Whether you’re a London local or just visiting, there’s no denying that the city is home to some of the world’s best art galleries. From world-renowned institutions like the Tate to more niche galleries showing modern and contemporary art, there’s something for everyone.
Many of London’s art galleries are free to enter, making them the perfect activity for a budget-friendly day out. And with so many to choose from, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the perfect one for you.
This guide will look at some of London’s most famous art galleries, including the Tate, the National Gallery, and the Serpentine Gallery. We’ll also recommend some lesser-known galleries that are worth a visit.
Read on for your guide to the best art galleries and art museums in London.
The Best Art Galleries in London: 10 Must-Sees
No visit to London would be complete without a trip to at least one of its many art galleries. To help you plan your visit, we’ve compiled a list of ten of the best London art galleries.
The National Gallery is one of London’s most popular art galleries, and it’s easy to see why. Home to works by some of the world’s most famous painters, including Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Vincent van Gogh, the gallery is a must-see for any art lover.
Even if you’re not an art expert, the National Gallery is well worth visiting. Located in the heart of London’s Trafalgar Square, it’s easy to get to, and there’s plenty to see. Best of all, entry is free.
If you’re visiting the National Gallery, be sure to allow plenty of time. With over 2,000 paintings on display, you could easily spend a whole day here. Most visitors spend around 2-3 hours at the gallery.
Families with children will be pleased to know that the National Gallery offers free family activities and trails. There’s also a dedicated family room with activities and games to keep the kids entertained.
The museum features blockbuster exhibits, as well as music concerts, films, and lectures. Free talks and tours are also available, which are a great way to learn more about the paintings on display. If you’re keen to find out more, check out our guide on What to see at the National Gallery.
National Portrait Gallery
If you’re interested in portraiture, the National Portrait Gallery is your go-to art gallery in London. As well as featuring paintings of some of Britain’s most famous figures, the gallery also has a collection of photographs, sculptures, and busts.
The National Portrait Gallery is located just a short walk from the National Gallery, making it easy to visit both in one day. And like the National Gallery, entry is free.
There’s plenty to see at the National Portrait Gallery. Portraits of famous British figures such as William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, and the Queen can be found throughout the gallery.
You’ll also find a selection of photos of soccer players, musicians, and actors, all arranged in chronological order. And if you’re interested in fashion, check out the gallery’s collection of photographs of some of Britain’s most iconic style icons.
Founded in 1856, the National Portrait Gallery is the oldest portrait gallery in the world. It’s also one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, receiving over 2 million visitors annually.
At the time of writing, the National Portrait Gallery is closed for redevelopment. It’s due to reopen in 2023.
The Tate Modern is one of the most popular London galleries, and it’s easy to see why. Located in an old power station on the banks of the River Thames, the gallery is home to an impressive collection of international modern art.
As well as featuring the largest collection of paintings by world-famous artists such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, the Tate Modern also has an extensive collection of sculptures, photos, and videos.
The Tate Modern is free to enter, although there are charges for some exhibitions. And if you want to avoid the crowds, we recommend visiting on Fridays or Saturdays evenings when the gallery is open late. Also, you should visit the restaurant on the top floor for one of the best views in London.
If you’re interested in an international collection of modern and contemporary artworks, the Tate Modern has plenty to offer. But it’s also worth noting that the gallery has a range of temporary exhibitions throughout the year, so there’s always something new to see.
The Saatchi Gallery is one of London’s most famous contemporary art galleries. Founded by British businessman and art collector Charles Saatchi, the gallery is known for its cutting-edge exhibitions.
The Saatchi Gallery is located in Chelsea, just a short walk from Sloane Square station. And like many of London’s art galleries, it’s free to enter.
The gallery is home to a range of contemporary artworks from Britain’s young artists and international artists. Here, you’ll find paintings, photos, sculptures, videos, and other types of visual art by some of the world’s most exciting contemporary artists you’ve never heard of.
But the Saatchi Gallery isn’t just about contemporary art. It also has a range of interactive installations and exhibitions, making it a great place to visit with kids.
If you’re interested in the contemporary art gallery, the Saatchi Gallery is definitely worth a visit.
Camden Arts Centre
The Camden Arts Centre is an independent art gallery in North London. The gallery is known for its innovative exhibitions and educational programmes.
The Camden Arts Centre is located in the London borough of Camden, just a short walk from Camden Town station. And like many of London’s art galleries, it’s free to enter.
The gallery focuses on involving the local community in its exhibitions and programmes. Emerging artists are often given the opportunity to exhibit their work at the Camden Arts Centre.
The Camden Arts Centre is a great place to see some of London’s emerging artists. But it’s also worth noting that the exhibitions are temporary and rotating, so there’s always something new to see.
In addition to its art pieces, the Camden Arts Centre also has a lovely garden, a bookshop, and an excellent cafe.
If you’re interested in supporting new artists, the Camden Arts Centre is your gallery.
The Wallace Collection is one of London’s hidden gems. This small art gallery is located in a townhouse off Oxford Street, and it’s packed with Old Master paintings, furniture, porcelain, and other objets d’art.
The Wallace Collection is the former home of Sir Richard Wallace, a Victorian art collector. The gallery is small but packed with an impressive collection of artworks.
As well as being a gallery, the Wallace Collection is also a museum. This means you can learn about the history of the artworks on display, as well as the life of Sir Richard Wallace.
The British Museum also hosts frequent temporary exhibits, as well as a permanent area where kids can play.
If you’re interested in an off-the-beaten-path art gallery, you’ll love the Wallace Collection.
Tate Britain is the permanent collection of British art from the 16th century to the present day. The gallery is located on the banks of the River Thames, just a short walk from Pimlico station.
Tate Britain is the world’s largest collection of British art. And it’s also home to some of London’s most famous paintings, including J. M. W. Turner’s The Angel Standing in the Sun.
In addition to its permanent collection, Tate Britain also has a range of temporary exhibitions. These exhibitions showcase the work of contemporary artists, as well as the work of historical British artists.
If you’re interested in British art, Tate Britain is the perfect place to start your journey.
Barbican Art Gallery
The Barbican Art Gallery is located in the Barbican Centre, a large performing arts centre in London. The gallery is known for its diverse range of artworks, as well as its excellent education programmes.
Art lovers of all ages will enjoy a visit to the Barbican Art Gallery. The gallery has a wide range of artworks, from painting and sculpture to photography and video.
The gallery also has an excellent education programme, with lectures, workshops, public events, and family activities. You’ll also find a public library, three cafes, and a large succulent-filled conservatory.
The gallery was opened in 1982 and has been extended twice. The most recent extension was completed in 2014, including a new terrace with views of the City of London.
If you’re looking for a diverse and exciting art gallery, the Barbican Art Gallery is the place for you.
The Whitechapel Gallery is located in the East End of London, just a short walk from Aldgate East station. The gallery has a long history, dating back to 1901.
The Whitechapel Gallery is best known for its exhibitions of contemporary art. However, the gallery also has a range of education programmes, public events, and family activities.
In addition to its exhibitions, the Whitechapel Gallery also has an excellent education programme. The programme offers a range of talks, workshops, and events for all ages.
The Whitechapel Gallery is also home to a cafe and a bookshop. And if you’re looking for something to do after visiting the gallery, you can explore the local area.
The Serpentine Galleries are two art galleries in London. The Serpentine Gallery is located in Kensington Gardens, just a short walk from Hyde Park. The Serpentine Sackler Gallery is located in the nearby Serpentine Pavilion.
The Serpentine Galleries are best known for their contemporary art exhibitions. They have exhibited the works of some of the most famous contemporary artists, including Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, and Jeff Koons.
The Serpentine Galleries are a great place to see some of the best contemporary art in London. If you love art or are an art collector, the Serpentine Galleries are your best bet in London.
If you’re looking for more art galleries in London, we recommend the following:
- Dulwich Picture Gallery: The Dulwich Picture Gallery is located in the south London suburb of Dulwich. The gallery was founded in 1811, making it the world’s first purpose-built art gallery. The Dulwich Picture Gallery is home to many artworks, from Old Master paintings to contemporary art.
- Hayward Gallery: The Hayward Gallery is located in the Southbank Centre, a large arts complex on the south bank of the River Thames. The gallery is known for its exhibitions of contemporary art, as well as its educational programmes.
- The Estorick Collection: The Estorick Collection is a small art gallery in north London. The gallery is dedicated to modern Italian art and has a wide range of artworks, from painting and sculpture to photography and design.
- Royal Academy of Arts: The Royal Academy of Arts is located in the heart of London, just a short walk from Piccadilly Circus. The academy is an art school that was founded in 1768. It’s also home to a large art gallery, which hosts various exhibitions throughout the year.
- Newport Street Gallery: The Newport Street Gallery is located in Lambeth, just south of the River Thames. The gallery was opened in 2016 and is home to a large collection of artworks by the British artist Damien Hirst.
- South London Gallery: The South London Gallery is located in the south London suburb of Camberwell. The gallery has a long history, dating back to 1869. The South London Gallery is best known for its contemporary art exhibitions, but it also has a range of education programmes.
Making the Most of Your Visit to an Art Gallery
When you’re visiting an art gallery, there are a few things you can do to make the most of your experience.
Here are our top travel guide tips:
- Plan your visit in advance. This will help you make sure you see everything you want to see.
- Dress comfortably. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes.
- Bring a water bottle. You can buy drinks at the gallery, but it’s always good to have water with you.
- Bring a notebook. This will come in handy if you want to take notes or sketch any artworks you see.
- Take your time. There’s no need to rush, relax and enjoy the art.
Art galleries are a great way to spend a day in London. With so many to choose from, you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for you.
What Is the Biggest Art Gallery in London?
The biggest art gallery in London is the Royal Academy of Arts. The gallery boasts a huge collection of artworks and a range of art exhibitions throughout the year.
What Is the Name of London’s Most Popular Art Gallery?
The most popular art gallery in London is the Tate Modern. The Tate Modern is a world-renowned art gallery that houses a large collection of modern and contemporary art.
How Many Art Galleries Are There in London?
As of 2019, there are over 1,500 art galleries in London. This number is constantly changing as new galleries open, and others close.
Are the Galleries in London Free?
The majority of art galleries in London are free to enter. However, some galleries may charge for special exhibitions.