To start with I don’t think it’ll end with just 12, actually, I’m sure it won’t. I want to give everyone a fair warning. While due to my education I will be focusing on art museums, London has so much to offer that there will also be plenty of museums dealing with things other than art.
Alas let’s see what I landed on as the initial list, first in a map view. I will have to cluster them to stand a chance hence the map and the postcodes.
Links marked with an (r) mean I have visited the museum and the link will take you to a blog about the visit.
The Unmissable Classics:
- Victoria & Albert Museum – SW7 2RL – my favorite of them all, it has everything!
- Science Museum – SW7 2DD – I’ve been only once and it was before the Winton Gallery designed by Zaha Hadid has been in place
- Natural History Museum – SW7 5BD – a classic, but I don’t go for the dinosaur, for me far more staggering is the slice of sequoia
- The National Gallery – WC2N 5DN – I am forever grateful that art museums of this class are free in the UK. So many paintings I only knew from reproductions in my studies I could see here live
- National Portrait Gallery – WC2H 0HE – I always find it entertaining to see so many people’s faces at once, and also considered in so many different aspects.
- British Museum – WC1B 3DG – simply a must-have, though I am not in love with it, it is eternally crowded.
- Tate Modern – SE1 9TG – the first laid-back museum I visited, where one can take it and their own pace. Super crowded now, but the permanent collection still can be quieter
- Tate Britain – SW1P 4RG – a quiet gem out of the beaten track, it is a bit of a trip from Deptford to get to Pimlico, but worth it every time, for the sense of calm and quiet
- Wellcome Collection – NW1 2BE – I don’t know how it happened, but I’ve never been, so this is an omission that I have to make up
- Design Museum – W8 6AG – I visited it a few years ago not long after the opening and didn’t fall in love with it, so I want to give it a second chance, especially that I do love design, this permanent battle between form and function
- Royal Academy of Arts – W1J 0BD – another reluctant must-have, I mean it is the place, but then I never really enjoyed the space there.
- The Courtauld Gallery – WC2R 0RN – and another shameful omission, when I came to London I was so busy discovering everything else, that when I got to them the gallery was being renovated, now it’s been open again for a few years but by then I got to the ‘spoiled Londoner’ phase, where I took everything for granted.
Museums in Homes:
- The Wallace Collection – W1U 3BN – a hidden gem smack bang in the center. I love it, it is the right size, so won’t exhaust you, but contains only creme de la creme.
- Queen’s House – SE10 9NF – not necessarily special for its collection, but it is near to where I live and I quite enjoy it after a day in the park
- Sir John Soane’s Museum (r) – WC2A 3BP – at the beginning of my time in London I visited once during their candle-lit evening tours, which was amazing, haven’t been since then.
- Charles Dickens Museum (r) – WC1N 2LX – I’ve never been and I’m always curious to see how people lived
- Foundling Museum – WC1N 1AZ – probably purely because I read The Foundling, but then why not explore something new, even if it is really sad.
- Freud Museum – NW3 5SX – the same reason a Dickens 😉
- Museum of the Home – E2 8EA – formerly Geffrye Museum of the Home, it dropped the slave trader from its name and rightly so. I visited it twice a few years ago and loved it both times.
- Kenwood House – NW3 7JR – the only place where I almost missed a Rembrandt! A lovely way to experience great art in the way it was meant to be seen, a house, not a museum
- Leighton House – W14 8L – currently closed, but due to reopen in spring, which is perfect. I visited it for the first time to see Flaming June when it visited the UK a few years ago. It is a surprising treasure.
- Dennis Sever’s House – E1 6BX – this is new for me, I’ve not visited, but it looks super-interesting, closed till February, but that’s not much longer.
- Eltham Palace – SE9 5QE – my long-time favorite, a wonderful art-deco interior, including split-level living quarters for pet lemur. The childhood home of Henry VIII in the 20th century became the home of the Courtaulds and they spent money on it like nothing else.
- Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace + The Royal Mews – SW1A 1AA – I cannot leave London not having seen those!
- Apsley House – W1J 7NT – another chance to see how the other half lived
- Ranger’s House – Wernher Collection – SE10 8QX – so close, and yet I’ve never visited. Many times I suntanned right in front of it in the Rose Garden of Greenwich Park.
Quirky Museums and Everything Else:
- Museum of Comedy – WC1A 2SR
- Fashion and Textile Museum – SE1 3XF
- The Garden Museum – SE1 7LB
- Royal Airforce Museum – NW9 5LL
- Museum of Brands – W11 1QT
- The Postal Museum – WC1X 0DA
- The Photographers’ Gallery – W1F 7LW
- Horniman Museum and Gardens – SE23 3PQ
- London Transport Museum (r) – WC2E 7BB
- Imperial War Museum – SE1 6HZ
- Museum of London – EC2Y 5HN
- National Maritime Museum – SE10 9NF
- Museum of London Docklands – E14 4AL
- Strawberry Hill – TW1
- William Morris Gallery – E17 7PP