As a modern-day city where ancient civilizations were founded, London is the perfect site for a host of museums that celebrate the architectural, cultural, and anthropological evolution the city has experienced. Use this guide to plan your next trip to one of London’s famed museums.
The British Museum
Those interested in exploring art, culture, and human history while in London should head to the British Museum, which has a collection of over eight million works, making it one of the most extensive in the world. Founded in 1753 from the personal collections of British scientist Sir Hans Sloane, the museum has since grown to encompass some of the world’s most stunning ancient works, including the famed Rosetta Stone. Admission is free and visitors can enter from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Closest Tube stop: Tottenham Court Road or Holborn
Churchill War Rooms
One of the five branches of the Imperial War Museum of London, The Churchill War Rooms in the city of Westminster, explores both the historical complex that arose under Britain as a command center during WWII and the life of one of Britain’s most well-known leaders, Winston Churchill. These rooms hold a shocking amount of history: from the daily intelligence reports written in the rooms for the king, prime minister, and military leaders to the room and desk from which Churchill himself strategized and organized war issues. Visit from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. — adults will be charged £19 and children under 16 £9.50.
Closest Tube stop: Westminster or St. James Park
London Transport Museum
The London Transport Museum is intended to preserve the city’s transportation legacy, from its double decker buses to the London Underground (more commonly called “the Tube”). Located near Covent Garden in central London, the museum is in the perfect place for a morning or afternoon of exploring. Visit to step back in time or to snap some snazzy shots of London’s transportation past. Visitors can enter from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and tickets cost £17.50, though children under 18 years of age are admitted free of charge.
Closest Tube stop: Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Holborn, Embankment, Charing Cross
The Museum of London
This museum documents London’s formidable history from the present day back to prehistoric times. Established in 1976, the museum is just a short walk from St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Barbican Centre. The Museum of London features six million pieces that relate to the urban history of London. Popular exhibits include the prehistoric gallery, the medieval exhibit, and the exhibit that chronicles the Great Fire of London. The museum, which is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. free of charge, receives more than one million visitors every year.
Closest Tube stop: Barbican or Saint Paul’s
The National Gallery
Art history buffs and those looking to spend a rainy afternoon indoors will delight at visiting the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The stunning building (we’re looking at you, Instagrammers) houses over 2,000 paintings that date from the 1200s to the 1900s. Initial purchases made by the British government in the 1800s and donations from private collections comprise the majority of this museum’s special display. Admission is free, and the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Closest Tube stop: Charing Cross or Leicester Square
The National Portrait Gallery
Portraits: the original selfies. Explore portraits from throughout the ages at London’s National Portrait Gallery, initially intended to house paintings of Britain’s most well-known historical figures and contemporary players. Opened in 1856, it was the world’s first and, at one point, only portrait gallery.
One of the most famous attractions is the Chandos portrait of William Shakespeare, though many sources contest that the painting is not actually of the playwright. Regardless, you’re sure to spot some interesting faces in these frames. The museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and admission to general exhibits is free.
Closest Tube stop: Charing Cross, Leicester Square, Embankment
Natural History Museum
Interested in all things botany, mineralogy, zoology, paleontology, and entomology? The Natural History Museum in London’s South Kensington neighborhood is your best bet. Founded in 1881, the museum houses a lot of material collected by Charles Darwin himself, in addition to an impressive collection of dinosaur fossils, rare books, and old manuscripts. Those interested in natural history and photography alike will flock to this museum because its stunning interior architecture is as impressive as the 80 million items in its collection. A visit to London is not complete without a trip to the “cathedral of nature,” as it’s called affectionately. The museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.
Closest Tube stop: South Kensington
Sherlock Holmes Museum
There’s nowhere that says “elementary, my dear Watson” quite like Sherlock Holmes’ house at 221B Baker Street. Fortunately, it’s real: the city of Westminster has allowed the Sherlock Holmes museum to assume the number that has long been attributed to Sherlock’s crime solving residence. Run by the Sherlock Holmes Society of England, this cult museum features a host of different objects and memorabilia from various adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes series. The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. — a ticket for children under 16 years of age costs £10, and an adult ticket costs £15.
Closest Tube stop: Baker Street
The Tate was founded in 1897 and renamed in honor of Henry Tate, a prominent figure in the sugar industry and art lover who offered to fund the museum’s expansion. Tate also donated a sizeable number of pieces to bolster the museum’s collection. Visit for an expansive collection of British art from 1500 to present day and for the gorgeous architecture of the Gallery itself. The Tate Britain is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free.
Closest Tube stop: Pimlico
For modern art, there’s no better place to visit than the Tate Modern in London’s Southwark neighborhood. Go to see the “Marilyn Diptych” by Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso’s cubist works, or “Mountain Lake” by Salvador Dali. The Tate also includes the dark and gloomy “Seagram Murals” by Mark Rothko. In the museum’s experiential section, there are always rotating exhibits, which most recently included swings that visitors could use! Visit the Tate Modern from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is always free.
Closest Tube stop: Southwark or Blackfriars
Victoria & Albert Museum
Founded in 1852 and named in honor of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the V&A, as it’s known, houses the world’s largest collection of decorative art and design items. Located in London’s stately Kensington and Chelsea neighborhoods, the museum is a short walk from other attractions. Home to over 4.5 million objects, including a 14th century unicorn tapestry, paintings by Britain’s beloved John Constable, and a stunning collection of swords and weaponry, the V&A is definitely worth a visit. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. every day, and admission is free.
Closest Tube stop: South Kensington