The Top 10 Best Museums in London, United Kingdom

This article lists the most visited museums in London, United Kingdom (including art galleries). The list of the top 10 best museums in London is based on the attendance numbers of the members of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions unless otherwise noted.

1. The British Museum

The British Museum

Founded: 1753

Address: Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom

The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury area of London, United Kingdom, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection of some eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, having been widely sourced during the era of the British Empire.

2. The National Gallery

The National Gallery

Address: Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, London WC2N 5DN, United Kingdom

The National Gallery is an art museum in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, in Central London. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. Unlike comparable museums in continental Europe, the National Gallery was not formed by nationalizing an existing royal or princely art collection. It came into being when the British government bought 38 paintings from the heirs of John Julius Angerstein in 1824. After that initial purchase the Gallery was shaped mainly by its early directors, especially Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, and by private donations, which now account for two-thirds of the collection. The collection is smaller than many European national galleries, but encyclopaedic in scope; most major developments in Western painting "from Giotto to Cézanne" are represented with important works. It used to be claimed that this was one of the few national galleries that had all its works on permanent exhibition, but this is no longer the case.

3. Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

Address: Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom

The Natural History Museum in London is a natural history museum that exhibits a vast range of specimens from various segments of natural history. It is one of three major museums on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, the others being the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology. The museum is a centre of research specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation. Given the age of the institution, many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Charles Darwin. The museum is particularly famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons and ornate architecture—sometimes dubbed a cathedral of nature—both exemplified by the large Diplodocus cast that dominated the vaulted central hall before it was replaced in 2017 with the skeleton of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling. The Natural History Museum Library contains extensive books, journals, manuscripts, and artwork collections linked to the work and research of the scientific departments; access to the library is by appointment only. The museum is recognized as the pre-eminent centre of natural history and research of related fields in the world.

4. Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert Museum

Address: Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is the world's largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design, as well as sculpture, housing a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. 

The museum owns the world's largest collection of post-classical sculpture, with the holdings of Italian Renaissance items being the largest outside Italy. The departments of Asia include art from South Asia, China, Japan, Korea and the Islamic world. The East Asian collections are among the best in Europe, with particular strengths in ceramics and metalwork, while the Islamic collection is amongst the largest in the Western world. Overall, it is one of the largest museums in the world.

5. Science Museum

Science Museum

Address: Exhibition Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD, United Kingdom

The Science Museum is a major museum on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, London. It was founded in 1857 and today is one of the city's major tourist attractions, attracting 3.3 million visitors annually. Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Science Museum does not charge visitors for admission, although visitors are asked for a donation if they are able. Temporary exhibitions may incur an admission fee. It is part of the Science Museum Group, having merged with the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester in 2012.

6. National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

Founded: 1856

Collection size: 195,000 portraits

Phone: +44 20 7306 0055

Address: St. Martin's Pl, Charing Cross, London WC2H 0HE, United Kingdom

The National Portrait Gallery is an art gallery in London housing a collection of portraits of historically important and famous British people. It was the first portrait gallery in the world when it opened in 1856. The gallery will be closed from mid-2020 to (planned) spring 2023 for a major refurbishment. During this time, parts of the collection will be displayed around the UK in a series of exhibitions and collaborations, with other international loan exhibitions.

7. Horniman Museum and Gardens

Horniman Museum and Gardens

Address: 100 London Rd, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ, United Kingdom

The Horniman Museum and Gardens is a museum in Forest Hill, London, England. Commissioned in 1898, it opened in 1901 and was designed by Charles Harrison Townsend in the Arts and Crafts style. The Horniman specialises in anthropology, natural history and musical instruments and has a collection of 350,000 objects. The ethnography and music collections have Designated status. One of its most famous exhibits is the large collection of stuffed animals. It also has an aquarium noted for its unique layout.

8. Museum of London

Museum of London

Address: 150 London Wall, Barbican, London EC2Y 5HN, United Kingdom

The Museum of London documents the history of the UK's capital city from prehistoric to modern times and is located in the City of London on the London Wall, close to the Barbican Centre and is part of the Barbican complex of buildings created in the 1960s and 1970s to redevelop a bomb-damaged area of the City. 

The museum is a few minutes' walk north of St Paul's Cathedral, overlooking the remains of the Roman city wall and on the edge of the oldest part of London, now its main financial district. It is primarily concerned with the social history of London and its inhabitants throughout time. The museum is jointly controlled and funded by the City of London Corporation and the Greater London Authority. The museum is the largest urban history collection in the world, with more than six million objects.

9. Churchill War Rooms

Churchill War Rooms

Address: Clive Steps, King Charles St, London SW1A 2AQ, United Kingdom

Phone: +44 20 7416 5000

In June 2012 the museum's entrance was redesigned by Clash Architects with consulting engineers Price & Myers. Intended to act as a 'beacon' for the museum, the new external design included a faceted bronze entranceway, and the interior showed the cleaned and restored Portland stone walls of the Treasury building and Clive Steps. The design was described as 'appropriately martial and bulldog-like' and as 'a fusion of architecture and sculpture'.

10. London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum

Address: Covent Garden, London WC2E 7BB, United Kingdom

The museum mainly hosts exhibits related to the heritage of London's transport, as well as conserving and explaining the history of it. The majority of the museum's exhibits originated in the collections of London Transport, but, since the creation of Transport for London (TfL) in 2000, the remit of the museum has expanded to cover all aspects of transportation in the city.


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