The V&A is one of the world’s – let alone London's – most magnificent museums, its foundation stone laid on this site by Queen Victoria in her last official public engagement in 1899. It is a superb showcase for applied arts from around the world, appreciably calmer than its tearaway cousins on the other side of Exhibition Road. Some 150 grand galleries on seven floors contain countless pieces of furniture, ceramics, sculpture, paintings, posters, jewellery, metalwork, glass, textiles and dress, spanning several centuries. Items are grouped by theme, origin or age: for advice, tap the patient staff, who field a formidable combination of leaflets, floor plans, general knowledge and polite concern.
Highlights include the seven Raphael Cartoons painted in 1515 as tapestry designs for the Sistine Chapel; the finest collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture outside Italy; the Ardabil carpet, the world’s oldest and arguably most splendid floor covering, in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art; and the Luck of Edenhall, a thirteenth-century glass beaker from Syria. The Fashion galleries run from eighteenth-century court dress right up to contemporary chiffon numbers; the Architecture gallery has videos, models, plans and descriptions of various styles; and the famous Photography collection holds over 500,000 images.
Over more than a decade, the V&A’s on-going FuturePlan transformation has been a revelation. The completely refurbished Medieval & Renaissance Galleries are stunning, but there are many other eye-catching new or redisplayed exhibits: they were preceded by the restored mosaic floors and beautiful stained glass of the fourteenth- to seventeenth-century sculpture rooms, just off the central John Madejski Garden, and followed by the Furniture Galleries – an immediate hit on opening in late 2012. On a smaller scale, the Gilbert Collection of silver, gold and gemmed ornaments arrived from Somerset House; the Ceramics Galleries have been renovated and supplemented with an eye-catching bridge; there’s lovely Buddhist sculpture in the Robert HN Ho Family Foundation Galleries; and the Theatre & Performance Galleries took over where Covent Garden’s defunct Theatre Museum left off.
Newer additions include the museum's 'Rapid Response Collection' features examples of contemporary design and architecture, particularly those that represent important events and current affairs. The ambitious Europe 1600-1815 galleries, which cost £12.5m, will open in December 2015. A stunning 4m-long table fountain – painstakingly reconstructed from eighteenth-century fragments – is the centrepiece of seven new galleries, taking a chronological and thematic approach to European clothes, furnishings and other artefacts. The Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art reopened in November 2015, exhibiting 550 works from the sixth century to the present day. Look out for the first ever Sony Walkman, a Hello Kitty rice cooker and an origami outfit by Issey Miyake. See a slideshow of highlights from the collection.
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thu, Sat, Sun 10am-5.45pm; Fri 10am-10pm|
|Transport:||Tube: South Kensington|
|Price:||Free (permanent collection); admission charge applies for some temporary exhibitions|
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Things to do
The V&A Family Tree
An artificial Christmas tree has a carbon footprint up to twenty times larger than a farmed one, so this year's V&A tree is celebrating sustainability. The Family Tree is modelled on the front cover of a book called ’The Christmas Tree’ illustrated by...pop-ups Until Sunday January 6 2019
Fashioned from Nature review
This is the V&A doing what the V&A does best: staging world-class exhibitions of immaculately preserved and presented fashion. There are two strands to their new spring blockbuster’s bow. The first covers the way clothing has been inspired by the beauty...Until Sunday January 27 2019
Things to do
Museum of Architecture Gingerbread City
The Museum of Architecture’s Gingerbread City is back and this year it's filling the mighty V&A with impressive models made of dough. Feast your eyes on an imaginary city made by architecture firms, who were invited to pick a plot on the masterplan and...Exhibitions Until Sunday January 6 2019
Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt review
On hearing the title of this exhibition, you’re either going to think: What a great excuse to play eight more hours of Journey, just to re-familiarise myself with the NPCs, or: What? Video games? Like Pac-Man? Admittedly, the first few rooms of this...Until Sunday February 24 2019
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams
'Designer of dreams': has an exhibition ever been so appropriately named? The V&A goes bigger than a post-war circle skirt with this massive retrospective of Christian Dior. Famous for the 'New Look' which threw out wartime austerity in favour of tiny...Saturday February 2 2019 - Sunday July 14 2019
Even if you were born too late to enjoy strutting down the King's Road wearing a mini skirt and coloured tights, there's a good chance Mary Quant influences what you wear. The British designer revolutionised the high street and the public's access to...Saturday April 6 2019 - Sunday March 8 2020
In an era where it's not worth eating if it's not worth also Instagramming, it's hardly surprising the V&A have decided there's no better topic for an exhibition than food, glorious food. But whilst a visual feast of actual feasts surely awaits, the real...Saturday May 18 2019 - Sunday November 17 2019
When Tim Walker took over Somerset House with his 'Story Teller' exhibition in 2012, the gallery was filled with, among other things, a 10ft tall baby doll and an orchestra of oversized bugs. Seven years later and the photographer, a long-time contributor...Saturday September 7 2019 - Sunday March 8 2020
In 1865, the UK parliament passed The Red Flag Act, a law insisting all motorised vehicles travelled at a maximum of 2mph in the city (think: London at rush hour) or 4mph in the countryside and warned pedestrians of their approach with a man walking in...Saturday October 5 2019 - Sunday April 19 2020
Average User Rating
4.8 / 5
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A superb museum. I especially like the pearl exhibition. But the free fashion room through the ages was also something not to be missed. A great all-rounder of a museum.
I was surprise my first time in this museum. Plenty of stuff to see. Sometime with temporary exhibition but normally enough to see with that ones that are permanent. Food also good in the building
Gorgeous building in itself, always have very interesting exhibitions, great location near the restaurants and bars of South Kensington and right near South Kensington tube station and lots of buses.
Never thought I would own an album on the V&A record label
Having visited "So You Say You Want A Revolution ?" I just had to take some of it home with me
It's on till February 2017 and its a MUST
The V&A continues to inform and entertain.
One of best museum in London by far. The permanent displays are always free and the special exhibitions are generally really interesting. A good cafe and in the summer the garden is a great spot to sit back and watch the world go by.
Fantastic building! The courtyard is particularly stunning in the summer. I really enjoyed the Asian artifacts, some great unusual pieces. The place is huge so you will need at least a day! The temporary exhibitions tend to be interesting too although a little expensive and often very busy.
Absolutely one of London's top museums. I became a member after my first visit because I loved it so much (and also because the queues can be an absolute ballache...). There are always fantastic exhibitions on, showing some really great design history such as their current 'What is Luxury', 'Shoes: Pain and Pleasure' and the infamous Alexander McQueen exhibits.
Location is lovely, and there are plenty of delicious places to stop off at to get away from the tourists nearby. I recommend choosing a clear day as there is no covered area to queue outside (better still - become a member, it's so worth it!)
By far one of the best museums in London. The Victoria & Albert museum never fails to impress me. There's always a good run of different shows and expos. The best one to date has to be Savage Beauty by Alexander McQueen! Just breathtaking! I'm also a big fan of the V&A lates - a great chance to wonder around the museum with a beer in hand. The mosaic-ed cafe gets me every time, it's just so beautiful and the food is pretty damn good too! I also love how the coffee is served in William Morris inspired paper cups, to pretty to recycle!
I love this place, I always try and get down to see the special exhibitions. The timed entrances to these stagger the visitors attending so you get to see the items without being jostled about. I last saw the History of Couture here, I love the fashion displays, they are displayed as beautiful works of art. A beautiful venue, and a cup of tea and a cake in the courtyard is a most welcome treat too!
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