11 London galleries for art lovers

best galleries in london - london art galleries

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Attention art lovers, this one is for you.

A trip to London would not be complete without visiting one of the city’s many outstanding art galleries.

Whether you are a first time visitor to London or simply interested in exploring the art scene of the city further there is a London gallery that is perfect for you.

Here are 11 of the best galleries in London as well as tips for making the most of each venue and local area.

The 3 must see famous London galleries

The National Gallery

famous galleries in london - national gallery trafalgar square

Britain’s national collection of western European art from the 13th to 19th centuries is housed in The National Gallery.

Here you will find masterpieces by some of the most important and well-known artists from the Renaissance to Impressionist eras.

With over 2,300 works on display it is a huge collection and can be overwhelming but it does mean there is something for all visitors to enjoy.

The National Gallery is a great back up if you planned to explore Trafalgar Square, Soho or Covent Garden on a wintery day in London.

Local tip – If you are short on time take a self guided tour of your favourite artist or era provided by the gallery

Best for:    First time visitors to London looking for an international masters art fix
Featured artists:   Picasso, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Renoir, Monet
Where:    Trafalgar Square
Cost:   Free for permanent exhibitions
Open:   Daily 10am – 6pm (9pm on Fridays) except 24-26 December and 1st January
More information:    The National Gallery

Explore: 3 days in London – a classic itinerary

National Portrait Gallery

The five children of Charles I, after Van Dyck
Right next door to the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery displays the portraits of famous and historically important Britons.

My favourite section is the portraits of the Tudor dynasty including some magnificent portraits of Elizabeth I. You can also see a well known portrait said to be of Shakespeare though some historians doubt that it is the playwright.

Local tip – Take a break at Portrait the gallery’s top floor restaurant with sweeping views of London’s skyline towards Big Ben

Best for:     Portraits of famous and historically important Britons
Featured artists and sitters:    Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare (or is it?), Hans Holbein
Where:    St Martin’s Place, behind the National Gallery. Closest tube: Charing Cross, Leicester Square
Cost:    Free for permanent exhibitions
Open:    Daily 10am – 6pm (9pm on Thursday, Fridays) except 24-26 December and 1st January
More information:    National Portrait Gallery

Tate Modern

modern art and turbine hall at the Tate Modern - tate gallery london

International modern art is on show at one of the world’s best modern art galleries – the Tate Modern.

Housed in an old power station the gallery opened in 2000 and recently expanded to include more gallery space.

The Tate Modern has a large permanent collection but also presents temporary exhibitions by well-known artists such as Henri Matisse, Cy Twombly and Georgia O’Keefe.

The impressive Turbine Hall entrance often shows large scale installations and trade fairs that are worth a visit in themselves.

Tip – For an iconic view across the Thames and Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s Cathedral visit the Kitchen and Bar on level 6

Best for:     International modern art (from 1900 onwards) and kids – bring a small car to chase down the ramp of the Turbine Hall. Lots of interactive spaces to enjoy too.
Featured artists:    Kandinsky, Matisse, Louise Bourgeois
Where:    Bankside. Closest tube – Blackfriars, Southwark
Cost:    Free for permanent exhibitions
Open:    Daily 10am – 6pm (10pm on Fridays, Saturdays)
More information:    Tate Modern website

London art galleries for your next visit

Royal Academy of Arts

Royal Academy of Arts London - major art galleries in London

Known as as the gallery for and by artists, the Royal Academy of Arts supports the practice as well as appreciation of art. The ‘RA’ holds blockbuster exhibitions by major contemporary artists, its annual Summer Exhibition and also showcases emerging artists.

Tip – Don’t miss the annual Summer Exhibition. This open entry exhibition has been held annually for almost 250 years and is hugely popular with Londoners

Best for:     Exhibitions by living artists
Recent exhibitions:    Ai Wei Wei, Abstract Impressionism
Where:    Southbank. Closest tube – Green Park, Piccadilly Circus
Cost:    Check website for current exhibitions and prices
Open:    Daily 10am – 6pm (10pm on Fridays) except 25-26 December
More information:    Royal Academy of Arts website

Somerset House

Courtyard sculpture - Somerset House

A former palace, Somerset House is now an arts and culture centre with many activities, shows and exhibitions taking place throughout the year.

The central courtyard is a focal point and features sculpture, a film festival, ice skating in winters and in summertime playful water fountains.

In summertime, children play in the fountains. It’s a great way to release some energy after exploring the galleries. Find more tips on exploring London’s art museums with kids here.

Tip – Visit smart Somerset House bar Pennethorne’s for a top notch coffee or cocktail

Best for:     Diverse cultural and art experiences exploring different mediums
Recent exhibitions:    Stanley Kubrick, Björk Digital, The Jam
Where:    Southbank. Closest tube – Temple, Covent Garden
Cost:    Check website for current exhibitions and prices
Open:    Saturday – Tuesday 10am – 6pm, Wednesday – Friday 11am – 8pm except 25 December
More information:    Somerset House website

Tate Britain

John William Waterhouse - The Lady of Shalott - Google Art Project

Walk along the Thames from the Houses of Parliament for 10 minutes and you will reach the Tate Britain. Celebrating British artists from the 16th century to the present day, the gallery is also home to the prestigious Turner Prize awarded annually. Past winners include Damien Hirst and Grayson Perry.

Best for:     British art from 1500 to present
Recent exhibitions:    Gainsborough, Hogarth, J. W. Turner,
Where:    Millbank SW1P 4RG. Closest tube – Pimlico
Cost:    Free for permanent exhibitions
Open:    Monday – Sunday 10am – 6pm except 25 December
More information:    Tate Britain website

Locals’ favourite London galleries

Courtauld Gallery

Camille Pissarro, The Boulevard Montmartre at Night, 1897

One of my favourite galleries in London, The Courtauld Gallery guides you through European art history room by room. Famous for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, the gallery also has masterpieces from the Renaissance through to Kandinsky. The Courtauld’s small size means this art journey is easy to appreciate in a single visit.

Local tip – Dine at Australian chef Skye Gyngell’s beeautiful Spring restaurant in the nearby New Wing of Somerset House 

Best for:     An art history lesson
Featured artisits:    Rubens, Degas, Monet, van Gogh
Where:    Somerset House. Closest tube – Temple, Covent Garden
Cost:   From £7  for adults – discounts for concessions, children under 18 free
Open:    Monday – Sunday 10am – 6pm except 25-26 December
More information:    Courtauld Gallery website

Barbican Art Gallery

Barbican Art Gallery Omer Arbel light installation - top 10 art galleries in London

Housed in the famous Brutalist post war building in central London’s, the Barbican Art Gallery forms part of a performing arts complex that is one of biggest in Europe. There are two galleries in the centre that also features interesting installations. Visit for photographic

Local tip – The Barbican is a semi-secret place to recharge your phone, do some email or get organised – free wifi and relatively easy access to power 

Best for:     Major exhibitions of contemporary international art
Recent exhibitions:    Omer Arbel’s bespoke light installation,
Where:    Barbican Centre. Closest tube – Barbican, Moorgate
Cost:    Both free and paid exhibitions. Check the website for what’s on
Open:    Saturday – Wednesday 10am – 6pm, Thursday & Friday 10am – 9pm
More information:    Barbican Art Gallery website

Read: Things to do in London at night

Saatchi Gallery
Edible art 2

If you are interested in undiscovered contemporary art go to The Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. You will always find new and challenging art here and it is free to enter. The gallery recently celebrated its 30th anniversary with an exhibition showcasing all female artists.

Local tip – Stock up on supplies at Partridges gourmet food market opposite the gallery – there is also a weekly market held on Saturdays

Best for:     Discovering up and coming artists
Recent exhibitions:    Champagne Life – all female artist exhibition
Where:    Duke of York Square, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY Closest tube – Sloane Square
Cost:    Free
Open:    7 days 10am – 6pm
More information:    Saatchi Gallery website

Newport Street Gallery

internal staircase at newport street gallery - best contemporary art galleries london

Artist Damien Hirst created this space to showcase his personal art collection. The gallery opened in 2015 and has seen exhibitions by Jeff Koons and John Hoyland presented in its award winning building.

Local tip – The gallery is also home to restaurant – Pharmacy – Damien Hirst’s collaboration with chef Mark Hix

Best for:     Contemporary art in an amazing custom designed space
Recent exhibitions:    Jeff Koons: Now, John Hoyland: Power Stations
Where:    Newport Street, London, SE11 6AJ Closest tube – Vauxhall
Cost:    Free
Open:    Tuesday – Friday & Sunday 10am – 6pm,  Saturday 10am – 10pm
More information:    Newport Street Gallery website

White Cube Bermondsey

White Cube Bermondsey - London galleries you must visit
Photo credit: Nicolas de Camaret

Since opening in 2011 White Cube Bermondsey has been a popular gallery for those interested in contemporary art. The minimalist design of the gallery aims to ensure that the viewer can appreciate the art displayed in its purest form. The gallery attracts some of today’s leading artists and is well worth a detour.

Local tip – Grab a coffee from cute as a button The Watch House on your way down Bermondsey Street – great coffee and food with a focus on organic ingredients

Best for:     Appreciating contemporary art in a minimalist setting
Recent exhibitions:    Gilbert and George, Anthony Gormley
Where:    144 – 152 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ Closest tube – Vauxhall
Cost:    Free
Open:    Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 6pm, Sunday 12pm – 6pm
More information:    White Cube website

Explore London’s art scene further…

Whitechapel Gallery – an important gallery for art worldwide. The gallery has shown collections by Frida Kahlo, Mark Rothko and Pablo Picasso.

Wallace Collection – a museum and gallery combined, the Wallace Collection has many famous paintings by Old Masters displayed alongside an armory, furniture and porcelain.

Street Art – take a street art tour of East London and discover another world of creativity

Do you have a favourite art gallery in London?

I’d like to discover some more London galleries to visit so am keen for recommendations too.

As seen in:

Suitcases and Sandcastles

43 thoughts on “11 London galleries for art lovers

  1. Bumble Bee Mum says:

    Can’t say I’m an art person but I think I would go to Tate Modern if I was in London. More for Harry Potter than anything else. :p #FarawayFiles

  2. California Globetrotter says:

    Nice to learn about what each museum offers. I really AM NOT a museum person unless there is something that strikes me. At the moment, I like the sound of the National Portrait Gallery as I love anything about the Tudors and other royals. I may have to check this one out next time! 😉 #FarawayFiles

  3. Danielle says:

    Ah yes! With all of my business trips to London I’m always looking for somewhere to explore while in the city. I’ve never even heard of most of these galleries and they sound lovely. Saving for later! ? #farawayfiles

    • Katy says:

      Ooh yes Danielle you must break those business trips up. I know from a decade of experience how easy it is to do work at the hotel. Many of these galleries have late openings so perfect for a quick culture fix

  4. bavariansojourn says:

    I might be biased, but I think we have some of the best galleries in the world! Have been to all apart from the White Cube, which is now on my list! Great post! 🙂

  5. Clare Thomson says:

    Great list, Katy. I love spending a couple of hours going round art galleries. It’s wonderful that so many of the best ones in London are free. There’s always something new to see at the National Gallery. I haven’t been to the Courtauld in years so must put that on the list asap.

  6. Nell (the Pigeon Pair and Me) says:

    This post is fantastic – really useful information for people wanting to know where to begin. And it’s such a hard decision! I’ve lived in London for almost 20 years and visiting galleries is one of my favourite pastimes, but I still haven’t been to Newport street, for instance. Thanks for putting all this together. #FarawayFiles

  7. oregongirlaroundtheworld says:

    I love the idea of the Courtauld Gallery. And Can you believe that I have never been to the Tate Modern in London? We went to the Tate Modern in Liverpool, but I can only imagine how awesome the original is. A return trip stat is required I think! Cheers. A fabulous list and valuable resource. #FarawayFiles
    – Erin

  8. becomingatravelingfamily says:

    I love that so many of these art galleries are free. We enjoy going to museums but we can only endure art museums for a short while before we’re ready to move on to another activity. So the fact that so many are free to enter makes them more worth it to me. #farawayfiles

  9. Trish @ Mum's Gone To says:

    I’ve been to the main ones on your list but there’s a few I’m now keen to visit, including Newport Street gallery. We’ve always enjoyed art galleries as a family and the best way we found to engage our young son was to make it fun. We would play games such as think of an alternative title – often rude or silly suggestions would win.

    • Katy says:

      I like your style Trish. They’ve just laid a carpet down the middle of the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern so it’s the best hill ever for rolling down. Though I’m getting a bit long in the tooth to do that myself! Newport Street is great but I think closed for a few weeks while they hang the next exhibition.

  10. Amanda Afield says:

    Really enjoyed reading the post, especially because it detailed what each museum has to offer. I’ve visited the big ones (Tate Modern, National Gallery, Portrait Gallery) but I’ll have to check out some of the lesser known museums as well!

  11. Pinay Flying High says:

    I’m not much into art and it’s only now that I’m planning to visit one of the museums here. This guide is to timely for me, I’m now very keen to visit the National Portrait Gallery. Me and my obsession with the Tudors. LOL.

  12. Hilary says:

    I love this post! The street art tour is an absolute for me, but there are so many other goodies on this list I’m saving it for my next visit to my favorite city!

  13. aandj8804 says:

    All of these art galleries look wonderful! I’d have a hard time picking just one. Great guide! #farawayfiles

  14. MummyTravels says:

    A great list – I am terrible, I have these amazing places on my doorstep and I can’t remember the last time I set foot inside one of London’s art galleries… Really should go back! I’ve taken my daughter to galleries overseas, so why not ones in our own city? #farawayfiles

    • Katy says:

      I do the same in Australia. I have never been to Uluru and many other obvious places to visit. I think we just know that they will always be there. But London is amazing for art and I cant stop myself. Thanks Cathy

  15. Angie (FeetDoTravel) says:

    London is blessed to have so many Art Galleries and Museums so to see a guide like this is very helpful. I admit though that I because rather side-tracked at the end as you mentioned Street Art so I clicked through to your link and read that with much enthusiasm! You will see a comment on there, plus I pinned it for the future! So my apologies for digressing but I thank you so much for all the information you have provided both on the street art and art galleries 🙂

  16. Juliette | Snorkels To Snow says:

    What a fantastic post! I wish I had this post on my last visit to London. I studied art history in school and it was one of my favourite subjects. I love the National Gallery because of all the Renaissance art. Excellent guide!

    • Katy says:

      Thanks Juliette. I wish I had studied art history at school but now I am teaching myself. I love Renaissance art too but I really like viewing it in its natural habitat in Italy!

  17. fifi + hop says:

    Having so much fantastic art at your fingertips without a price tag – well, for a lot of them – is one of the things I love about London the most. I just love the Tate Modern and could go again and again. Nice post! #farawayfiles

  18. Rosie Hill (@EcoGitesLenault) says:

    Of all of these I have only been to the Tate Modern which I am afraid I found too odd for me in most cases. I don’t really get modern art but a friend and I did our best to try and come up with critiques for the works. I fear we may have failed but we had a great time! I must try other galleries the next time I find myself back in London. #farawayfiles

  19. jphowze says:

    Great list! We’re particularly in love with the free tours at the National Gallery. You learn about a handful of paintings from a lecturer — so informative and interesting and just long enough that the kids can sit still for it. x

    • Katy says:

      Thanks for the reminder Jen. I’ve been meaning to check those tours out for some time. I think the kids are old enough now. One for those cold February days I think

  20. AlicevstheWorld says:

    I’m not a massive art person but I have visited the National Gallery and Tate Modern in with friends and quite enjoyed it. We’re really spoilt for choice with free galleries here in London!

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