The Best Cultural Attractions in London
London is approximately 2000 years old, and home to some of the world’s most historic landmarks. On top of this, there are plenty of museums and art galleries to explore, where visitors can see incredible art and precious artefacts. If you’re looking to soak up some culture during your stay in the capital, keep reading; here are some of the best cultural and historical attractions in the city.
The Tate Modern & Tate Britain
The Tate Modern is home to some of the finest contemporary artworks in the world; you’ll find everything from mid-20th century paintings and photography to amazing sculpture and installation art here. Alongside its permanent collection, the gallery features exhibitions from leading contemporary artists, so make sure you check out their website to find out what’s on. It’s one of the most-visited galleries in the capital, and the most popular modern art gallery in the world, despite the fact that it only opened in the year 2000. Located on Bankside in a former power station, this cavernous art space is definitely a must-visit. The easiest way to get to the Tate Modern is by tube; Southwark, Blackfriars and St. Paul’s are the nearest stations.
Its sister museum, the Tate Britain, is also worth a visit. Located on Millbank, close to Pimlico tube station, it houses a huge collection of British art dating from the 1500s to the present day, including the popular J.M.W. Turner collection. You’ll also find artworks from renowned figures like Francis Bacon, William Hogarth, and John Everett Millais here.
Regular visitors might want to consider signing up for a Tate membership. Members get free entry to Tate exhibitions at any gallery (including Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives), exclusive access to ‘members rooms’ and invites to special events.
The National Portrait Gallery
Centrally located in Charing Cross, the National Portrait Gallery contains some of the world’s most impressive portraits. With artworks from a diverse pool of talent, including David Hockney, Thomas Gainsborough and Leonardo Da Vinci, there’s plenty to take in. You can easily spend all day there but, if you’re short on time, you can just pop in to see your favourites. They also hold a series of exciting events and exhibitions, including the annual BP Portrait Award.
The British Museum
Attracting almost 6 million visitors each year, The British Museum is one of the capital’s most popular cultural hotspots. Located in Bloomsbury, it houses a vast collection of more than 8 million pieces of art, literature, and other historical artefacts. One of the museum’s most notable objects on display is the Rosetta Stone: an ancient stone slab inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs. The museum also hosts a number of exhibitions throughout the year, with special shows dedicated to a particular artist or style of art. Admission to the museum is free, though donations are welcome.
Famed for its brilliant Brutalist architecture and eclectic mix of events, the Barbican Centre is a cultural hub in the heart of East London. In addition to a roster of events – which includes classical and contemporary live music, theatre, film screenings, talks and workshops – the centre is home to 2 gallery spaces showcasing contemporary art and photography.
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is a Grade I listed royal palace in the borough of Richmond upon Thames, just 12 miles south of central London. It dates back to the year 1515, and was built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey by King Henry VIII. 5 of Henry’s 6 wives lived here; his third wife Jayne Seymore died here, and the palace is said to be haunted by her ghost! The Hampton Court Palace maze is the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze, and – providing you don’t get too lost – it takes around 20 minutes to get to the centre.
Victoria & Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum is the largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design in the world, housing 2.3 million objects in its permanent collection. Its collection spans 5000 years, and includes objects from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia, and North Africa – both ancient and present day. Entrance to the museum is free, with new timed entry tickets recently launched to the public to manage crowds. The museum is also located in Knightsbridge, conveniently close to The Natural History Museum which is situated opposite, making it the ideal location for a culture-filled day trip with the help of our handy guides.
Royal Museums Greenwich
For a great day out with the family, visit the Royal Museums Greenwich. Royal Museums Greenwich is made up of 4 museums housed within a UNESCO world heritage site, including the National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House gallery, the Royal Observatory and the world’s last surviving tea clipper, the Cutty Sark. The focus of these museums is exploration; with a highlight being the Peter Harrison Planetarium (in the Royal Observatory), where visitors can explore the wonders of the night’s sky.
Royal Academy of Arts
The Royal Academy of Arts was founded in 1768, and is Britain’s oldest art institute. It is known for its world-class exhibitions and displays which includes drawings, paintings, architectural designs, photographs, and sculptures by artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds, John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough, J.M.W. Turner, David Hockney and Tracey Emin. The institution is situated in Piccadilly in the heart of the West End, and is free to enter unless paying for individual exhibitions.
Originally founded in 1901 to ‘bring art to the people of East London’, Whitechapel Gallery has played a key role in shaping the cultural landscape across the capital and within the local community. The gallery celebrates modern and contemporary art and is internationally renowned for premiering work by artists including Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock.
The Design Museum
Discover some fascinating displays of product, industrial, graphic, fashion, and architectural design at the award-winning The Design Museum in Kensington. Entrance to the museum is free and regularly hosts events and talks alongside its programme of temporary exhibitions.
London’s diverse pool of cultural attractions makes the capital an ideal destination for lovers of art and history. And, with many of our top hotels in London located centrally, visiting these cultural attractions couldn’t be easier.