Expatica presents its selection of top museums in London.
In a cosmopolitan city, such as London, there is a world of attractions to enjoy and landmarks to visit. The capital has astounded both tourists and newcomers with its magnificent sights; and although tourists have to create a precise schedule in order to visit all places that are worth seeing, some spots are a must in a proper London tour.
Natural History Museum
Number one on our list of museums is the Natural History Museum, London. As with many landmarks in London, you can visit the museum and enjoy the exhibitions for free. The Natural History Museum is home to one of the largest natural history collections in the world varying from microscopic slides to mammoth skeletons. The building which houses the exhibits is an architectural masterpiece that resembles a cathedral. A giant Diplodocus skeleton welcomes you at the entrance. The museum is divided into four main zones, each of them representing a different sphere of life and science. The green zone concentrates on facts about life, the planet, environment and evolution. The red zone explores our planet and its place in the universe. In the blue zone, you can marvel at the diversity of life on our planet, and in the orange zone you can enjoy the Wildlife garden and the Darwin centre (must be booked in advance). On the website, you can check the opening times and the visiting exhibitions.
Our next selection is the British Museum. This is the museum of human history and culture in London. Its exhibits, containing more than seven million objects, are among the largest and most remarkable collections in the world. The exhibition sections represent artifacts from Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ancient China and Greece, Rome and the Americas. You can use the museum website to plan your visit, depending on the length of time you expect to spend there. You can choose proposed tours from the menu, which advise you what you should not miss in an hour, three hours or a plus-children tour (http://www.britishmuseum.org/visiting/planning_your_visit.asp). In the ‘What’s on’ section of the website, you can also stay up-to-date on future exhibitions and activities in the museum.
Museum of London
The Museum of London documents the history of London from the Prehistoric to the present day. It is comprised of a series of chronological galleries containing original artifacts, models, pictures and diagrams, with a strong emphasis on archaeological discoveries, the built city, urban development, and London’s social and cultural life, with interactive displays and activities for all ages. Fragments of the Roman London Wall can be seen just outside the museum. This year, visitors can also enjoy London Street Photography. This new major exhibition at the Museum of London showcases an extraordinary collection of London street photography, with over 200 candid images of everyday life in the street.
One of the most impressive exhibitions in the capital is the National Gallery. It houses the national collection of Western European painting from around 1250 onwards. Among the paintings, there are masterpieces by Reubens, Van Gogh, Turner, Leonardo Da Vinci, Monet, Rembrandt, and many more. Along with the pleasure of viewing superb works of art, the gallery gives you many more reasons to visit it. The English government believes that art belongs to each and every citizen, so entrance to the gallery is free. In addition, you can visit some of the numerous and incredibly entertaining workshops organized there. If you are not that knowledgeable about art, you can discover more about the paintings through talks, tours and online guides. Visit the National Gallery website for more details.
The Victoria and Albert Museum
If you are in the mood for contemporary art, do not miss the Tate Modern. An average of five million visitors a year can’t be wrong, making it the world’s most popular contemporary art gallery, and the most visited sight in London. In his online guide to London’s sights, Michael Pernikis shares that the Gallery of Contemporary and Modern Art is his favourite, “because it is the only museum where you can’t expect what you are going to see”. Surprises at Tate Modern never end; if you are not sure where to start, try a range of hands-on games, explore multimedia activities, read books and watch films relating to the art on display at the gallery. Don’t forget to explore the visiting exhibitions on the gallery website, where you can find computer and mobile phone applications sharing the theme of contemporary art.
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum is described as the world’s greatest museum of art and design, representing over three thousand years of human creativity, with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity. It houses a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects arranged in 145 galleries. Michael Pernikis says that he loves visiting the museum, because “with every step you make inside, you feel transferred into another era and time” and like a time machine, it plunges you into the exquisite and memorable past. Today the museum offers visitors the chance to explore it more deeply by using its study rooms, guided tours, gallery activities, lectures and special events. Whether you want to enjoy the galleries independently, or get more closely involved, there are many ways to discover the delights of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
If science is your passion, you must visit the Science Museum. Today the museum is world renowned for its historic collections, awe-inspiring galleries and inspirational exhibitions. Here are over 300,000 objects from spheres like science, ITC, medicine and engineering technologies. The museum is spread over five floors, so you shouldn’t expect to see it all in one day. You can also visit the IMAX cinema in the museum and enjoy movies about the wildlife, outer space or the depths of the ocean. Here you can find life-changing objects from Stephenson’s Rocket to the Apollo 10 command module, take in a science show, introduce children to science with fun, hands-on interactive,s and encounter the past, present and future of technologies. Visit the website for more information.
The Garden Museum celebrates the design, history and art of gardens. Here is why you should not miss it in your museum tour; it is situated on the grounds of a 14th century church, it has the largest collection of plants and flowers in the UK ,and is the heaven for any keen gardener. The museum’s collections contain over 9000 objects representing British gardens and gardening through the ages. The museum is well-known for its collections and exhibitions, various events, symposia and its garden in the style of a 17th Century knot garden. There is a lot on offer in terms of contemporary gardening too.
National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum (also known as the Royal Observatory, Greenwich) is a museum dedicated to the sea, ships, astronomy and time. Once you enter through the sound of breaking waves, you arrive in one of the greatest maritime museums of the world. Arranged in a series of themed exhibition galleries, you can recall the romance of the great ocean liners, appreciate the elegance of Prince Frederick’s golden barge, delve into the traditions of maritime London and study the controversial history of trade across the Atlantic. It houses over two million objects and it also has the world’s largest historical reference library, containing more than 100,000 books, some dating as far back as the fifteenth century.
Kirina Boykova / Expatica
Photos: Natural History Museum (homepage); Museum of London (head); Victoria and Albert (text)