The Bartlett


Top 5 museums to visit

By Azmina Gulamhusein (written April 2021)

Londoners are spoilt for choice when it comes to museums and galleries. The city boasts a huge variety of cultural and historic venues appealing to all tastes and interests. There are in fact over 170 galleries and museums across the city ranging from national museums to smaller, more niche museums specialising in cartoons or toys. 

Currently, museums and galleries will be slightly different to usual in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. In order for the public to enjoy the art and culture safely, most places will operate with a one-way system and some temporary shows and exhibits may require prior reservation or tickets. Set to re-open their doors to the public on the 17th of May, you may be wondering which museum or gallery to visit first. I’ve put together a list of my top 5 favourites in London with further information about opening times and booking requirements.

1. The British Museum

  • Advanced tickets required for both the free collection and paid exhibitions
  • Face coverings are compulsory
  • Signposted one-way system throughout the museum

Located a stone’s throw away from UCL the British Museum was the world’s first national museum accessible to the public when it opened in 1759. The buzz of students, tourists and Londoners is perceptible as soon as one enters the marvellous glass-roofed Great Court. The British Museum showcases an extensive collection of ancient discoveries and cultural treasure found all over the world. The galleries are separated according to location and time period, from Ancient Iran, Greece and China to Roman Britain and so forth. There are currently two temporary paid exhibits; the first about Thomas Becket and the second about Nero. For a small fee, you can discover more about the assassination Thomas Becket during the middle ages, or learn about Nero, one of Rome’s most infamous rulers. 

Visit the British Museum

The British Museum

2. The Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Advanced tickets required for both the free collection and paid exhibitions
  • One-way system with entry on Exhibition Road and Exit on Cromwell Road
  • Tunnel entrance/ exit currently closed
  • Cloakrooms currently closed

Sat in the heart of South Kensington, the V&A features one of the most remarkable collections of art, design fashion and textiles, across 150 magnificent galleries, over seven floors. The museum is home to innumerable pieces of furniture, ceramics, sculpture, paintings, posters, jewellery, glass, textiles and fashion covering centuries. At the moment, the V&A is hosting a temporary exhibition titled Bags: Inside Out, where you can explore the style, function, design and craftsmanship of bags ranging from rucksacks to Birkin handbags and Louis Vuitton suitcases.

Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition, V&A Museum

3. The Tate Modern

  • Timed tickets necessary for all visitors
  • Face-coverings mandatory

Tate Modern, one of London’s most iconic art galleries displays an international collection of modern and contemporary artworks. In addition to the artwork, the architecture of the building is worth seeing in its own right. Architects Herzog & de Meuron converted the old Bankside Power station into the art gallery which opened in 2000, and consequently returned to manage an extension of the project comprising of the Tanks and the Switch House. Moreover, the Switch House boasts a floor viewing deck on the 10th floor, giving you 360-degree views across London.

Visit the Tate Modern

Tate Modern

4. The Saatchi Gallery 

  • Advanced tickets required for both the free collection and paid exhibitions
  • Face coverings are compulsory
  • Signposted one-way system throughout the museum

The Saatchi Gallery has showcased the contemporary art of emerging artists since 1985. From the 19th of May, the gallery will be exhibiting previously unseen paintings and sculptures of London-based artist Phillip Colbert in Lobsterpolis. The second exhibition on display is Antisocial Isolation, a group showcase featuring the works of a number of current, exciting and emerging artists. The works are a response to the current coronavirus pandemic and offer distinctive viewpoints and new perspectives to help the spectator understand their surroundings.

Visit the Saatchi Gallery

5. The Design Museum

  • Pre-booking required for both free and paid exhibitions
  • Face coverings are compulsory

Located adjacent to Holland Park in Kensington, the Design Museum is a captivating contemporary design and architecture museum featuring free temporary exhibits and pop-ups. When the museum re-opens exhibitions will include Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street, an exploration into the footwear spectacle that has shaken the fashion domain; Charlotte Perriand: The Modern Life, a discovery into the work of a great twentieth century furniture designer and architect; and Waste Age, an investigation into how design can help solve the problem of waste.

Visit the Design Museum

About the author

Azmina is currently studying Construction Economics and Management MSc at The Bartlett. With a background in architecture, she enjoys exploring the architectural diversity around London. On her weekends, Azmina enjoys a long run or bike ride to take in the sites of London.

Student in the woods