Last Updated on April 5, 2022 by Natalie Rabinowitz
The Best City in the World!
Without a doubt, London is the best city in the world! I’ve lived in New York City, I’ve lived in Boston. I’m now in London and loving it. It’s Boston on a grander scale. Unique architecture with ornate ornamental decor. A green city (the first green cityscape) with an abundance of beautiful flowers year-round. While the weather can go from pleasantly sunny to the expected English wet gloom, there is so much to be distracted by, including the abundance of unique species of trees. Even with the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, London is a walking museum.
London is safe for women, clean, has free entrance to some of the best museums in the world, and has excellent transport to get you from point A to B. The central starting point to any travel destination in Europe and beyond. Paris in two hours by Eurostar and lots of quaint towns and villages to be discovered in mainland England.
Central London itself is small enough to walk and a great walking city it is! I always find new areas and am in awe of revisiting areas to notice something new. You can walk from Oxford Street to Trafalgar Square to Covent Garden and Soho in minutes. Westminster and along the Embankment of the River Thames give you a picturesque view of London’s skyline.
Here is a short list of fabulous museums to visit (Always double check opening times post-Covid). There is so much to see in London. From parks to museums, national landmarks and archaeology, side streets to somewhere new. There is always something to discover.
Must-see museums in London
The National Gallery Art Museum with over 2,000 paintings from the mid-13th century to 1900. Significant works by artists such as Vermeer, Gainsborough, Van Gogh, Van Eyck, da Vinci, and Botticelli, to name a few. (Free, open daily 10 am–6 pm, Friday until 9 pm).
National Portrait Gallery Art Museum adjacent to the National Gallery represents portraits of historical and famous British people. If you are a Tudor fan, this is a must. (Free, open daily 10:00 am-6 pm, Friday until 9 pm.
Courtauld Gallery: While closed till 2021 for renovation, this is a small and intimate gem to visit featuring Manet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, and Degas.
British Museum has a comprehensive collection of world art and archaeological artefacts. The finest selection of mummified Egyptians, but then again, I have not visited Egypt, yet. (Free, open daily 10 am-5:30 pm).
Museum of Natural History encompasses a vast collection of earth science relating to plants, insects, geology, fossils/dinosaurs, and the animal kingdom. The building’s architecture is worth a visit and the last Friday of each month hosts after hour until 10 pm. A great time to visit as there is less of a crowd or long line. (Free, open daily 10.00 am-5:50 pm)
Victoria & Albert (V&A): Museum of decorative arts and design. Over 2 million objects to view and a great selection of period clothing (My background was in fashion) (Free, open daily 10.00 am-5:50 pm, 10:00 pm on Fridays).
Tate Modern: Modern and Contemporary Art Museum featuring artists such as Degas, Picasso, Mondrian, Pollock, Whistler, and Miro. (Free, open Daily from 10:00 am-6:00 pm).
Tate Britain: Not as overwhelmingly big or packed as the Tate Modern, this is an excellent museum if you want to see works by a mix of contemporary world artists and English artists from the 1500s to the present era. (Free, open daily 10 am-6 pm).
Westminster Abbey: Gothic Abbey church, home to royal coronations and where Princess Diana got married as well as royal tombs. I am a fan of visiting cemeteries, but I find the graves at Westminster Abbey, while quite interesting, to be macabre. Probably because of thousands of people buried in a confined space. Tombstones found here include Elizabeth I, Mary Tudor, Mary Queen of Scots, Edward I-III, Henry V-VII, Darwin, Dickens, Kipling, the best time to arrive at opening time so that you can enjoy the space. (Ticket £21 entrance M – F 9:30 am-3:30 pm, Wed late 4:30 pm-6:30 pm).
St. Pauls Cathedral is a stunning Cathedral more so because of its simplicity with its White and Gold interior and for not being pretentious or gaudy. It is also a significant urban hike due to the 528 steps to get to the dome and to see a panoramic view of London. (Ticket £17 entrance, 8:30-4:30 pm).
City of London
While Greater London encompasses 32 boroughs (districts), the capital city of London is the heart of what was the early Roman settlement of Londinium and the great fire of 1666.
Tower of London: William the Conquer built the Fortress Palace, which dates back to 1078. The Princes in the Tower, the beheading of Anne Boleyn, and the imprisonment of Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey, to name a few. All that is gruesome, and intriguing is located here, but also the home to the crown jewels. (Ticket £24.70 entrance, Tuesday – Saturday: 9:00am-5:30pm and Sunday – Monday: 10:00am-5:30pm).
Museum of London is an excellent museum that starts with the Anthropology of London’s prehistory through the middle ages and into modern times; also showcasing a vast collection of period-era clothing and the women’s rights movement in the UK. (Free, open daily 10 am-6 pm, except Christmas).
Make sure to walk around the Barbican area to see wall remnants from the Roman era. An interesting walkabout through the modern maze of London. Within the vicinity of the Museum of London, head South towards Aldgate and Bishopsgate with a semi loop that ends up at Tower Hill, a short distance from the Tower of London.
Take note of the mystical Dragons that surround the entranceway to the City of London. A loop from London Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge, circling round to Temple, Farringdon, Moorgate, Aldgate East and back towards the London Wall/Tower of London. If you are keen on spending a walking day hunting for dragons and discovering new neighbourhoods.
In the East End of London, you will find the area that encompasses Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Brick Lane. An eclectic neighbourhood of street art, Jewish history, what was once the seedy side of London with cobblestone alleyways, Jack the Ripper, Indian restaurants, open street markets, and vintage fashion.
While in the area, visit Dennis Severs House. I don’t want to spoil this unique experience so I won’t say more, but if you enjoy history, ambience, and sensory exploration, this is a must-do. They only accept cash at the door £10/per person. Be prepared to stand in line but not for too long.
If you are into street food and open markets, Portobello Road (in the Notting Hill district) with over 1,000 antique dealers and Camden Market (selling from what used to be horse stables) with its eclectic selection of clothing, music, and art, are areas to visit on the weekend. Do note that there are a lot and lots of people during the weekends.
If your thing is department store shopping, then Selfridges (the store that revolutionized retail shopping) on Oxford Street and Harrods in Knightsbridge warrants a visit. Do note that weekends are jam-packed.
Kensington Palace and Gardens: Birthplace of Queen Victoria (Ticket £17.50 entrance, Monday – Sunday: 10:00 am-5:00 pm) and home to Princess Diana Memorial Garden, both within the vicinity of Hyde Park; London’s largest Royal Park.
Outside of London
South of Richmond, along the Thames, is Hampton Court The historical Tudor home of Henry VIII and the later extension into the Baroque Palace for William III and Mary II. I love the Tudor wing, with the Great Hall and Tudor kitchen. A must-see if you are a Tudor fan. (£21.30, Monday-Sunday 10:00 am-6:00 pm).
Most museums in London offer a free guided tour. Check it out if you want a different perspective or if you are new to art and want to understand what an artist is conveying in paintings.
As you have noticed from the above, the majority of museums in London are free. There is an entrance fee if you want to see an exclusive exhibition or visit St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster.
If you are looking for a better map app, download Citymapper. Available for many major cities and they keep on adding more.
If you choose to go to a Museum spur of the moment and there is a long line to buy tickets, go online to Tiqets or click on the links above and buy to fast track your wait time.