London plays host to some of the world’s most famous museums and galleries. With a huge variety of work from all periods and movements, London’s exhibitions are a must-visit when staying in the capital. Here’s a list of the different galleries we think are worth checking out – and the best thing about them is they’re all free to enter!
On the north side of Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery houses more than 2000 European paintings from the Middle Ages to 1900, including works from Da Vinci, Van Gogh and Monet - an ideal visit if you’re interested in any European movement before the turn of the 20th century.
National Portrait Gallery
Tucked away behind the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery has collected more than 400 years’ worth of portraits of famous British men and women. Possibly the oldest portrait is of William Shakespeare, which was acquired when the gallery opened in 1856. Displayed chronologically, visitors can take a walk-through history and see the famous faces of Britain, from 16th century Tudor portraits to modern day personalities.
Split either side of the Serpentine lake in Kensington Gardens, the Serpentine Gallery and the Serpentine Sackler Gallery hold seasonal collections of contemporary exhibitions. The most famous is the annual Serpentine Pavilion, which commissions an internationally renowned artist to build a new pavilion open to the public over the Summer. Other programmes include outdoor sculpture projects, educational programmes and special digital commissions.
Last year’s Summer Pavilion designed by Danish architects BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group).
Based on Kings Road, Chelsea, the Saatchi Gallery showcases contemporary works of art from rarely seen artists. The exhibitions are committed to inspire a passion for contemporary art in a wider range of audiences, by focusing on young artists whose work might not have been seen in the UK. As a result of these exhibitions, many of these unknown artists were offered shows by galleries internationally. This is a gallery that is worth the visit if you’re particularly interested in supporting unseen young artists.
The Tate Modern is the UK’s premier museum of international modern art and one of the most visited art spaces in the world. With extensive displays in a converted power station on the south bank of the River Thames, the modern gallery boasts a collection of art dating from 1900 to the present day. Focusing on some of the 20th century’s more radical and exciting art movements, the Tate Modern is worth checking out for a modern eye.
Approximately a 10-minute walk from Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, the Tate Britain holds the largest collection of British art in the world. With artwork from 1500 to the present day, the collection portrays the changing place of Britain. From Tudor portraits to Victorian landscapes, the Tate Britain is the gallery to visit if you want to see classic British art from across the ages. Plus, they run a boat service between here and the Tate Modern - a perfect chance to include a little trip across the water in your day out!
Bringing great art to London’s East End, the Whitechapel Gallery has a rolling programme of several exhibitions each year. Opened in 1901 as one of the first public funded galleries for temporary exhibitions, the gallery brought Pop Art to the British public. Their showcases have ranged from African, Indian and Latin American art, to emerging icons including Picasso.