Home > Life at LSE > London life > Museums and galleries

Museums and galleries

British Museum 

The British Museum is dedicated to human history and culture, with a permanent collection of around 8 million items (although it showcases less than 1% at any time). Some of the highlights include the collection of mummies, the Rosetta Stone, Hoa Hakananai'a (Easter Island Statue), the Sutton Hoo treasure, the Elgin Marbles, the Lewis Chessmen and the Benin Bronzes. 

The building itself is magnificent, with its Greek revival façade, the soaring dome of the reading room and the web of glass and steel that appears to float over the Great Court. 

The reading room was once a haunt of a number of well known figures including: Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, Friedrich Hayek, Bram Stoker, Mahatma Gandhi, Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Lenin, Virginia Woolf, and H. G. Wells.


The Victoria and Albert Museum is the worlds largest museum of decorative arts and design. It's collection spans 5,000 years of art right to the present day, in almost every medium. It's origins lie in the Great Exhibition, as many of it's exhibits were bought to form the original collection of the museum.

One of the highlights is the John Madejski garden, an elegant courtyard design lined with orange trees in summer and the soft colours of an array of flowers. At the centre is a stone-paved oval pool which, when lit up at night, transforms into a magical looking glass. 

National Gallery

The National Gallery is an art museum that houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings from the mid 13th century to 1900. Though the collection is small compared to other European galleries, the scope is enormous, with important works from all the greatest Western European artists. Highlights include George Stubbs' Whistlejacket, Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Georges Seurat's Bathers at Asnieres

It's lofty location, looking down on the famous Trafalgar Square, is enviable.

Natural History Museum

The NHM is a renowned centre of research, specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation. It has around 70 million life and earth science specimens, including some collected by Darwin himself. It is especially famous for its collection of dinosaur skeletons, one of which presides over the large central hall, which has been dubbed the cathedral of nature.

In the winter months, the NHM is the backdrop for an outdoor ice skating rink. The rink is surrounded by trees covered in thousands of tiny fairy lights, adding to the festive cheer. 

Tate Modern 

The Tate Modern is the most visited modern art gallery in the world with around 4.7 million visitors a year. The collection is based in the former Bankside Power Station, on the southern bank of the river Thames. The stunning turbine hall, the adjacent boiler room and the single central chimney ensure that you cannot forget the museums industrial origins. 

The Millennium Bridge, an otherworldly blade of light, connects the Tate Modern to St. Paul's Cathedral. The iconic bridge was spectacularly destroyed by death eaters in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film. 

Courtauld Gallery

The Courtauld Gallery is perhaps most memorable for its suite of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings with Monets, Cézannes, Gauguins and some superb Van Goghs, Modiglianis and Seurats. The Jewel in the crown is without a doubt Manet's 'A Bar at the Folies-Bergère'  and is definitely worth a visit. 

The Courtauld is housed in the Strand Wing of Somerset House, just a 5 minute walk from LSE. The large neoclassical building is a centre for the visual arts, literature, music, film as well as the host of London Fashion Week

The courtyard features dancing fountains which are playfully illuminated  in summer evenings, while in winter it is transformed into London's most glamorous ice rink. 

Science Museum

Though called the Science Museum, it would be just as fair to call this the Technology and Industry Museum, containing many great technological and industrial firsts in it's Energy and Making the Modern World galleries. Highlights include an early model T-Ford (check the tax disc to see just how long it was on the road) and the genuine Apollo 10.

For the more science minded there are many other galleries ranging from Flight, Space, Cosmos and Culture and Measuring Time (a must see!) to the new Welcome Wing of the museum as well as many regularly updated temporary exhibits.

Free tours of the selected galleries are available daily at 1,2 and 3pm.

Museum of London 

This museum documents the history of London from prehistoric days to the present. It's main focus is the social history of London and its inhabitants and the innovative design means that there is only one path through the museum: from history to present. 

Not to be missed: reconstruction of a Georgian Pleasure Garden, the bleak inside of a Debtor's Prison Cell and an Art-Deco Selfridge's lift. 

The museum forms part of the Barbican Estate - a redevelopment to build on an area totally destroyed by bombs in the Second World War. 

Imperial War Museums 

The Imperial War Museum is located in a deceptively beautiful building that was once the home of Bethlem Royal Hospital for the Insane, from which the word bedlam is derived.

The museum holds an extensive collection - from machinery of war, documentation, art work, official communications to more personal items. The main exhibitions include the Trench, the Blitz, the Children's War and the Holocaust exhibitions as well as a harrowing film on Crimes on Humanity. 

The Imperial War Museums also own a historic airfield in Cambridgeshire, known as IWM Duxford, the Royal Navy Cruiser, HMS Belfast and the Cabinet War Rooms (along with the Churchill Museum). 

London Transport Museum

Based in the nearby Covent Garden, the Transport Museum seeks to explain and preserve London's transport heritage. The Victorian iron and glass building was originally built to be a flower market, described in Shaw's play Pygmalion (which later was adapted into the hit musical My Fair Lady).

Among the many vehicles on display at this museum is the first underground train which had no windows as there was nothing to see. This quickly proved to be a massive design fault as the passengers didn't know at which station to get off!

Sir John Soane's Museum

Last but not least, the John Soane museum is often considered one of London's most bewitching museums. Located on the opposite side of Lincoln's Inn Fields to LSE, the museum is the former home of John Soane, a country bricklayer's son who went on to design the Bank of England. The house has been left in almost exactly the same condition as when he was carried out in a coffin in 1837.

It is a slightly insane maze, filled to the brim with his personal collection of curiosities, from architectural drawings, works (by Turner, Cannaletto, Hogarth and Piranesi) to an Egyptian sarcophagus, and slaves' chains!

On the first Tuesday of the month, the house is lit solely by candlelight, making it feel even more like an Aladdin's cave.