My favourite London galleries
It’s been exactly three weeks since we left the UK for Australia, and it’s left me wondering what I’m going to miss most about home. I already have a yearning for British humour, the BBC, the seasons, the tube, the rolling green hills and, of course, a proper cup of tea. But the thing I will miss most about London is the art.
London truly is an culture-lover's paradise - the city is crammed with galleries, museums and exhibition spaces. They are also normally free to enter so it’s a great way to get out and about in the city on a budget.
My favourite Sunday pastime would involve jumping on the tube up to South Kensington, grabbing an iced coffee and enjoying a long lazy wander around the V&A with my earbuds in, getting lost in it's maze of galleries (it also happens to be my hangover cure of choice).
So I've compiled a list of the best galleries to visit, along with the closest tube station and a few ideas of things to see. There's so much great stuff on at the moment!
The National Gallery, Charing Cross.
I'm going to start with the big guns - you can't beat the National Gallery. It overlooks Trafalgar Square and is one of the most visited in the capital (over 6 million people walk through its doors every year). As somebody who can't stand crowds and generally has a low tolerance for touristy places, you would think the National would be bottom of my list. But here is why I love it so much. Firstly, the building is spectacular. Even if looking art doesn't float your boat you can't help but be impressed by the interior. It also houses some of the most famous paintings in the world - works by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Picasso and many more line its walls. Lastly, the National is completely free (and vast) so it's a great place to while away a rainy day.
Go and see: the upcoming Impressionist exhibition - Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cézanne (17 September 2018 – 20 January 2019). As a lover of impressionist art this would be top of my list, and it’s only £7.50 to enter.
The Design Museum , High Street Kensington.
Refurbished and rehomed in the last couple of years, the Design Museum is one of my favourite gallery spaces in London. A five minute walk from High Street Ken tube station, its new contemporary home is a sleek refurbishment of a mid-century building and it is architecturally stunning. The museum houses design-led exhibitions (and a permanent gallery space which is free to enter) but the highlight for me is the building itself. Grab a coffee from the cafe and enjoy it sitting on the steps of its vast timber-clad atrium. It's one of the most relaxing places to be in the city.
Go and see: The permanent display ‘Designer Maker User’ is completely Free and presents a history of contemporary design whilst displaying some of the museum’s collection of over 1,000 objects. It’s really interesting and a great option if fine art is not really your thing!
Alternatively, if you don’t mind forking out a little bit more I would 100% recommend Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier (until 7 October 2018). His designs are breathtaking and if you are fashion-lover it cannot be missed.
The Photographers’ Gallery, Oxford Circus.
It’s one of the lesser-known galleries in the capital, perhaps because of its location (tucked away in a quiet spot behind Oxford Street) but it is firmly my favourite. I really appreciate photography so living close to a gallery that is devoted to the medium was amazing. The thoughtfully curated exhibitions and lack of crowds (even on the weekend) give the photographers’ gallery an air of peace and tranquility; the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street. There’s also an amazing bookshop on the ground floor that is absolutely worth a visit.
The Barbican, Barbican.
It’s hard to describe the sprawling collection of exhibition spaces, galleries, theatres, cinemas, concert halls and even a tropical conservatory, that make up the Barbican. It’s housed in a 1970s Grade II listed building which, love it or hate it, is an architectural icon and a building worth visiting in its own right . Always at the cutting edge, the Barbican champions both well known and emerging artists in all fields and is an amazing cultural hub whatever you’re into. Stroll the galleries and then sip a cocktail at the Martini Bar before watching a play. Or if you’re less refined (like me) munch a pizza in the barbican kitchen for heading over to the cinema to see the latest indie releases.
Go and see: BlacKkKlansman (24 Aug—13 Sep 2018). Directed by Spike Lee, “This bitingly satirical film tells the true story of a African-American detective's mission to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan”. It sounds hilarious and it’s only £12 for a ticket and a glass of wine on a Thursday (or £5 if you’re lucky enough to still be 25 or under).
And a few top tips!
Always go in the morning - especially on the weekend! The galleries in London seem to get more busy as the day goes on. To avoid the throngs of tourists (and actually see the art) go as early as possible.
Pre-book tickets online. You’ll normally get a better rate and some popular exhibitions have staggered entry times, so you may have to wait a while if you buy them on the day.
Take some cash for the cloak room. I hate lugging a wet coat or heavy bag around a gallery so I always try and remember to take some coins with me.
I hope you found my short and sweet guide to London galleries useful - if you did please show it some love in the comments!
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