Time to get cultured in the city of museums

London is, arguably, a city of museums.

It’s a city of many things, from parks to monuments to pubs and markets. There are, in fact, so many attractions in this city, it’s a wonder that all of them can be chronicled at all. New “things to do” seem to be popping up daily, from mosaic museums to graffiti art.

Despite having too many attractions to count, some stand out. Museums are some of those.

London’s museums, for the most part, are free. This makes them more of a cultural and/or educational experience (or at least it did personally), because you aren’t worried about making the most of the $8 you shelled out at the door.

There are literally hundreds of museums in Greater London. However, the best-known and largest are the usually-for-free ones, and worth visiting for an afternoon or two. Below are a list of the major art-related museums London has to offer.


The British Museum houses what some locals refer to as 'the largest collection of stolen objects on display,' according to an Anderson Tours guide.
The British Museum houses what some locals refer to as ‘the largest collection of stolen objects on display,’ according to an Anderson Tours guide.

The British Museum is by far the largest and most-comprehensive museum in London. It is NOT strictly an art museum, but does house some of the most fantastic sculpture pieces in the city.

Famous for housing the Rosetta Stone, most of the Grecian Parthenon (the Elgin Marbles), most of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), Michaelangelo’s drawings for the Sistine Chapel, and Benin Bronzes, and thousands of other artifacts, the British Museum is essentially a building filled with a bunch of stuff British people took from far away places to show other British people.

There is quite a bit of controversy about who most of the ancient objects in the museum belong to, especially those mentioned above. For now, all of the artifacts (Grecian and otherwise) will remain in the museum for all vistors to see.

PRICE: Free, Tickets for special exhibitions

HIGHLIGHTS: Rosetta Stone, Ancient Greece: Parthenon, African Galleries (and basically everything else)


The Tate museums are two museums, the Tate Modern (the Tate) and the Tate Britain. The Tate Modern is more famous than its classical counterpart, but both are worth seeing if you have the time.

Tate Modern

Up the street from my flat, the Tate Modern houses a very comprehensive of contemporary and modern art from around the globe. Some art critics may leave scratching their heads in certain galleries (I sure did). But it also has some really emotional, thought-provoking piece that redefine how one considers fine art. And there’s a great cafe on the bottom floor.

PRICE: Free, Additional tickets for most exhibitions

HIGHLIGHTS: Piacasso, Matisse, Calder mobiles, Lichtenstein collection and exhibition, Tate Live 2103

Tate Britain

The Tate Britain is the other Tate gallery in London (there are also galleries in Liverpool and St. Ives). While this gallery doesn’t specialize in contemporary art or any one style as its London counterpart does, it has “modern” British art from 1500-present day. If you’re looking for a varied collection that is smaller than the National Gallery, this is a good choice.

PRICE: Free, Additional tickets for most exhibitions.

HIGHLIGHTS: Frank Bowling exhibit, British family art, Looking at the View exhibition


The National Gallery allows artists, students and amateurs to sketch in all of its galleries regardless of time or admission.
The National Gallery allows artists, students and amateurs to sketch in all of its galleries regardless of time or admission.

The National Gallery, located at Trafalgar Square, is an art-lover’s playground. There are pieces from most of the world’s famous artists in rooms that are beautiful without the artwork inside. One can literally get lost in its galleries (I did) and the sheer beauty of the artwork you can walk up to. The classic galleries are perhaps the most impressive, housing everyone from Velasquez to DaVinci, Cézanne to Caravaggio, or Seurat to Vermeer. The gallery could take a whole day to get through, but puts together “highlight tours” for guests.

PRICE: Free, Additional tickets for exhibitions

HIGHLIGHTS: Cezanne, DaVinci drawings, Religious art gallery, Dutch masters

The National Portrait Gallery

In the same building (with a different entrance) is the National Portrait Gallery. This gallery is more famous for its subjects than artists, making it possible for virtually unknown artists and photographers to be exhibited. As its name suggest, the gallery is only portraits (no landscapes, abstracts) of famous Brits. If you enjoy pictures of interesting or interesting-looking people, this is the gallery for you.

PRICE: £2 admission

HIGHLIGHTS: Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize Contest, Late Shift gallery events, Princess Diana portrait, HRH Duchess of Cambridge portrait, Beatles portraits, Late Victorian Portraits


The V&A is a museum of “art and design,” which is a fancy way of saying it has both “fine art” and “crafts,” or art you look at and art people can use (like furniture). It has some of the coolest pieces of craft art I’ve seen, like the Hollywood Costume exhibit, or a collection of Renaissance tables. The collection can seem random at times, which makes it all the more interesting.

PRICE: Free, Additional tickets for some exhibitions

HIGHLIGHTS: Medieval and Renaissance gallery, “Light From the Middle East” exhibit, Handmade in Britain objects


The Modern British Childhood exhibit will be on display until April 14, 2013.
The Modern British Childhood exhibit will be on display until April 14, 2013.

The Museum of Childhood is, essentially, a large collection of toys from all over the world. It’s a kid’s paradise, with cool toys to look at and fun interactive activities based on toys, like a giant robot or magnetic shavings boards. Not just for kids, the collection also offers nostalgia for adults and takes visitors on an interesting journey of childhood development through the centuries.

Perhaps most exciting is the current exhibit on display, “Modern British Childhood.” The gallery tracks British childhood between hosting the Olympic Games (1948-2012). The contrast between the decades is interesting in and of itself. However, more interesting are the objects collected from each decade, ranging from a ration book to some very terrifying life-sized models of the four Teletubbies.

Also endearing is a photo project done in collaboration with a British primary school, in which parents and faculty donated photos from 1948-2012. The collage in the gallery is an interesting, continuous way to track British childhood.


HIGHLIGHTS: Treasured objects mini galleries (so many toys!), Modern British Childhood exhibit, watching children run around the museum being adorable


(For more photos from the museums mentioned, visit pondhoppassport.wordpress.com!)