London's major art galleries

Many with free admission

The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square
The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square

London has a great variety of world class museums and galleries. Many of the major galleries have free admission though you are heavily leant on for voluntary donations.

There are often special exhibitions at these venues which do have admission charges. The big, free galleries are the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Tate Modern that attract the generalist tourist who would not usually enter an art gallery.

If you are really into art, then Time Out in London website will have the latest listings of what's going on in a long list of venues you could not hope to cover on a site like this. We also announce major exhibitions on our Facebook page.

FREE art galleries   Galleries with admission charges

Free art galleries in London

The National Gallery - Trafalgar Square

The National Gallery - Trafalgar Square, London

The National Gallery, London, houses one of the greatest collections of European painting in the world. The National Gallery houses more than 2000 European paintings from the 13th century to 1900.

The National Gallery itself is a landmark building occupying the north side of Trafalgar Square.

The National Gallery official website

National Portrait Gallery - Trafalgar Square

National Portrait Gallery - Trafalgar Square, London

Next door to the National Gallery, The Gallery was founded in 1856 to collect portraits of famous British men and women. Explore 120,000 portraits from the 16th Century to the present day.

Portrait of William Shakespeare (left) is one of the first paintings in the National Portrait Gallery.

National Portrait Gallery official website

Tate Britain - Near Westminster

Tate Britain, London
Photo courtesy of tate.org.uk

Tate Britain is the national gallery of British art from 1500 to the present day. Tate Britain holds the greatest collection of British art in the world, including works by Blake, Constable, Epstein, Gainsborough, Gilbert and George, Hatoum, Hirst, Hockney, Hodgkin, Hogarth, Moore, Rossetti, Sickert, Spencer, Stubbs and Turner.

The gallery faces the River Thames, about 10 minutes' walk from Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.

Tate Britain official website

Tate Modern - Southwark

Tate Modern - Southwark, London

The Tate Modern is the UK's premier museum of Modern Art. Tate Modern displays the Tate collection of international modern art from 1900 to the present day, including major works by Dalí, Picasso, Matisse, Rothko and Warhol as well as contemporary work by artists such as Dorothy Cross, Gilbert & George and Susan Hiller.

The gallery is beside the River Thames housed in an old power station, besides Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and opposite St Paul's Cathedral which is connected by a footbridge across the River Thames.

Tate Modern official website

The Wallace Collection - Off Oxford Street

The Wallace Collection - Off Oxford Street, London
Photo courtesy of wallacecollection.org

T25 galleries of unsurpassed displays of French 18th century painting, furniture and porcelain with superb Old Master paintings and a world class armoury. Displays the works of art collected in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace.

The gallery is situated away from most of the cultural art galleries and museums just off Oxford Street, the main shopping street in London.

Wallace Collection official website

Serpentine Gallery - Kensington Gardens

The Wallace Collection - Off Oxford Street, London
Photo courtesy of serpentinegalleries.org

Galleries for modern and contemporary art showcases work by the finest contemporary artists working across a huge variety of media. In the grounds of the Gallery is a permanent work by artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay, dedicated to the Serpentine's former Patron Diana, Princess of Wales.

The gallery is relatively unknown compared to others mentioned above and is housed in the southern part of Kensington Gardens / Hyde Park.

Serpentine Gallery official website

Royal Academy of Arts - Piccadilly

Royal Academy of Arts - Piccadilly, London
Photo courtesy of royalacademy.org.uk

Bit of everything. Remit reads “to promote the arts of design”, that is: to "present a broad range of visual art to the widest possible audience; to stimulate debate, understanding and creation through education; and to provide a focus for the interests of artists and art-lovers."

Royal Academy official website

Dali Exhibition - County Hall

The Dali Universe Exhibition - County Hall, London
Photo courtesy of thedaliuniverse.com

The Dali Universe is a permanent collection of Dali's works in the former County Hall building, next to Westminster Bridge and the London Eye.

The permanent exhibition houses the largest collection of Dalí sculptures in the world as well as rare graphics, jewellery, furniture and watercolours.

Dali Exhibition official website

Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) - The Mall off Trafalgar Square

ICA - Institute of Contemporary Arts - The Mall off Trafalgar Square, London
Photo courtesy of ica.art

The sometimes 'naughty boy' of the galleries. Conceived in 1947 by a group of artists and patrons i as a "laboratory" or "playground" for contemporary arts. It continues to challenge traditional notions and boundaries of art forms.

Housed at the north eastern corner of St James Park, just around the corner from the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

ICA official website

Saatchi Gallery - Sloane Square

Saatchi Gallery - Sloane Square, London
Photo courtesy of saatchigallery.com

Modern gallery of contemporary art, privately managed by the Saatchi brothers, who made millions out of advertising. Presents work by largely unseen young artists or by international artists whose work has been rarely or never exhibited in the UK.

Saatchi Gallery official website

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Tootbus hop-on, hop-off sightseeing buses

Original London Tour hop on hop off open top sightseeing bus tour

For the vast majority of visitors to London, the way you get about town on a day to day basis is by the London Underground, perhaps supplemented by the occasional red London bus using an Oyster or Travelcard.

But, especially for the first time visitor to London, the popular hop on, hop off sightseeing buses are a great orientation to the city of London getting you up to speed on the layout and spotting new places of interest you were not aware of.

You will have invested a lot of time and money in getting to London so you will want to use your time as efficiently as possible.

The hop on, hop off sightseeing buses are perhaps unrivalled in their ability to give you a speedy informed orientation to the layout of London. They also help you identify new locations that appeal to you, perhaps pointed out by the on-board guide and also give the once over those attractions you had always planned on visiting.

These buses offer comprehensive coverage covering nearly all the main sights in London. The popularity of the buses means there is one along every few minutes and you get a grandstand view perched up on the top deck of the bus.

In addition to the bus tour you can enjoy a great Thames River Cruise on selected tours.

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