Best Museums in London

There’s an unbeatable arts and culture scene in the capital and that means that London is fit to bursting with museums. Not only are there literally hundreds of world-class museums and galleries to explore in the city, many of them are free, so you can always go to one of the best museums in London even if you’re on a strict budget.

There are museums for just about everything in London, from the big hitters like the British Museum and the Design Museum to nicher and more alternative institutions, like one dedicated to novelty arcade games and another filled with mummified skeletons and taxidermy. Not only do many of these London museums hold incredible collections and permanent displays, they also host blockbuster exhibitions too, so no many how many times you visit, you’ll stumble across something you haven’t seen before.

Three of the biggest and most famous museums in London, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the V&A, are clustered around Exhibition Road in South Kensington, so if you’re looking for the ultimate cultural day out in the capital, that should cover it and then some. Then there are the more local but no less fascinating venues, like the Hackney Museum, Sir John Soane’s Museum, and William Morris Gallery, so whatever corner of the city you’re exploring, there’s likely a museum you can dip into. And with new and revived museums opening regularly – Queer Britain, the UK’s first museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ history opened in King’s Cross in 2022, and the revamped and relocated Museum of London is opening in West Smithfield in 2026 – there’s always going to be something new to see.


They don’t call the Victoria & Albert Museum the world’s leading museum of art and design for nothing. Its seven floors are full to the brim with original paintings, posters, jewellery, ceramics, sculptures, textiles and more, with the permanent collection numbering more than 2.8 million objects. The V&A has the largest fashion collection in the world, so it’s not surprising that the museum is known for its fashion exhibitions, having hosted blockbuster shows on Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, menswear, African fashion, kimonos and Balenciaga.


Founded by Sir Terence Conran in 1989, the Design Museum in Kensington (where it’s been since 2016) is the world’s leading museum dedicated to contemporary design. As well as holding a collection that spans architecture, fashion, furniture, product, graphic design and transport, the museum hosts varied exhibitions that cover all aspects of modern design, from surrealism to Amy Winehouse, sneakers to electronic music and football to Stanley Kubrick.


The British Museum doesn’t need too much of an introduction, it’s the world’s oldest national public museum, after all. It’s an institution steeped in history and a fair share of controversy; it also houses the most comprehensive collection of pieces exploring two million years of human history, art and culture in existence.


If your daily commute just isn’t enough time spent in London’s transport system, then spend a day at the London Transport Museum. The institution, which is the world’s leading museum of urban transport, showcases the past 200 years of history of travel in London as well as the stories of the people involved in it. Most of the museum’s collection is held at the depot in Acton (which is only open to the public for certain events throughout the year) but you can see everything from tube roundel designs and vintage posters to early trams and modern black cabs.


Founded by Dame Zandra Rhodes, the Fashion and Textile Museum is the only museum in the UK dedicated to contemporary fashion and textile design, so if you’re into your clothes this place is a must-visit. The collection features pieces from 1947 up to the present, including designs by the likes of Christian Dior, Balenciaga, Biba, Mary Quant and Vivienne Westwood, and the museum has held exhibitions on everything from Peruvian textiles to Orla Kiely to t-shirts.


Set inside what was the renowned neo-classical architect’s home once upon a time, Sir John Soane’s Museum has been kept exactly as it was when he died in 1837 – a preserved time capsule for anyone who wants to travel almost 200 years back in time. You’ll find Soane’s immense collection of antiques, furniture, sculptures, architectural models and paintings inside, as well as his newly-refurbished Drawing Office (the oldest surviving of its kind). They also host regular exhibitions, talks and ‘Soane Lates’ through which you can learn even more about the history of London and its buildings.


Ground Floor Technology and Learning Centre, 1 Reading Lane E8 1GQ

Less known than it should be, The Hackney Museum is a great example of diversity among the local community as many of its exhibits tell the story of how people from all over the world have made London their home. Star exhibits include the ‘Hackney Hoard’, a collection of double eagle coins unearthed in a Hackney garden, a propaganda sheet from Nazi Germany and a sculpture made by a child from Sierra Leone.


11 Mare Street, London E8 4RP

For any of you that have been to Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities you’ll know it’s quite the err…curious place. Hackney’s world famous emporium of bizarre collectables houses everything from mummified skeletons to taxidermy is now not only a place to see, but also to eat. Allow us to elaborate. The museum is now home to a restaurant offering an exciting new menu of feasting platters and exotic game burgers featuring the likes of zebra, camel, ostrich and kangaroo. Yikes, sorry Skippy. Fancy the place to yourself? Then hire the entire museum for private dining and indulge in the luxury-feasting menu that includes oysters, foie-gras and pheasant terrine. They certainly don’t do things by halves over at Mr Wynd’s. Wash it all down with some house cocktails inspired by the museum’s inventory and you might just have yourself London’s most fantastical, but wonderful night out.

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2 Granary Square, London N1C 4BH

It took four years to find the space but Queer Britain, the nation’s first LGBTQ+ museum is open in Granary Square. It’s a fully accessible, inclusive and free-entry space that “will be an essential place for all regardless of sexuality or gender identity, to find out about the culture they have been born into, have chosen or seek to understand.”


The Wallace Collection, held inside Hertford House, was built up by the Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace over the 18th and 19th centuries, and is considered to be one of the finest collections in the world. It features a range of furniture, paintings, sculpture, arms & armour, and porcelain, with a particularly rich selection of French 18th century decorative arts, and it’s totally free for the public.


An unlikely museum tucked away on an unlikely Holborn side street, Novelty Automation is one of the city’s most criminally unsung gems. Part arcade, part art gallery, the space is filled with (as the name suggests) novelty automata, various coin-operated machines designed to amuse and/or bemuse the user. This is one of those places that you don’t want to read up about too much before going so we’re not going to give too much away, but we’ll let the names of some of the machines do the talking: ‘Pet or Meat’, ‘Autofrisk’ and ‘Money Laundering’, to name a few.


Fancy flying with the Red Arrows? Or taking a trip to the stars on an Apollo space mission? A visit to the Science Museum can make those dreams come true, as its seven floors are kitted out with advanced technology and 4D simulators to help bring science to life. The museum’s world class collection includes objects that have helped advance the fields of mathematics, medicine, technology, chemistry, computing, astronomy, space exploration, robotics and more. The museum regularly hosts major exhibitions and also runs a well-regarded Lates series, themed around topics like space, Pride, and Chinese New Year.


Explore the past 4.5 billion years of history through 80 million objects at the National History Museum (which is a renowned research centre as well as a cultural institution) whose collection covers botany, entomology, zoology, mineralogy and palaeontology. The museum is most famous for its massive skeletons hanging in the main hall, including Dippy the diplodocus and his replacement, Hope the whale, and it also hosts popular temporary exhibitions like the Wildlife Photographer of the Year show.


111-117 Lancaster Rd, W11 1QT

A guided tour of the history of branding, there are around 12,000 different items in the Aladdin’s cave that is the Museum of Brands. Amongst other things, you can check out Rimmel cosmetics from the 1890s, First World War Oxo cubes and a 1970s chopper bike.


Housed inside the old St Mary-at-Lambeth church, which is where early gardener and plant hunter John Tradescant is buried, the Garden Museum is tells the story of British gardening from the 16th century to today. The museum’s collection includes gardening tools and artefacts as well as art, photography and painting, and it’s also home to the Archive of Garden Design, which features records from British garden designers from the last two centuries. You can’t very well have a museum dedicated to gardens without one of its own, and it’s a beauty – the courtyard garden, inspired by Tradescant and designed by Dan Pearson, it’s an eden of rare plants. The museum also boasts an excellent cafe, so it really is a place to make a day of it.


It may be the less famous of the two London Tate galleries but Tate Britain still plays host to some major exhibitions (Aubrey Beardsley, William Blake, David Hockney, LGBT British Art, and Paula Rego have all been the subject of shows). As you may guess from the name, art made in Britain from 1500 to the present day is the focus here. The permanent collection is arranged by date and includes works by William Hogarth, John Singer Sargent, Gwen John, Francis Bacon, and David Hockney. The art isn’t confined to the interior of the building; the gallery does epic winter installations on its exterior, with past ones including giant slugs and Bollywood-inspired neon signs.