London famous landmarks include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, and The Shard. London is home to numerous museums, galleries, libraries, sporting events and other cultural institutions, including the British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, British Library and 40 West End theatres. The London Underground is the oldest underground railway network in the world.
The National Gallery
Situated in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, in Central London. National Gallery was founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. Its collection belongs to the public of the United Kingdom and entry to the main collection is free of charge. It is among the most visited art museums in the world, after the Musée du Louvre, the British Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The present building, the third to house the National Gallery, was designed by William Wilkins from 1832 to 1838. Only the façade onto Trafalgar Square remains essentially unchanged from this time, as the building has been expanded piecemeal throughout its history.
Opening Hours: Daily 10am–6pm, Friday 10am–9pm (Admission is Free)
The British Museum
The British Museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture, and is located in the Bloomsbury area of London. Its permanent collection, numbering some 8 million works, is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence and originates from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present.
The British Museum was established in 1753, largely based on the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. The museum first opened to the public on 15 January 1759, in Montagu House, on the site of the current building. Its expansion over the following two and a half centuries was largely a result of an expanding British colonial footprint and has resulted in the creation of several branch institutions, the first being the British Museum (Natural History) in South Kensington in 1881. Some objects in the collection, most notably the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, are the objects of controversy and of calls for restitution to their countries of origin.
Opening Hours: Daily 10am–5:30pm, Friday 10am–8:30pm (Admission is Free)
The Science Museum London, was founded in 1857 and today is one of the city's major tourist attractions, attracting 3.3 million visitors annually.
The Science Museum now holds a collection of over 300,000 items, including such famous items as Stephenson's Rocket, Puffing Billy (the oldest surviving steam locomotive), the first jet engine, a reconstruction of Francis Crick and James Watson's model of DNA, some of the earliest remaining steam engines (Including an example of a Newcomen steam engine, the worlds first steam engine), a working example of Charles Babbage's Difference engine, the first prototype of the 10,000-year Clock of the Long Now, and documentation of the first typewriter. It also contains hundreds of interactive exhibits.
Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Science Museum does not charge visitors for admission. Temporary exhibitions, however, may incur an admission fee.
Opening Hours: Daily 10am–6pm, last entry 17.15 (Admission is Free)
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum in London is a museum of natural history that exhibits a vast range of specimens from various segments of natural history.
The museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology. The museum is a world-renowned centre of research specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation. Given the age of the institution, many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Charles Darwin.
The museum is particularly famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons and ornate architecture—sometimes dubbed a cathedral of nature—both exemplified by the large Diplodocus cast which dominates the vaulted central hall. The Natural History Museum Library contains extensive books, journals, manuscripts, and artwork collections linked to the work and research of the scientific departments; access to the library is by appointment only. The museum is recognised as the pre-eminent centre of natural history and research of related fields in the world.
One of the most famous and certainly most prominent of the exhibits—nicknamed "Dippy"—is a 105-foot (32 m)-long replica of a Diplodocus carnegii skeleton situated within the central hall. The cast was given as a gift by the Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, after a discussion with King Edward VII, then a keen trustee of the British Museum. Carnegie paid £2,000 for the casting, copying the original held at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The pieces were sent to London in 36 crates, and on 12 May 1905, the exhibit was unveiled to great public and media interest. The real fossil had yet to be mounted, as the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh was still being constructed to house it.
In 1986, the museum absorbed the adjacent Geological Museum of the British Geological Survey, which had long competed for the limited space available in the area. The Geological Museum became world-famous for exhibitions including an active volcano model and an earthquake machine (designed by James Gardner), and housed the world's first computer-enhanced exhibition (Treasures of the Earth).
The Darwin Centre (named after Charles Darwin) was designed as a new home for the museum's collection of tens of millions of preserved specimens, as well as new work spaces for the museum's scientific staff, and new educational visitor experiences. Built in two distinct phases, with two new buildings adjacent to the main Waterhouse building, it is the most significant new development project in the museum's history.
Opening Hours: Daily 10am–5:50pm, last entry 17.15 (Admission is Free)
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A), London, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. The holdings of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world.
The museum owns the world's largest collection of post-classical sculpture, with the holdings of Italian Renaissance items being the largest outside Italy. The departments of Asia include art from South Asia, China, Japan, Korea and the Islamic world. The East Asian collections are among the best in Europe, with particular strengths in ceramics and metalwork, while the Islamic collection is amongst the largest in the Western world. Overall, it is one of the largest museums in the world.
Opening Hours: Daily 10am–5:45pm | Friday: 10am-10pm (Admission is Free)
Tate Britain Museum
It is part of the Tate network of galleries in England, with Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives. It is the oldest gallery in the network, having opened in 1897. It houses a substantial collection of the art of the United Kingdom since Tudor times, and in particular has large holdings of the works of J. M. W. Turner, who bequeathed all his own collection to the nation. It is one of the largest museums in the country.
Tate Britain is the national gallery of British art from 1500 to the present day. As such, it is the most comprehensive collection of its kind in the world (only the Yale Center for British Art can claim similar expansiveness, but with less depth). More recent artists include David Hockney, Peter Blake and Francis Bacon.
Opening Hours: Daily 10am–6pm (Admission is Free)
Tate Modern Museum
It is Britain's national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group (together with Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives and Tate Online). It is based in the former Bankside Power Station, in the Bankside area of the London Borough of Southwark. Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world.
Tate Modern is housed in the former Bankside Power Station, which was originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect of Battersea Power Station, and built in two stages between 1947 and 1963. It is directly across the river from St Paul's Cathedral. The power station closed in 1981.
Prior to redevelopment, the power station was a 200 m (660 ft) long, steel framed, brick clad building with a substantial central chimney standing 99 m (325 ft). The structure was roughly divided into three main areas each running east-west - the huge main turbine hall in the centre, with the boiler house to the north and the switch house to the south.
The collections in Tate Modern consist of works of international modern and contemporary art dating from 1900 until today.
Levels 2, 3 and 4 contain gallery space. Each of those floors is split into a large east and west wing with at least 11 rooms in each. Space between these wings is also used for smaller galleries on levels 2 and 4. The Boiler House shows art from 1900 to the present day.
Opening Hours: Sun - Thu 10am-6pm | Fri - Sat 10am-10pm (Admission is Free)