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Museums & Galleries
There are hundreds of museums in London - many within 30 minutes of our centres in Holland Park Gardens and Westcroft Square. All the most important London museums are free, although they may charge for some special visiting exhibitions. We sometimes visit museums as part of our social programme, so if you would like to go as a group check the programme when you are at the school.
It is no surprise that the British Museum, one of the greatest museums in the world, gets more visitors than any other museum. Founded in 1753, it is also the oldest museum in the world and it has over two million years of world history and culture. With over 94 galleries and thousands of artefacts, the British Museum is well worth a visit. The most famous exhibits include the Elgin Marbles - sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens, Egyptian mummies and the Rosetta Stone. The Reading Room, which was recently incorporated into the Great Court (a stunning covered courtyard) has been visited by Karl Marx, Mahatma Ghandi and George Bernard Shaw. Admission is free and there are lots of events and special exhibitions taking place throughout the year.
Tube: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street.
Buses: Routes 1, 7, 8, 19, 25, 38, 55, 98, 242, 10, 14, 24, 29, 73, 134, 390, 59, 68, X68, 91, 168, 188 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the British Museum website.
Natural History Museum
Housed in a huge Victorian-style Italian-Renaissance building, the Natural History Museum is impressive both in size and design. The museum first opened in 1881 and now has over 78 million specimens and more than one million books, artworks and manuscripts. Visitors enter through the highly decorative arches and columns which were inspired by Fingal's Cave in Scotland and are greeted by sculptured creatures and foliage, clinging to columns and peering down from arches and doorways. The exhibitions address scientific issues from our ecology to the origin of species and dinosaurs to woodlice.
Tube: South Kensington.
Buses: Routes 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414 and C1 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the Natural History Museum website.
Home to the world's most magnificent collections of science, industry, technology and medicine, the Science Museum is one of London's most hands-on and interactive museums. It first opened in the nineteenth-century, funded by the profits of the Great Exhibition of 1851, as part of Prince Albert's grand scheme to promote industrial technology. Today it is in a purpose-built gallery and contains 300,000 objects, covering the entire history of western science, technology and medicine. Visitors are invited to learn about forces and motion in the Launch Pad and discover how aircraft are built in the Flight Lab. The more recent Welcome Wing allows visitors to morph (change) their faces to look older or younger, manipulate their voices, create digital music or be sucked into the 3-D world of the IMAX cinema.
Tube: South Kensington
Buses: Routes 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414, 430 and C1 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the Science Museum website.
Victoria and Albert Museum
The V&A, as it is known, is the most influential museum of decorative arts in the world. With over 145 galleries to explore, covering 7 miles, the museum is a visual feast of fine and applied arts. Originally founded in 1852, to enthuse and educate British manufacturers and designers, the V&A is home to a collection of four million artefacts ranging from ceramics and costume to metalwork and sculpture. Often said to have the greatest collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture outside Italy the V&A also has an amazing collection of textiles, jewellery and twentieth-century art and design. The British Galleries, which opened in November 2001, explore British design from Chippendale to Morris, and Adam to Mackintosh. Highlights include the Great Bed of Ward, as mentioned in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, and James II's wedding suit.
Tube: South Kensington
Buses: Routes C1, 14, 74 and 414 all stop nearby.
National Maritime Museum
Located in the heart of historic Greenwich, the National Maritime Museum houses the most important collection of objects relating to the history of Britain at sea. The collection dates back to 1823 when a National Gallery of Naval Art was established, featuring 300 portraits, paintings and artefacts. The museum occupies a former asylum and hospital school and has fantastic views of the Thames. With the recent addition of the covered Neptune Court, the museum now has galleries dealing with topics ranging from navigation, naval exploits and Nelson to exploration, the ecology of the sea and emigration. Visitors can try signalling and gunnery, explore the expansion of the Empire or just find out more about the power, majesty and romance of the sea through poetry, painting and photography.
DLR station: Cutty Sark
Buses: Routes 177, 180, 188, 199, 286, 386, 53, 943 all stop nearby.
Boat: sightseeing cruises operate from London Eye, Westminster, Tower and St. Katherine’s piers and terminate at Greenwich Pier.
Imperial War Museum
Occupying the former Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane ('Bedlam') the Imperial War Museum is the national museum of twentieth-century conflict. Founded in 1917, the museum not only contains a fascinating display of the vehicles and weapons of war, but also makes an in-depth study of the social effects of conflict. From the M4 Sherman tank, the V2 rocket and Polaris missile to the walk-through recreation of a front line trench from the Somme, the Imperial War Museum represents all facets of fighting and its aftermath. The two World Wars are chronicled with thought-provoking displays of poetry and painting and a reconstructed air raid shelter and blitzed street from 1940. The sights, sounds and smells have been carefully recreated to really bring the experience to life. Over 15,000 paintings, 120 million feet of cine film and 30,000 posters help make this a unique collection.
Tube: Lambeth North, Waterloo, Southwark, Elephant & Castle
Buses: Routes 1, 3, 12, 45, 53, 59, 63, 68, 100, 159, 168, 171, 172, 176,188, 344, 360, 453, C10 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the Imperial War Museum website.
Museum of London
To get a real taste of London life over the last 2000 years, head for the Museum of London - the world's largest urban history museum. Documenting the growth of this huge city from the prehistoric to the present day, the museum contains over 1.1 million objects, many rescued from archaeological digs or during building works in the City of London. Visitors can enjoy the impressive collection of over 47,000 objects from Roman London, the buckles, brooches and belt-fittings of the Medieval period or the extensive glass collection from the seventeenth-century. Favourite displays include recreated street scenes, interiors and the Victorian shop fronts. The Galleries cover topics ranging from Macabre London to London Children and London Entertains. See at first hand the paraphernalia from the suffragettes' movement, the skulls of those thought to have been massacred by Queen Boudica (AD 60-61) and the Lord Mayor's coach (1757) which is still used during the Lord Mayor's Show today. The new World City Galleries explore London between 1789-1914, highlights include Wellington's boots and Queen Victoria's parliamentary robes.
Tube: Barbican, St Paul's, Moorgate
Buses: Routes 4, 8, 25, 56, 100, 25, 172, 242, 521 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the Museum of London website.
This was the first museum in the world to focus on the exhibition of mass produced items and today has a popular collection of everyday objects from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Whilst the items allow visitors to reminisce about the past the Design Museum provides an opportunity to examine innovative prototypes for the future. The objects relate to engineering, technology, furniture, fashion and architecture. Housed in a 1950s building, re-designed by the Conran group, the museum is close to Butler's Wharf and the old spice importing warehouses.
Tube: London Bridge, Tower Hill
Buses: Routes 42, 47, 78, 188, 381, 100, 225 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the Design Museum website.
London's galleries range from specialising in the traditional to the very modern. Works of art by celebrated British painters as well as many well known foreign artists live in London's many galleries. We sometimes visit galleries as part of our social programme, so if you would like to go as a group check the programme when you are at the school. If you are looking for something in particular but are not sure where to go, please just ask in Reception and we will do our best to help.
The National Gallery
Occupying an excellent location overlooking Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery houses a superb collection of over 2,000 paintings. The Gallery was originally established by parliament in 1824 to allow the public the opportunity to study and enjoy the impressive collection of art. Since the nineteenth-century the collection has increased dramatically and now includes some of the finest examples of Western European art from 1260-1900. Works on display include those of Botticelli, Monet, Constable, Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Holbein's The Ambassadors, The Hay Wain by Constable and Jan Van Eyck's Arnolfini Marriage are just some of the major attractions of the National Gallery. Admission is free. The Gallery also has a good shop and a restaurant called Crivelli's Garden.
Tube: Westminster, Embankment, Piccadilly, Leicester Square, Charing Cross
Buses: Routes 3, 6, 9, 12, 13, 15, 23, 29, 87, 88, 91, 139, 159, 176 and 453 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the National Gallery website.
The Courtauld Gallery is, compared to some of London's other galleries, a small collection of paintings, drawings, decorative arts, sculpture and more. It is part of the Courtauld Institute of Art which is one of the world's leading centres of art history. Situated in Somerset House, an 18th century palace on the banks of the Thames, the Courtauld Gallery is most famous for its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. We would recommend this gallery if you prefer a smaller, more personal gallery without compromising on the quality of the collection.
Tube: Temple, Charing Cross, Embankment, Covent Garden
Buses: Routes 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 77a, 91, 176 and 388 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the Courtauld Gallery website.
Overlooking the River Thames, Tate Britain was originally founded by the sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate. The Tate group now includes three other galleries around the UK (including the Tate Modern in London). Dedicated to exhibiting Britain's artistic talent, Tate Britain is home to one of the greatest collections of British art from 1500 to the present day. Since it opened in 1897, the collection has expanded to include works from Blake, Rossetti, Spencer and Stubbs.
Tube: Pimlico, Vauxhall, Westminster
Buses: Routes 2, 3, C10, 36, 87 (formerly 77A), 88, 159, 185, 436 and 507 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the Tate Britain website.
National Portrait Gallery
Where else in London could you hope to find The Beatles, Henry VIII, Fatboy Slim and Joan Collins all hanging out together? The National Portrait Gallery was founded in 1856 by the historian Philip Stanhope, who campaigned for 'a gallery of original portraits that commemorated British history'. The primary collection now consists of 10,000 portraits, and over 250,000 archived images, of everyone from statesmen to showbiz stars and people from the media. The collection represents Britain from the late fourteenth-century to the present day and is arranged thematically to include the Tudors, politicians and pop stars, Victorian statesmen and the Civil War. The Ondaajte Wing features the only surviving portrait of Shakespeare taken from life and the famous Hans Holbein cartoon of Henry VIII. The Portrait Restaurant has good views of London.
Tube: Leicester Square, Charing Cross
Buses: 3, 6, 9, 12, 13, 15, 23, 29, 87, 88, 91, 139, 159, 176 and 453 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the National Portrait Gallery website.
Located along the banks of the River Thames, Tate Modern opened as part of the millennium celebrations in 2000. Housed in the former Bank-side Power Station, the gallery focuses on modern and contemporary art from 1900 to the present day. The collection includes works from Matisse to Moore, Dali to Picasso and Rothko. The awesome turbine hall creates a stunning entrance and a vast space in which to display temporary installations. There are three levels of galleries, enclosed by a spectacular two storey glass roof that provides fantastic views of London and a great café.
Tube: Southwark, Mansion House, St Paul's
Buses: Routes RV1, 45, 63, 100, 344 and 388 all stop nearby.
Yet another addition to the impressive line up of galleries and exhibition spaces situated along the Thames, the Gilbert Collection lives at Somerset House. Given to the nation by Sir Arthur Gilbert, this unusual and unique collection of gold and silver decorative arts is worth a visit. Set within 25,000 square feet of a vaulted architecture visitors will discover European gold and silver snuffboxes, Italian mosaics and portrait miniatures.
Tube: Temple, Covent Garden, Charing Cross and Embankment
Buses: Routes 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 77a, 91 and 176 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the Gilbert Collection website.
Just a few minutes walk from Oxford Street is the Wallace Collection, one of the most outstanding private collections in the country. The Wallace family were colourful and cosmopolitan and had close, sometimes scandalous, connections with the English Royal and French Imperial families. It is housed in the beautifully restored Hertford House and contains some 18th century French paintings and Old Masters by Rembrandt, Titian, and Poussin.
Tube: Bond Street, Baker Street, Oxford Circus
Buses: Routes 2, 10, 12, 13, 30, 74, 82, 94, 113, 137 and 274 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the Wallace Collection website.