featured in many famous films. With the buildings ​​striking Romanesque architecture and history dating back to the 1800s, it makes an idyllic place to explore and ponder the history of nature whilst capturing some fabulous pictures to feature on your gram. How can you not snap a pic of the giant whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling? 

Sign up to attend exhibitions such as Fantastic Beasts, Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix It and The Artistic Legacy of Joseph Banks; all examples of the many incredibly exciting additives you can explore during your visit. What’s more, the museum also opens an ice skating rink around Christmas time, making for the most scenic skate in town! Entry to the museum is free, but queues can be extremely long, and you cannot always guarantee a slot (due to Covid safety measures), so you may want to come early and book online in advance. We also recommend checking and purchasing exhibition tickets online as they tend to be extremely popular and change frequently.

3. London Transportation Museum

28 minutes via the Northern and Piccadilly Line from St. Christopher’s Liverpool Street

Located in the famous Covent Garden Piazza, stop off at the London Transportation Museum to discover how Londoners have been getting around the city since the 1800s. Climb aboard some of the earliest trains and buses to ever have travelled across London and revel in the evolution of the transportation that we often take for granted today. Perhaps after which you won’t get so irritated when your tube is five minutes delayed, or not. The museum often hosts some fabulous exhibitions and Or book yourself a ticket to one of their adults-only Friday evening events such as Secrets of the Underground and Music of the Underground. Get yourself a drink at the bar and relax as you enjoy any of their Museum After Dark experiences that you’ll be sure never to forget. It’s a must-see museum in London.

4. National Gallery London

20 minutes via the Northern Line from St. Christopher’s London Bridge, The Village

Be enchanted by 700 years of painting at the National Gallery located by the historic Trafalgar Square. Gorp at the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Picasso and many other world-renowned artists from Britain's past. Book yourself into one of their regularly changing and often unique exhibitions for the exciting opportunity to view exclusive works and learn more about the history behind many famous and also less well-known paintings and their artists. Many of the gallery’s exhibitions are free along with free standard entry; however, some do cost an extra fee of usually around £15-£20 depending on the breadth of the exhibition at the time. Open every day from 10am-6pm, closing later on Fridays at 9pm completely free of charge. Although you can generally get tickets upon arrival, we would recommend that you source them from the website prior to your visit to avoid having to wait around in a queue or being turned away because the exhibition you so badly want to see is oversubscribed. Get off the train at Charing Cross tube station and enter through the columns of the building’s temple-style architecture. And don’t miss the chance to mooch around the super cute gift shop at the end to purchase a souvenir as a reminder of your wonderful experience.

5. Museum of London Docklands

28 minutes via Jubilee Line from St. Christopher’s, The Village - exit at Canary Wharf tube station

Visit the Museum of London Docklands to gain incredible cultural knowledge about a part of London that isn't massively familiar to many people. Learn all about the history of the River Thames, how the Port of London has developed, and the role the docks played in the Atlantic slave trade. Delve deeper by exploring exhibitions such as the current ‘Feeding Black: Community, Power and Place’, which looks at the dominant role that food plays within black enterprise and identity in South East London. It is set up within the 19th-century grade 1 listed “low” sugar warehouses located on the north side of West India Docks, making it only a few minutes walk away from Canary Wharf; a great place to find some fantastic restaurants and bars to relax after this incredible but hard-hitting cultural experience. The museum is open from 10am-5pm from Wednesday to Sunday, and entry is completely free, with the exception of some exhibitions. 

6. London Imperial War Museum

22 minute walk from St Christopher's at The Village

As you approach the two threatening naval guns pointed directly outwards you will know that you have reached London’s Imperial War Museum, set in a building that dates back to the 19th century. Step inside to explore the history of Britain's conflict that spans from WW1 to the present day as you pass through each part of this chilling museum. Get close up to the incredible machinery and armoured vehicles that have defended our country through the years. Gorp at the mind-blowing engineering of Britain’s fighter jets and see how they have developed throughout history. And make sure you don’t miss the chance to attend their many eye-opening exhibitions, such as Portraits of Holocaust Survivors and Wim Wenders: Photographing Ground Zero. 

7. British Museum London

25 minutes via the North Line from St Christopher’s Camden

Hidden within the hub of academia, surrounded by London's most renowned and historical university and colleges, sits the British Museum London. Architecturally inspired by a Greek Temple, the magnificent building was completed in 1852 and was supposedly designed to reflect the ‘wondrous objects housed inside’. Displaying over seven million objects from every continent, this museum is one of the most important places for documenting and learning about the existence of the human race from the very beginning to the present day. So if you’re interested in finding out more about how our human race has evolved over the centuries, this is a must-see on a visit to London. As it is so large and offers so much to see and read, you could be there for hours; therefore, we recommend that you do your research before to know exactly what you want to dedicate your time there exploring. Alternatively, you could just turn up and let the museum immerse you in whatever grabs your attention that day. Also, be sure to check out their fantastic exhibitions, such as Nero: the man behind the myth and Hokusai: The Great Picture Book of Everything, for some incredibly interesting and insightful experiences. The museum is free and open from 10am to 5pm daily!

8. RAF Museum

40 minutes via the Northern Line from St Christopher’s Camden

Located in the North West of London is the Royal Air Force Museum, situated on the former Hendon Aerodrome. The museum will educate you on the history of aviation and the Royal Air Force. The museum also offers three different hour-long guided tours to choose from, including; The Cold War Tour, Battle of Britain Fighter Four and First World War Flying Machines. Or take your time navigating your own way around each of the hangars displaying aircraft from the very beginning of wartime aviation to the present day.

Become immersed in the incredible new 4D theatre experience as you get the closest experience to what it would be like participating in an intense aerial battle in a spitfire. And if that isn’t enough, take ‘flight’ across the beautiful Lake District in the exhilarating flight simulator as you get the chance to navigate an RAF Eurofighter Typhoon; just two of the very exciting activities that you can look forward to upon your visit. Although this London museum is a slightly longer journey from our nearest St. Christopher’s hostel (Camden), it is well worth the trip and entry is completely free of charge; however, donations are, of course, welcome!

9. Tate Modern

15 minute walk from St Christopher’s London Bridge

Perched on the hip and happening Bankside, the Tate Modern is famously known for its quirky and highly contemporary artwork. Whether you understand the piece you are looking at or not, you will never have a dull moment at this museum. Displaying the widest selection of art from all different genres and themes, this London art museum has something for everyone here. Book yourself into dynamic exhibitions and workshops for a more personalised and in-depth experience of the art you are most interested in; just make sure you do this online prior to your visit as they can be very popular. The museum also runs exclusive immersive experiences for neurodiverse visitors such as those with ADD, ADHD, OCD, anxiety, sensory difficulties. Recent exhibitions have included Kusama in America, for visitors to experience the artist Yayoi Kusama’s work that she created while living in New York, from 1957 to 1973. General entry is free, but it is recommended that you book your time slot online prior to arrival to avoid disappointment. To explore exhibitions, tickets cost £5 for those 16 years and over once you have signed up to ‘Tate Collective’.

10. Tate Britain

26 minutes via Jubilee and Victoria Line to London Bridge 

Located in the hustle and bustle of Westminster is the Tate Britain, situated on the old Millbank Prison. Visit the Tate Britain to view some of the country's finest and oldest pieces of artwork, many of which British artist J. M. W. Turner bequeathed to the nation after his death in 1851. It is also one of the largest museums in the country and the 52nd most visited in the world… so despite entry being free, make sure you book online in advance. Book yourself into exhibitions, displays and talks such as the recent Heather Phillipson Rupture No 1: Blowtorching The Bitten Peach exhibition, Paula Rego talk and the Turner’s Europe display. All with top-notch reviews for being quirky, insightful and entertaining. Entry is Free, and the same terms apply as for its sister museum, the Tate Modern, listed above. 

11. V&A London

26 minutes via the Circle and Central Line from St. Christopher’s Shepherd’s Bush

Visit the V&A Museum, short for the Victoria and Albert Museum, to view over 5000 years of the greatest art and design pieces of human creativity. This historic London museum is also known for putting on some of the most spectacular fashion and design exhibitions, such as their previous Alexander McQueen and Dior exhibitions which went down a storm with its visitors from all over the world. Whether you are into fashion and design or not, you will still appreciate the immense talent of the artists and designers work on display here, it’s truly something worth visiting. What's more, they offer an abundance of free tours, displays, workshops and more; just make sure you check out their website to ensure you don’t miss out on these opportunities. Located on the renowned Exhibition Road next door to the Natural History and Science Museums, it is set amongst some of the greatest museums in the world. So if you only have a limited time in London, you could make a day of visiting these museums back-to-back to give you a real sense of having seen some of the best cultural tourist spots in the city.

12. Design Museum

13 minutes via bus from St. Christopher’s Shepherd’s Bush

If you're still in Kensington or on the hunt to view some more incredible design work, whether graphic, architectural, fashion, product or industrial, be sure to check out the Design Museum on 224-238 Kensington High Street. Having won the European Museum of the Year award back in 2018 must put it up there on your ‘must see’ list on your travels around Europe or at least when in London. They offer a wide variety of exhibitions to fulfil all your design interests, such as the Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street, which looks at how the sneakers of today have challenged performance design and shaken up the fashion world as well as, Discovered: Designers for Tomorrow, which is supporting and promoting young, up and coming designers. The museum is open daily from 10am to 6pm but stays open until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets cost around £10 to £14, depending on the concession.

13. Garden Museum

30 minutes via Jubilee Line from St. Christopher’s The Village

Visit London’s Garden Museum to discover all about the history of British gardens and gardening. Whether horticulture is your thing or you just enjoy being surrounded by the beauty of nature, this museum will definitely make for an enjoyable day out. View their displays of tools, ephemera, paintings, historical artefacts and their magnificently preened gardens as you wander around in this tranquil setting. Snap some magnificent photos for your Instagram and fill your camera roll with a mass of green phenomena. The Garden Museum also always has some of the most interesting and spectacular exhibitions running, such as their recent Constance Spry and the Fashion For Flowers, to look at and celebrate the legacy of the influential floral decorator Constance Spry. This place will have you wanting to run home and tend to your garden or at least to upload something pretty to your gram. Take a wander down by the river to Lambeth Palace Road, where you will find this hidden gem and don’t miss the chance to climb the Tower, which is the oldest part of the museum’s building dating back to 1377! Entry costs £12 for adults and is open from 10am to 5pm from Monday to Sunday.

14. London Film Museum

21 minutes via Jubilee Line and bus from St. Christopher's The Village

Aptly located in the quintessentially British Covent Garden is the London Film Museum, completely dedicated to the British film industry. Exhibiting original props, costumes and sets from some of the most famous films made in the UK, this is the perfect place for those who enjoy the good old classics. The Bond in Motion exhibition previously took over the museum featuring many of the cars and props from throughout the sequel. It has since been replaced by the Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition, displaying a myriad of images taken over the years throughout the filming process, most of which have never been seen before by the general public. The museum is open from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Sunday, and general entry for adults costs £14.50. If you're a lover of any classic British films, you will be sure to enjoy a trip to the London Film Museum during your visit to Covent Garden.

15. Warner Bros. Studio Tour

1 hour and 6 minutes via overground train and bus from St. Christopher’s Shepherd’s Bush

Discover the makings of Harry Potter as you wander through the different sets from this incredible cult classic. Enter through the Great Hall and past the actors' actual costumes before embarking upon a room filled with interactive props and sets. Climb aboard the Hogwarts express, ride a broom in a quidditch match, stroll through Diagon Alley, sip on butterbeer and gorp at the intricacy of Hogwarts castle. If you are a lover of the Potter movies, you will never want to leave. The studios have also just opened up access to the Gringotts Bank and Forbidden Forest for you to explore and unleash your inner witch or wizard. Once you come to the end of this incredibly exciting experience, you will then get the chance to indulge yourself in their fantastic gift store. Purchase your very own wand, cape, selection of house bandages or even just some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans for your journey home. Although this is a pricer day out at around £50 per ticket and slightly further out of the city centre, it is definitely worth the trip and worthy of a place in our list of best museums in London. But be quick as tickets fly out, so make sure you purchase them way ahead of your trip to London.

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