The Best Museums to Visit in London

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Written by our web team

8 min read | 15 November 2023

London is globally renowned for its museums. From 19th-century icons to modern, alternative exhibitions, you can engage with your favourite part of history up close.

There’s lots to explore in the capital’s museums, ranging from science experiments to ancient artefacts. Although we’re only scratching the surface of where you can go in London, here are some of the best locations to visit.

A view of the iconic whale bones in the main hall of the Natural History Museum

Must-visit museums in London

These museums and galleries have huge collections and are national institutions in the UK. Here’s what you can expect.

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is among the most famous cultural institutions in the world. Its exhibitions and artefacts trace the story of life on Earth, back to the dawn of time.

You’ll find dinosaur bones, the much-loved blue whale skeleton and thousands of plant and animal samples from around the globe. Children will love seeing history come alive on a family visit here.

Information about the Natural History Museum

  • Location: Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD (accessible) or Exhibition Road (with steps)
  • Nearest Underground Station: South Kensington
  • Opening Times: Open daily, from 10:00 till 17:50

The British Museum

Covering human history in all its creativity, scale and complexity, you couldn’t see all the British Museum’s artefacts in a hundred trips. If you’re visiting once, you must see the Rosetta Stone, the Ancient Greek collections, prehistory sections and the Sutton Hoo helmet.

This museum is world-renowned and a great trip out for both families and solo travellers.

Information about the British Museum

  • Location: Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG
  • Nearest Underground Station: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square
  • Opening Times: Open daily, from 10:00 till 17:00 (20:30 on Fridays)

The Imperial War Museum (IWM)

A moving and awe-inspiring museum, the IWM shows the weapons and stories of warfare through the ages in fine detail.

Schools regularly visit here and there are special events for families. The aim is to have everyone who visits leave understanding the price of peace, as well as with a new-found respect for those who serve in uniform.

Information about the Imperial War Museum (IWM)

  • Location: Lambeth Road, SE1 6HZ
  • Nearest Underground Station: Lambeth North
  • Opening Times: Open daily, from 10:00 till 18:00

Exhibits at the London Science Museum, including a range of cosmos-scaping views

Interactive museums in London

You don’t need to worry about touching the exhibits in these museums. Plus, they’re not just for the kids. For a memorable family day out, look no further.

The Science Museum

If you’re fascinated by the human instinct to push boundaries, the Science Museum is for you. Exhibits mark the greatest achievements in science, such as Hawking’s office and Babbage’s computer.

Dotted around the museum are hands-on experiences that let you try out some experiments for yourself. This makes it a great place for kids to get their first touch of science history.

Information about the Science Museum

  • Location: Exhibition Road, SW7 2DD
  • Nearest Underground Station: South Kensington, Gloucester Road
  • Opening Times: Open daily, from 10:00 till 18:00

The RAF Museum

Covering more than 100 years of military aviation, the RAF Museum has six hangars and more than 80 aircraft in its North London location. It’s a celebration of flight and a testament to The Few, whether you’re a plane buff or not.

There’s nothing quite like getting up close to a Spitfire or a Tornado. You can test out your skills on a flight simulator or pilot a drone, too.

Information about the RAF Museum

  • Location: Grahame Park Way, NW9 5LL
  • Nearest Underground Station: Colindale
  • Opening Times: Open daily, from 10:00 till 17:00 (hangars two to six close at 16:30)

A large propeller suspended in the National Maritime Museum

Free museums in London

There are plenty of art galleries and public exhibitions to get your culture fix for free in the capital. There are also dozens of free museums to visit in London. In fact, most have no charge.

National Maritime Museum

Seafaring is key to Britain’s history. So it’s only fitting that London should host this stunning display. Navigate the global story of sailing in war and peace, business and pleasure. It’s a fantastic attraction for all ages, whether you have your sea legs or not.

Information about the National Maritime Museum

  • Location: Romney Road, SE10 9NF
  • Nearest Underground Station: Greenwich
  • Opening Times: Open daily, 10:00 till 17:00

Victoria and Albert Museum

Named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the V&A is anything but stuffy and regal. It’s home to millions of astounding pieces of art and design, from classic paintings to fashion, photography and illustration.

If you or your kids have any interest in the arts or style, browsing these collections is essential.

Information about the Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Location: Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
  • Nearest Underground Station: South Kensington
  • Opening Times: Open daily, 10:00 till 17:45, with some galleries open till 22:00 on a Friday

National Gallery

Come here if you like to see a mixture of world-famous paintings from icons, such as Cezanne, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Turner and Van Gogh. Seeing these pieces with your own eyes is truly breathtaking.

But it’s not just these priceless classics that draw visitors to the National Gallery. As you wander the halls, you’ll discover treasures you’ve never even heard of. Fill your sketchbook or inspire your little ones’ imaginations with a visit here.

Information about the National Gallery

  • Location: Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN
  • Nearest Underground Station: Trafalgar Square
  • Opening Times: Open daily, 10:00 till 18:00, and 21:00 close on a Friday

The fountain outside the The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square, illuminated by lights at night

Cool or unusual museums in London

London has a host of quirky delights to meet niche tastes. There’s the Fan Museum, for example. Or the London Sewing Machine Museum. You might like the Museum of Brands or the Wellcome Collection, too.

Whatever your interests, there’s a cultural institution for you in the capital. Here are some of the most unusual or cool museums in London.

Horniman Museum and Gardens

What’s great about South London’s Horniman is that its exhibits aren’t devoted to one particular discipline. Anthropology, climate ecology, and musical instruments are just a few of the collections here. A family favourite is the Butterfly House, where you can walk among these beautiful creatures.

It’s a real hotch-potch, which makes any visit feel like picking a random book off the shelf. Always entertaining and inspiring, as museums should be.

Information about the Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Location: 100 London Road, SE23 3PQ
  • Nearest Underground Station: Forest Hill
  • Opening Times: Open daily, 10:00 till 17:30, Butterfly House 10:30 till 16:00

The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

Do you have a strong stomach? You might need it if you’re paying a visit to the Old Operating Theatre. It takes you through the history of medicine and is home to the oldest surgical operating theatre in Europe (don’t worry, it’s no longer in use).

Beyond the macabre and somewhat gruesome stories and exhibits, there are important lessons here. It’ll make you appreciate the medical advances we’ve made over the years. Plus, children can visit for less than £5 each.

Information about the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

  • Location: St Thomas’ Church, 9A St Thomas’ Street, SE1 9RY
  • Nearest Underground Station: London Bridge
  • Opening Times: Open Thursday to Sunday, 10:30 to 17:00

Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities

Nothing prepares you for what you’ll find at Viktor Wynd! Open till late and with a cocktail bar onsite, this museum is perfect for an alternative night out with friends or a date.

If you’re into the surreal, the shocking and the magical, a visit to Viktor Wynd will satisfy the deepest caverns of your curiosity.

Information about Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities

  • Location: 11 Mare Street, E8 4RP
  • Nearest Underground Station: Cambridge Heath
  • Opening Times: Tuesday to Friday 15:00 to 23:00; Saturday 12:00 to 23:00; Sunday 12:00 till 22:00

The Tate Modern in London at night, viewed from across a bridge

Getting to London’s museums by train

This list hasn’t even mentioned Tate Modern, the Transport Museum, the Churchill War Rooms or the Cutty Sark. It’s impossible to note down all of the places you can spend a great day out with family, friends or solo in the capital.

London’s excellent transport connections mean they’re all within easy to reach. Travelling by Underground and train is easy and convenient. Particularly when you do so with Avanti West Coast.

With train services from each corner of the UK to Euston Station, we’ll make it easy for you to enjoy a cultural day out in London.

We’ll also make it more affordable with our 2-for-1 ticket offers on city attractions and lots of ways to save on train tickets. So everyone can enjoy their visit, whichever London museum you choose.

Buy train tickets for your next journey

Buying through our website or app saves you money because we never charge booking fees.

To take a look at more ways to save including using a Railcard, booking in advance, and booking as a group, visit our ways to save page.

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