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Natural History Museum whale
Photograph: NHM London

The Natural History Museum, Science Museum and V&A are all reopening in August

It’s like the Glastonbury festival of bones, rockets and William Morris wallpaper

By
Chris Waywell
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In news that will gladden cultured Londoners and stressed-out summer-holidaying parents alike, three of the capital’s biggest museums have announced that they will be reopening in August. The Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum collectively attract millions of visitors a year to what marketing people insist on calling London’s 'Museum Quarter’ in South Kensington. But, like the rest of the city’s cultural institutions, they have been closed since March.

Now the three are reopening, albeit in a rather altered form. For starters, you won’t just be able to wander in off the street any more. One of the joys of South Ken has always been that if you’re waiting to meet someone, have pulled a sickie or otherwise have time to kill, you can spend a happy hour just strolling around one of its massive free cultural cathedrals. Not now. All three museums are going to be admitting visitors in pre-booked timed slots only. No more hiding from the rain for you. 

First up, on August 5, is the Natural History Museum. It’s limiting numbers with timed slots. Most of its galleries are going to be open as usual, including the Hintze Hall with its blue-whale skeleton and the dinosaur gallery, but some of them – where social distancing isn’t possible – will remain closed. The café will be open, with reduced seating. There’s a handy map on the NHM website showing what’s open. Opening times are Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 6pm. Free general admission tickets are available to pre-book from Thursday July 16. More info on its site.

Next up to fling open its big bronze doors again is the V&A. Partially reopening from August 6, the museum will initially operate Thursday to Sunday, 11am to 3pm, before extending these hours to 11am to 7pm from August 27. Galleries that are going to be open as normal include the spectacular Cast Courts and Sculpture galleries, the Medieval and Renaissance galleries, the Fashion galleries, and Asian galleries. The museum’s ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ exhibition, which has been visitable online during lockdown, will reopen IRL on August 27. Note that there are no cloakroom facilities, so don’t turn up with a suitcase. Full details on its site.

Last to the post, but surely the best positioned when it comes to the technicalities of a pandemic, the Science Museum is back in business from August 19. It’s also doing pre-booked free tickets, but is going the whole hog when it comes to opening times, receiving visitors daily, 10am to 6pm. Depending on your mood, you may or may not want to explore the Wellcome Medicine Galleries, but you definitely will want to check out giant displays devoted to space, technology, vehicles and various steam engines, computers, plus a special exhibition about driverless cars. Some bits will remain closed, including the garden. More visitor information on its site.

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