Your Favorte Museum in London

Would love to get a sense of what people think is the best London Museum (and why?)!

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
6808 posts

"Would love to get a sense of what people think is the best London Museum (and why?)!"

Are you asking for recommendations for a museum for you to go to (or is this a general survey question where you're asking what we like)?

Posted by Erin
San Francisco, CA
176 posts

Sorry, this is a general "survey" question. I'm just interested in hearing what people's favorites are. I love all museums, and know I won't make it to all of them during my short trip, but I'm always interested to hear others opinions.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
6808 posts

My favorites:First, the British Museum (you asked for a reason to be given: The British Museum has, arguably, what has been called [not my words] the world's greatest collection of the artifacts of Western civilization)Also, the British Library (has some of the most important literary treasures of the Western world)

And for those with an interest in art:National Gallery (remarkable collection of European paintings of 13th century to ~1900)Tate Britain (Turner, Blake, Pre-Raphaelite)Tate Modern (Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Dali, Warhol, etc)

Posted by Mollie
camano Island, USA
97 posts

Hi from an old museum buff for London....I love all those mentioned but the one I ALWAYS head for first is the Museum of London which is the story of the city itself.

In recent years I have managed to get to the British Library too...it's just up the road from Kings Cross RR station. There is only really one room that I visit but if I am there at lunch time I love sitting in the casual restaurant and admiring the ancient books that are used as "decor" in the central glass middle of that space. The leather with touches of gold are impressive. Do try to see it.

There really is no "best"...you will make one your best I dare say! You can't miss in this fantastic city.

Mollie

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1349 posts

I have to say the British Museum is not just my favorite museum in London, but my favorite museum I have ever been too. On my first trip to London I spent a day and a half there. That was when the British Library was in the British Museum. I spent an entire morning just in the British Library, which I also love.

I didn't go to the Victoria and Albert on my first trip to London because I am not that much into decorative arts. But I decided to give it a try on my second trip, and I thought it was fantastic. The sheer variety of things there was amazing. There's something for everyone there.

Posted by Angela
Bloomington, IL, USA
64 posts

The British Musuem is great, but I also really liked the Imperial War Musuem. Rick's guide said it was only worth about 90 minutes, but we could have spend an afternoon there easily.

Posted by Arnold
Denver, CO, USA
1000 posts

V&A

Great variety of collections that enable you to sample a lot of stuff.

Posted by Tami
Boulder, CO, USA
780 posts

Been to London 3 times.

I liked the British Museum but it was so busy with tons of people with school trips, etc (in November, the off season, seems to be when schools go there) so I didnt get full enjoyment out of it. Very crowded and noisy. Plus it would have taken me a week to see it all! They do seem to have a nice Cafe though, and a very lovely little gift shop with alot of nice things I couldnt afford, and plenty of fun souvenirs for everyone, including books, etc.

The British Library is fun as well. It has a collection of novelty "gadgets" from the Victorian era as well as novel manuscripts, etc.

V & A was very nearby my hotel in Earls Ct so I walked to that, but it wasnt very fun for me since I am not into Art, but someone who enjoys roman artwork and other artsy stuff may enjoy it.

The Tate had a Dali exhibit when I was there but the line was out the door and was so crowded I didnt even try to get in. Not sure if it was becuase the museum is fantabulous, or people just love Dali. I know its a bit sad, me loving Europe but art does nothing for me.

I loved the "Museum of London" near St Pauls or Barbican tube stops (equal distance from both). It had a "great fire of London" exhibition with items found through digs, and other things from the era. It was a small museum and I think the exhibitions change but I will for sure be going again on my next trip! This is also very near to Postmans Park, a must see for anyone interested in Victorian London history. Plus, it was a quiet little shaded park with plenty of benches. i dont think many people know of it! Great place to eat lunch away from the crowds!

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
1698 posts

The British Library is fun as well. It has a collection of novelty "gadgets" from the Victorian era as well as novel manuscripts, etc.

That was a temporary exhibition, I'm afraid, that has now finished.

Posted by Roxanne
Dallas, Texas, USA
70 posts

It may not offically be classified as a museum but don't miss the Tower of London. You can't do London and not see the Crown Jewels!

Posted by Laura
London, UK
355 posts

I honestly love them all, especially all the ones that have been mentioned. Mind you, I am the sort of the person who'd enjoy walking around a cutlery museum!

As a science geek I have to put in a vote for the science museum. I could literally spend days there. The machines in the energy hall just make me awestruck. I always feel like I am back in the days of steam power.

I once took a rather modest and sedate tourist around the Wellcome Institute (fascinating if you are into medicine). She was very impressed by the display of historal, erm, marital aids. So impressed was she that it attracted the attention of the curator who had a nice long chat with her about them!

Posted by Matt
Washington, DC, USA
566 posts

Like many others, I love the British Museum, the Imperial War Museum, and I highly recommend the V&A during its late night when you can wander freely without the hassle of crowds.

But let me speak up for a less familiar museum: this past fall I finally had the chance to visit the Museum of London --Docklands. It's a fascinating look at the history of London as it relates to trade and travel up and down the Thames. The displays are fascinating and the layout of the museum (and few crowds) make it a pleasant half day of wandering. Don't miss it.

Posted by Ceidleh
Boston, MA, United States
1176 posts

The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. It's got a great collection of medical oddities & displays...including some of the very first plastinated human remains before Gunther VonHagen decided to make a very profitable circus out of his "Body Worlds" exhibits. Hunterian's plastination displays go back to the 1950s, other artifacts much older. It is never crowded & Hunterian is totally free and small enough to view in 1-2 hours. And it has an excellent park right across the street that is ideal for a picnic on a nice day.

Posted by Ceidleh
Boston, MA, United States
1176 posts

Also wanted to mention other fave is The Courtauld Galleries & Somerset House also great if you are interested in painting, sculpture or decorative arts. Again, not crowded as it's a smaller collection of museums. Fantastic courtyard with great fountain in center (was featured in movie "Last Chance Harvey") is a nice place to relax in summer with picnic or you can ice skate there in winter.

Posted by Sherrie
Fort Worth, Texas, USA
20 posts

Erin,

I must admit that I am a museum junky! When I was in London last summer, I tried to hit ALL the museums.
I didn't quite reach my goal, but that leaves me with a new goal for this summer's trip.

I particularly enjoyed three museums, The National Portrait Gallery, the Sloane Museum, and the Wallace Collection.

The NPG is wonderful because it has so many famous portaits that we have seen in books. It's small and more manageable than The Naitonal Gallery. The docents are a little too casual about the security of the art, however.

The Sloane museum is fascinating and bewildering. I found myself wondering about the personality of the man who had such diverse and sometimes bizarre collections. You have to see it to believe it. Words can not descibe it. It also has the most careful and enthusiastic docents of any of the museums.

But, I think my favorite museum was the Wallace Collection. Like Sloane House, it is also a house donated to the country by a rich collector. But it is much bigger, and more focused on specific painters and sculptors. Perhaps the best part is the huge collection of armor. There is even horse armor! I have never seen so much armor and weapons in one collection. And, I finally learned what a buckler is. I fully intend to go back to this museum again.

Which ever you choose, you can't go wrong! The Churchill Museum - fab! The B.M. - ditto. The Tate Britain - snooty docents, but good art. Enjoy!

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

The British Museum and the National Gallery are both awesome.

The best for me, however, was the treasures room at the British Library. Being in a room with so many incredible works and only a handful of other people was amazing.

Also, the Royal Jewels and armory collections at the Tower of London were great. I wouldn't have wanted to miss them. Touring the Tower with a "Beefeater" is a unique experience as well.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

The V&A , the British Museum, and the Portrait Gallery.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9131 posts

I wouldn't call it my absolute favorite or the best, but I enjoyed the National Portrait Gallery. Why? It was just interesting to put a face to so many names that were familiar from my school days. Everyone knows what Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill and Bill Shakespear looked like, but what about Charles Dickens, William Gladstone, the Duke of Marlborough, James Watt, Lord Byron, Walter Scott, Lord Baden-Powell, Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling and William Pitt the Younger, for example? You can see them all here and many more.

Posted by Roxanne
Dallas, Texas, USA
70 posts

If you're doing the Tower of London consider the tour of the Tower Bridge near by. The tour goes up one tower, across the walkway and down the other tower. The view from the walkway of London is spectacular.

Posted by Barry
ATL
3 posts

British Museum, then the Imperial War Museum. The Imperial War is off the beaten tourist path, and not part of the national trust (read: £££), but if you are a History Channel aficionado, you can spend days here.

Posted by Brittany
Richmond, VA
14 posts

I studied abroad in London for a fall semester. I can't remember how many times I visited the V&A for an afternoon. I love the decorative arts, so it was an easy choice.

A very near second? The Wallace Collection. They have an incredible collection of Boucher paintings. I could have gazed at them all day.

Standing in front of "Bathers" at the National Gallery was a wonderful moment for me, too, as a Seurat lover.

Also, just a side note: The Imperial War Museum in London is free admission, but you do have to pay for some special exhibitions.

Posted by Nicole
Milwaukee
194 posts

The Imperial War Museum is one of the neatest museums I've ever been to. I spent a semester in London, and took a few visitors there who came to visit. Everyone really enjoyed it.

I've always enjoyed learning about history, but the museum makes everything that much more interesting. Many of the exhibits are very hands on and interactive.

Posted by Boyd
Park City, UT, USA
14 posts

Hi,
I like the V & A; something to please everyone and manageable in half a day. Also, the John Soames is a treat, a hodgepodge of treasures in his house probably in the same state as when he lived there. There are a maximum number of people allowed in at the same time.

cheers

Posted by Erin
San Francisco, CA
176 posts

Wow! Thanks for all of your great suggestions-- I hope others who are going to London are finding this helpful!

We're just back from our quick trip, and while we didn't make it to all of our choices...we did a good bit..

-British Museum (loved!!)
-British Library (fantastic manuscripts-- and loved seeing the original Beowulf as well as Beatles songs hand written by the band!)
-National Gallery...Whistlejacket...the bathers, so many lovely paintings
-Apsley House-- a last minute addition, but a quick and nice look into Wellington's life

We also managed to see Windsor castle, St. Paul's and Westminster (not really museums, but very close!)

Next trip-- V&A, Churchill Museum, Museum of London and another trip back to British Museum-- can't wait!

Posted by Emma
Derry
161 posts

Hi Erin, I am a Paul Cezanne fan so the Courtauld Gallery is my choice. "The Card Players" -WOW- would I love to own that. I'm just a few million short but working on it. The Gallery is free untill 2PM on Mondays. Just saved another 5 pounds.

Posted by Linda
New Orleans, USA
18 posts

Since I tend to burn out on the gigantic museums very rapidly, I really enjoyed the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. Interesting story of the orphanage and quite an art collection, definitely worth a visit.