Museums

Discover some of the world's best museums and exhibitions

Museums

Free museums in London

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Museums

Sir John Soane's Museum

A perfectly amazing place to explore

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Museums

Hunterian Museum

Exhibits include the skeleton of the 7ft 7in tall ‘Irish giant’, and the tooth of a megatherium (an extinct giant sloth)

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Museums

Wellcome Collection

The temporary exhibitions at this recently revamped space are often brilliant

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Museums

Foundling Museum

Tells the story of the Foundling Hospital and houses a fine collection of paintings

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Popular exhibitions in London

Things to do

The BFG in Pictures

Unlike the Big Friendly Giant’s ears, this exhibition of original drawings – some on display for the first time – is pretty tiny, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in charm. Quentin Blake himself has provided text for the labels (he is the gallery’s founder, after all), meaning they’re extra loveable and a little fact-light, but the joy here is being able to almost press your nose up to the beautiful illustrations that are so familiar and yet still so exciting to look at.  The two-dozen-odd frames include a guide to drawing the BFG, and there’s a colouring table with a wonderful activity sheet for smaller visitors, drawn by Blake, which is a good thing as they would find the exhibition itself fairly dry. But as a grown-up who wants to relive the magic of Dahl’s stories it’s hard not to get excited about the first ever drawings of a snozzcumber.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Things to do

Real to Reel: A Century of War Movies

Like many of you, I’ve long wanted to see the Santa hat Jake Gyllenhaal wore on his knob in ‘Jarhead’ up close. So it’s a tribute to the scope of this not-massive show on the history of war in cinema that it gives you the chance to do just that.  In 1916, cameramen were allowed to record the build-up and action of the Battle of the Somme. The resulting film was part documentary, part propaganda. Seen by 20 million people back in Blighty, it inspired, appalled and established many of the themes and paradoxes around the way that war has been shown on screen in the 100 years since.  There’s a lot to see here, from a brilliant montage of changing tastes in depicting D-Day, to Disney’s little-known classic ‘Victory Through Air Power’. There are even – inspired! – the models from Aardman’s ‘Great Escape’ parody ‘Chicken Run’. Among the canonical classics (‘Paths of Glory’, ‘Carve Her Name with Pride’) there are nods to naughty teatime treats such as ‘Where Eagles Dare’, as well as emotive modern outings including ‘War Horse’, although there are significant omissions: no ‘Ivan’s Childhood’, no ‘Come and See’.  Trainspotter types (not me, obviously) will enjoy the artefacts, such as the RAF uniform David Niven wore in ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, and a chair from Rick’s bar in ‘Casablanca’. If the show soft-pedals on the death and maiming of actual battle, it reflects what we’ve learned in 100 years of near-continuous conflict: that we as the audience can only take so much, and t

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Things to do

Missoni Art Colour

The stripey overhead lighting makes it clear that the Fashion and Textile Museum is under occupation by Missoni, the Italian family firm founded in 1953 and famous for its stripes and zig-zags.  Before you get to the meat of the exhibition, there’s a screening room – think of it as the antipasti – with films showing what it takes to make a Missoni garment. 

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  • 2 out of 5 stars
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Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design

The late Danish-British engineer Ove Arup was responsible for some of the world’s most iconic buildings. He didn’t design them; he built them. Before his death in 1988, Arup brought his groundbreaking techniques to realise projects from the penguin pool at London Zoo to the Sydney Opera House. The firm he founded is now a multinational empire whose current projects include Crossrail. In short, Arup is a very big deal. Even so, this show might be a hard sell. Engineers are quiet achievers, overshadowed by architects and designers. Everyone knows it takes innovation and imagination to design a beautiful building. The show’s prototypes, models, drawings, photographs and films make it clear that those skills are also crucial for those who make buildings work. The Sydney Opera House could never have been built without Arup. Commissioned in 1957, it was finally completed in 1973. Through the ’50s and ’60s, Arup and his team went through plan after plan, trying to find a way to build the now-famous shells. They finally cracked it using a computer – a pioneering approach that transformed the way engineers work. That computer – a colossal box – is on display at the V&A alongside tanks of gurgling algae, a more recent Arup innovation that uses photosynthesis to heat buildings. The emphasis here is on Arup and his company’s huge projects, but small details provide a glimpse into his personality: his own slides of the Opera House under construction; his doodles and party invitations.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear

The V&A is a victim of its own success. Ever since the Alexander McQueen exhibition ‘Savage Beauty’, with its drama, tragedy and preposterous gorgeousness, the bar for their fashion exhibitions has been set impossibly high. While this is not another ‘Savage Beauty’, it is a thoughtful and interesting show. ‘Undressed’ tells the story of undies from the eighteenth century to more recent times. It reveals the ingenuity of underwear, from the missing bones at the back of crinolines which allowed women to sit, to corsets designed for horseriding – forerunners to the sports bra. There are some incredible examples of underwear’s influence on outerwear. Highlights include a transparent Givenchy haute couture dress by John Galliano and a Dolce & Gabbana sheer silk dress with wicker crinoline. Despite the inclusion of Y-fronts and ruffs to represent the men, this story about underwear is also, by necessity, a story about the female form. For centuries, women have been contorting their bodies to meet the demands of fashion, from the hoops of the eighteenth century to contemporary Ann Cherry waist-trainers and bum-lifters. This conversation is not new. Queen guitarist Brian May has donated a revealing selection of Victorian satiricial stereoscopic images. ‘Crinoline Stories’ demonstrate just how absurdly huge women’s skirts could be, often keeping ladies from their beaus and causing all manner of accidents. ‘Undressed’ reveals more than just pants, it’s an exploration of our relati

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Check out more great exhibitions in London

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Museums

Science Museum

The Science Museum features seven floors of educational and entertaining exhibits, including the Apollo 10 command module and a flight simulator

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Geffrye Museum

Housed in a set of 18th-century almshouses, the Geffrye Museum offers a vivid physical history of the English interior. Displaying original furniture, textiles and decorative arts, the museum recreates a sequence of typical middle-class living rooms from 1600 to the present. It is a fascinating way to take in domestic history. The Geffrye Museum also has an airy restaurant overlooking the gardens, which include a herb garden and a series of period garden 'rooms' with period seating (open Apr 1 to Oct 31, during museum opening hours). Tours of the restored almshouses take place regularly, as do children's activities and workshops (see the website for details).

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Museums

British Museum

One of the world's oldest museums, the British Museum is one of London's greatest cultural treasures

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Museums

Natural History Museum

The handsome Alfred Waterhouse building houses a collection that contains some 70 million plant, animal, fossil, rock and mineral specimens

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Museums

Design Museum

Opened in 1989 (following its original incarnation as the Boilerhouse established in the V&A by Terence Conran), the Design Museum by Tower Bridge encompasses modern and contemporary industrial and fashion design, graphics, architecture and multimedia. The smart Blueprint Café has a balcony overlooking the Thames. You can buy design books in the museum shop, as well as products related to the exhibitions. Exhibitions are usually accompanied by a programme of workshops for children.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Museums

V&A

The V&A houses one of the world's greatest collections of decorative arts, in such varied fields as ceramics, sculpture, portrait miniatures and photographs

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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