An Insider’s Guide To London Museums

- This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure.

London is heaven for museum lovers with over 200 to choose from, many of which I have visited and can highly recommend. I was brought up close to London and was introduced to museums as a child. I can remember many a happy day during the school holidays marvelling at dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum and getting involved with the interactive exhibits at the Science Museum. When I moved to London to study, I was able to continue my love of museums, then able to discover smaller, quirkier museums and spend time in the many art galleries throughout the city. I would like to share with you my insight into London’s museums and hopefully, you will come to love them as much as I do.

There are museums to please all tastes, covering a myriad of subjects including science, history, art, natural history, and much more. However, chances are that you only have a limited time in London, so how do you choose which ones to visit? In the following pages, I will give you an idea of what is on offer, which are the best museums to visit, and which are child-friendly. One of the best things about the museums in London is that many of them are free to enter, so even those on a budget can be taken on an exciting journey from past to present.

An Insider’s Guide To London’s Museums

The Three Best Museums In London

Natural History Museum In London, UK
The interior of Natural History Museum in London with a whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling.

There are plenty of museums that could warrant this title but I feel that the three best museums in London are the British Museum, the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum.

All three are massive and each could warrant a day’s visit if you have the time, especially as they all have a restaurant or cafe.

However, if you are short on time, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum are close to each other, so you could split the day between the two.

British Museum

The British Museum is a half-hour’s metro journey from the other two museums.


It was founded in 1753 as a public museum and hosts a collection of around 8 million artefacts relating to human history and culture, some dating as far back as 2 million years.

When you enter, you will be greeted by a stunning domed glass and steel ceiling, elaborate staircases, and marble walls.

The galleries lead from the lobby and are filled with treasures for you to explore.

Artefacts include the controversial Parthenon Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, the bust of Pharaoh Rameses II, more than 120 mummies, the Assyrian Lion Hunt reliefs, and the Easter Island statue.

The time recommended to spend in the British Museum is three to four hours, but if you want to examine the artefacts in more detail, expect to spend all day there.

The British Museum is at Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, WC18 3DG.

Science Museum

The Science Museum was founded in 1857 and has seven floors housing entertaining, educational, and interactive exhibits, which will appeal to children and adults alike.

For example, In the Welcome Wing, you will learn about developments in medicine, science, and technology.

The Exploring Space Galleries show exhibits such as full-scale models of the Huygens Titan Probe and the Beagle 2 Mars Landing.

The Adani Green Energy Gallery shows how the world can slow down the progress of climate change, and the Discovery Motion Theatre shows films with special effects, such as water and wind, and it even has moving seats.

The Science Museum is at Exhibition Road, South Kensington, SW7 2DD.

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum, founded in 1881, houses more than 20 galleries showcasing natural history going back millions of years.

The highlight of the museum is the Dinosaur Gallery where you can find something as small as a tiny fossil or as large as a triceratops skull.

However, what most people want to see is the giant animatronic T-Rex.

Another highlight is the Hintz Hall, which is shaped like a cathedral nave and is where a life-size model of a blue whale hangs from the ceiling.

Other galleries include the Mammals Gallery, where you can view life-size models of animals from all over the world.

In the Mineral Gallery, you will find a vault, which showcases the Auron Collection of around 300 coloured diamonds.

Don’t miss going to the Darwin Centre where a giant silk cocoon encased in glass houses 28 million insects and 6 million plants.

The museum holds temporary exhibitions.

From April until November, there is a Wildlife Garden Exhibition comprising a meadow with farm gates and a bee tree.

From November until January, the museum houses a popular ice-skating rink.

The Natural History Museum is at Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 5BD. It’s worth joining this tour to find out more.

Free Museums

The great news is that many of the museums in London are free, including the British Museum, the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum.

However, if there are temporary exhibitions held at any of these three, you will have to pay to see them.

This Museums & Galleries Full Day Tour showcases the best of four incredible museums – Victoria & Albert Museum, National Gallery & National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum.

Horniman Museum

Other free museums well worth visiting include the Horniman Museum and Gardens, which was founded in 1901 by John Horniman who wanted to display his collection of natural history artefacts.

As well as these, there is a lovely collection of musical instruments to be seen, an African art collection, and a small aquarium.

Admire the garden views from the Victorian glass conservatory.

The Horniman Museum and Gardens is at 100 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3PG.

London Mithraeum

An interesting museum is the London Mithraeum, which houses artefacts from the Roman Temple of Mithraeum built in 240 but only unearthed underneath the streets of London in 1954.

The temple was dedicated to the god Mithras and the artefacts show what life was like for the Romans, delving into their religious practices.

The museum houses the Bloomberg tablets, which are wooden tablets documenting Roman life and are the first known written documents in the UK.

The London Mithraeum is at 12 Walbrook, City of London, EC4N 8AA.

British Library

The British Library is well worth visiting if you are interested in literature and historic documents.

It houses such treasures as two of the four original copies of the Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s first folio, Jane Austen’s notebooks, and handwritten lyrics by the Beatles.

In the Treasure’s Gallery, you will be able to see Leonardo da Vinci’s manuscripts and letters written by 19th-century Ada Lovelace, considered to be the first computer programmer.

The British Library is at 96 Euston Road, St, Pancras, NW1 2DB.

Museum of London Docklands

The Museum of London Docklands is another free museum which will appeal to people of all ages as it is interactive.

It shows what life was like during the 19th century when Britain’s naval supremacy was at its height.

It is situated in a 200-year-old warehouse and tells stories about trade and commerce.

The highlight is Sailortown which recreates 19th century London.

The museum is a little outside the city centre but there is good public transport to get there via the metro, bus, or Docklands Light Railway.

The Museum of London Docklands is at 1 West India Quay, Canary Wharf, E14 4AL.

Most of London’s art galleries are free to enter.

Child-Friendly Museums

We all know how difficult it can be to keep children entertained, and while they might not want to visit a museum, there are plenty in London which will entertain and surprise them.

The Science Museum and the Natural History Museum are both child-friendly.

Children will love the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum and the interactive exhibits in the Science Museum.

However, there are many smaller museums which will retain their interest, at least for a couple of hours.

London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum external
The London Transport Museum is a fascinating museum to visit.

The London Transport Museum houses over 80 London vehicles, including an old red London bus, an omnibus, a horse-drawn tram, and the world’s first underground train.

There is a special area called All Aboard, which is for children up to the age of seven.

Here they can play with mini vehicles and become drivers, mechanics or train announcers.

The London Transport Museum is at Covent Garden Piazza, WC2E 7BB.

Young V And A

The Young V And A is an offshoot of the Victoria and Albert Museum which we will look at later.

It is free to enter and is aimed at children up to the age of 14.

If your children are interested in the arts, they will love this museum as it encourages them to explore their artistic talents in three galleries, Imagine, Play, and Design.

There are sensory playscapes, an interactive Minecraft installation, an open design studio, and a story-telling area.

Your children can even design a board game or create a sculpture.

The Young V and A is at Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9PA.

Children will love the novelty of visiting a ship on the Thames and exploring.

HMS Belfast

Aerial View Of HMS Belfast On Thames River In London
An aerial view of HMS Belfast on the Thames river in London, UK.

The HMS Belfast, Europe’s largest preserved WWII warship, is open to the public and offers hands-on activities for children, such as trail guides which allow them to explore the nine decks of the ship.

Special family activities are put on at weekends and during school holidays.

The HMS Belfast is The Queen’s Walk, London, Se1 2JH.

Bank of England Museum

Teach your children about the value of money at The Bank of England Museum, where they will discover how banknotes evolved.

They will be able to see ancient gold bars and even try and lift one.

This museum is another of the many free museums in London.

The Bank of England Museum is at Bartholomew Lane, Bank, EC2R 8AH.

Cartoon Museum

The Cartoon Museum will delight the young and the young at heart alike.

It houses over 6,000 original artworks and 8,000 comic books showcasing British cartoons and animation.

The Cartoon Museum is at 63 Wells Street, W1A 3AE.

Art Galleries

If you are an art lover, you will be in your element in London as there is a plethora of art galleries to be visited, both large and small.

Tate Modern

Tate Modern In London
The Tate Modern art gallery in South Bank power station.

The Tate Modern is in what was once the Bankside Power Station.

It houses both contemporary British art such as work by Damian Hurst and Jackson Pollock, as well as international artwork.

It has ever-changing temporary exhibitions with work by artists like Georgia O’Keefe and Pablo Picasso.

It is free to enter, although you sometimes have to pay for temporary exhibitions and you may find it helpful to join a guided tour.

Tate Modern is at Bankside, SE1 9TG.

Tate Britain

It is also free to go into Tate Britain which, as the name suggests, houses British art dating from the 14th century until the present.

It showcases the largest collection of artworks by JMW Turner found anywhere in the world, as well as spectacular paintings by artists such as Francis Bacon, James McNeill Whistler, and Thomas Gainsborough.

Tate Britain is at Millbank, SW1 4RG.

National Gallery And Trafalgar Square at night
National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square.

The National Gallery, another free gallery, showcases both British and international paintings dating from the Middle Ages until the 20th century.

It houses 20,000 paintings by such artists as Leonardo de Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh and Caravaggio. There’s so much to see, you should join a guided tour with an expert.

The National Gallery is at Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN.

Interior Of The National Portrait Gallery At Trafalgar Square
Interior of The National Portrait Gallery at Trafalgar Square with its art and museum artifacts of London..

Close to the National Gallery, is the National Portrait Gallery, housing more than 220,000 portraits of famous British figures dating as far back as the 8th century.

It has a fantastic rooftop restaurant by famous Irish chef Richard Corrigan, which has superb views over London.

The National Portrait Gallery is at St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE.

Royal Academy

Founded by artists and architects in the 1760s, the Royal Academy has an art collection covering the last three centuries, with paintings by such artists as William Turner and Tracey Emin.

It holds a summer exhibition, which is the world’s largest open-submission art exhibition.

It showcases art in all forms, including, paintings, sculptures, photography, and prints.

The Royal Academy is at Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD.

If you are looking for a smaller gallery, the Wallace Collection, located in the 18th-century home of Sir Richard and Lady Wallace, is a good choice.

Here you can see their collection of paintings and porcelain, as well as their furniture.

The paintings are impressive and include works by Titian and Rembrandt.

The Wallace Collection is at Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1U 3BN.

War & Armed Forces Museums

The National Maritime Museum And Canary Wharf
The National Maritime Museum with Canary Wharf in the background, seen from Greenwich Park.

The United Kingdom has a long history of involvement in wars and has a significant military presence.

National Maritime Museum

If you are interested in its naval history, head to the National Maritime Museum, where you will see artefacts such as ancient maps, models of ships through the ages, and even the uniform that Nelson wore on the day of the Battle of Trafalgar.

The National Maritime Museum is at Romney Road, Greenwich, SE10 9NF. Get a day pass to the Royal Museums in Greenwich.

Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum covers modern wars from WWI until the present day.

The Imperial War Museum is at Lambeth Road, Elephant and Castle, SE1 6HZ.

National Army Museum

The National Army Museum tells the story of Britain’s army from the civil wars of the 17th century to the present.

There are thousands of artefacts in five galleries.

The National Army Museum is at Royal Hospital Rd., Chelsea, SW3 4HT.

Royal Air Force Museum

If you are more interested in planes, head to the Royal Air Force Museum, which has a collection of aircraft from different periods in time, including WWII bombers and fighters.

There are also interactive experiences which both old and young will enjoy, such as a plane simulator and the Red Arrows 4D experience.

The RAF Museum is at Grahame Park Way, Edgware, NW9 5LL.

All of these museums are free to enter.

Decorative Arts and Fashion Museums

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria And Albert Museum And Its Arched Entrance
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is the highlight of the London fashion museums.

It is free to enter and is close to the Natural History and Science museums.

With over 100 galleries, it showcases over 2.3 million items of decorative art and design.

On display are ceramics, fashion, sculptures, textiles, paintings, jewellery, photography, and furniture.

Highlights include fashion displays by designers such as Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen.

Other highlights of the museum are the Cast Courts, where you will see copies of Michelangelo’s David and Trajan’s Column.

The Raphael Cartoons display seven full-scale tapestry designs for the Sistine Chapel.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is free to enter, although you may have to pay for temporary exhibitions. You may find it helpful to book this three-hour guided tour.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is at Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 2RL.

Fashion and Textile Museum

The Fashion and Textile Museum was founded by Zandra Rhodes who displayed her fashion line covering 50 years in 2019.

The museum doesn’t have a permanent collection but instead hosts temporary exhibitions, Previous exhibitions have showcased Terence Conran, Mary Quant, Jazz Age fashion, and knitwear.

It is closed in between exhibitions when it is completely redecorated.

The Fashion and Textile Museum is at 83 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3XF.

The Design Museum

The Design Museum won the European Museum of the Year Award in 2018.

It showcases contemporary design in fashion and architecture, as well as industrial design.

It also hosts temporary exhibitions and recently held an exhibition about the famous doll, Barbie.

The Design Museum is at 224 -238 Kensington High Street, W8 6AG.


Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

There aren’t many people who haven’t heard of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.

It was founded in 1835 by the French wax sculptor, Marie Tussaud, and showcases more than 250 realistic wax figures on three floors.

Visit the Royal Palace Experience where you will see King Charles III and Queen Camilla.

At the Awards Party, you can get up close and personal with the stars, such as Drake, Dua Lipa, Leonardo de Caprio, and Angelina Jolie.

In the Marvel Hall of Heroes, you will see The Avengers and characters from Star Wars.

Take a ride in a black cab in the Spirit of London Ride and be prepared to be scared in the Chamber of Horrors, which covers 150 years of London crime.

Madame Tussauds is at Marylebone Road, NW1 5LR. Get a day pass to Madame Tussauds online here.

Quirky Museums

The Sherlock Holmes Museum sign and external
The Sherlock Holmes Museum is another quirky museum in London to visit.

As well as the big and mainstream museums, there are smaller and more unusual museums scattered throughout the city, such as the Sir John Sloan’s Museum, a time capsule into the world of the early 19th-century antiquity hunter and collector, and the Sir John Ritblat Gallery at the British Library where you can view the Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s plays, The Beatles’ lyrics and other original articles of the English language.

While there are lots of touristy things to do in London, you won’t regret adding a few museums to your London itinerary.

Museum of Brands

For lovers of British products, head to the Museum of Brands.

Here you will be able to see your favourite products as they were over the years, such as Marmite and Cadbury chocolates.

You will be able to see how the packaging, branding and advertising have changed since they were created.

There are more than 12.000 original items in the museum, including food, household goods, cars, and music.

The museum also holds temporary exhibitions and activities during school holidays.

The Museum of Brands is at 111 – 117 Lancaster Road, Notting Hill, W11 1QT.

Old Operating Theatre Museum

skull and old book
The Old Operating Theatre Museum in London is fascinating to visit.

The Old Operating Theatre Museum is quirky and is in an unusual setting.

To get to it, you have to go to St Thomas’s Church near London Bridge.

When you enter, climb 52 stairs which may sound easy, but it isn’t as the staircase is narrow and spiralling.

However, it is well worth the effort.

The museum used to be an operating theatre and medicinal storage room in the days when doctors had very little training.

Here bodies were also carved open and shown to students.

It is a museum for fans of the macabre as it displays artefacts used for bleeding, trepanning, and cupping, all without an anaesthetic.

The Old Operating Theatre is at 9a St. Thomas Street, London Bridge, SE1 9RY.

Dennis Severs House

If you are in the East End of London, head to the Dennis Severs House, which is a house museum representing a fictional family of Huguenot silk weavers.

It was created by the eccentric Dennis Severs who lived in the house in the 1970s.

There are 10 rooms, and they take you from 1724 – 1914.

The Dennis Severs Museum is at 18 Folgrooms Street, Spitalfields. E1 6BX.

Handel Hendrix House Museum

You wouldn’t normally think of Handel and Jimi Hendrix being connected, but there is a museum dedicated to both of them.

Handel’s home is in one house and next door is a bedsit which Hendrix rented in the 1960s.

The buildings were both refurbished for £3 million, and the interior of Handel’s house has been fully restored to the style it was in the 1740s when he lived there.

There are audiovisual displays in every room.

Hendrix’s bedsit has also been replicated and there are films and displays about his work.

From time to time, there is live music in the museum.

The Handel Hendrix House Museum is at 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, W1K 4HB.

Plan Your Trip

best car rental

Rent A Car – Find the best car rental rates at Discover Cars. They compare car hire companies to provide you with the best deal right now.

Find A Hotel – If you’re curious about this article and are looking for somewhere to stay, take a look at these amazing hotels.

Previous article35 Famous London Landmarks
Next articleEverything You Need To Know About Pink Lakes (WA)
Irena Nieslony
Irena Nieslony was born in Windsor, England but now lives on the island of Crete, Greece, in a small village called Modi near the city of Chania. She has visited 32 countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Africa. Her favourite country is Tanzania as she loves wildlife and was lucky enough to see ‘The Big Five”. She also loves Egypt, as ancient history intrigues her, the southern states of the US and the cities of Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans for music. She has a B.A. Honours degree in English and Drama from Westfield College, University of London. She has been writing for over 13 years and has 13 novels, 7 short stories and thousands of articles published.