The 10 Best Museums & Galleries in London for Architecture Lovers
How many have you visited already?
London has an exhaustive list of museums — more than 250 as of 2019 — so the truth is you’re never far away from one, which is great.
We have free museums, extravagant museums, strange museums. Museums specialising in fashion, art and people. And then we have the category we care about the most: the Architecturally Amazing Museums, with capital letters.
Here’s Architectour’s top ten, the museums and galleries that are a delight to visit; not only because of their interesting exhibitions and curious objects, but also because of the container element. These museums have been designed with care and attention, an eye for detail and good use of light. You’ll often catch yourself admiring the building instead of the collection, and that’s ok.
Most of these are free to enter too, so you can start exploring tomorrow. Or today if you have our Architectour Guide. We’ve included the page reference to make it easier for you to find out all of the information.
If you are looking for a culture fix in the best of architectural backgrounds, here are the ten best museums and galleries in London as of 2019 👇🏻
1. Fashion & Textile Museum
📕 Page 191
The vivid pink door and bright orange façade are the work of Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, who designed along Zandra Rhodes the Fashion and Textile museum and her private residence on top (look up!). The museum celebrates the history of fashion and has a strong focus in textiles — besides the clothing you’ll also find furniture fabrics. This exciting museum has always something interesting going on, check it out here.
Architectour Tip? Don’t miss the guided tours (included in the price of the entrance) on Wednesday and Friday at 1pm.
Location: 81 Bermondsey St, SE1 3XF(Google)
2. Sackler Gallery
📕 Page 42
The Sackler Gallery marks the boundary between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. In 2013, Zaha Hadid added the new tensile structure (a restaurant) to The Magazine (the gallery). Exhibitions are free and always changing so it’s worth visiting often. Don’t miss the upcoming Albert Oehlen exhibition starting the 2nd of October (until 2 Feb 2020).
Architectour Tip? The restaurant is not great other than for a quick drink.
Location: W Carriage Dr, W2 2AR (Google)
3. Design Museum
📕 Page 61
As if a museum of this kind wasn’t fun enough — a design heaven — the building is itself an object to admire. The Commonwealth Institute, built in the 60’s by RMJM, used to be located here. The distinctive hyperbolic paraboloid roof was the main feature that got the building a superb Grade II listing in 1988. Unfortunately, that was also the reason that kept the building empty for so long after the Commonwealth Institute left the building (it was even considered to remove the status to help the transition to a different tenant). After heavy refurbishment, OMA with Allies and Morrison redesigned the space as a museum and enhanced the strangely beautiful roof.
Architectour Tip? Check the designers in residence, you might be able to talk to some really cool and interesting artists.
Location: 224–238 Kensington High St, W8 6AG (Google)
4. 18 Stafford Terrace
📕 Page 60
In 1875 this vast Victorian development of terraced houses was constructed. Middle class tenants occupied these homes, furnishing and making them very pretty. Time passed and fashion evolved. A war. Another. Houses were divided. Tenants changed. Prices changed. Five generations passed. And more. And still one of these delightful Victorian houses was kept original, with its China vases, fine cutlery, Asian prints, period furniture and wallpapers. The size? The same. As you can already imagine, stepping inside 18 Stafford Terrace is an opportunity to travel back in time.
Architectour Tip? Don’t miss Linley Sambourne’s collection of nude photographs in the bathroom
Location: 18 Stafford Terrace, W8 7BH (Google)
5. Natural History Museum
📕 Page 59
Because you’ve probably read it all about this place, we’re going to try and surprise you with an Archie fun fact that has nothing to do with architecture. Alfred Waterhouse, the architect of the museum, was the brother of Edwin Waterhouse, the co-founder of the Price Waterhouse partnership now known as PwC . We hope you liked it 😉
Architectour Tip? Don’t miss the winter ice rink.
Location: Cromwell Rd, SW7 5BD (Google)
6. Kenwood House
📕 Page 270
You might have heard of Apsley House by Robert Adam, located just at the entrance of Hyde Park. However, this other stunning house by the famous Scottish architect is the culmination of his architectural career. Adam refurbished the existing 17th century structure and added the library and ionic portico at the entrance. What’s so interesting about this commission is that in this project he was given total freedom to design what he liked. The result? Blissful.
Architectour Tip? Don’t miss the Self Portrait with Two Circles by Rembrandt (c. 1665)
Location: Hampstead Ln, NW3 7JR (Google)
7. Newport Street Gallery
📕 Page 207
Newport Street Gallery has the personal collection of Damien Hirst, one of Britain’s most reputed creators (and the richest living artist in the UK). You might be a fan of his art (or not) but this building will make you weak at your knees. Materials are picked, crafted and put together with such attention and taste that you’ll probably spend about an hour photographing staircases and rooms alone.
Architectour Tip? Don’t miss other amazing projects by Caruso St John in London such as Tate Britain (9 of this list) and Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood.
Location: Newport St, SE11 6AJ (Google)
8. Sir John Soane’s Museum
📕 Page 117
John Soane, the famous architect behind Bank of England and Dulwich Picture Gallery, lived and worked from this intriguing house full of clutter. He was a helpless collector. On every trip he would buy and acquire vases, sculptures and paintings. In fact, Piranesi gave Soane a handful of original prints in person before his death. You can see one in the Picture room.
Architectour Tip? Don’t miss the 3,000 year old Egyptian sarcophagus of Seti I
Location: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP (Google)
9. Tate Britain
📕 Page 6
Tate Modern was the first of the Tate Galleries (see point 10). Mr Tate was the magnate behind the sugar cubes that bear his name. He made a fortune and with that money he demolished the former Milbank Prison, located on this site, to create this wonderful museum of art in 1897. Times passed and the collection grew so big that in 1999 Tate Modern had to open on the other bank of the river Thames. You’ll find art from the 1500’s to the 1900's.
Architectour Tip? This view is from the private members club which you might get access if you show enough appreciation for the staircase.
Location: Millbank, SW1P 4RG (Google)
10. Tate Modern
📕 Page 199
The former Bankside Power Station by Giles Gilbert Scott was completed in 1963. However, soon after, the power station closed on 31 October 1981. Times were changing. In 2000, this exciting gallery by Tate opened its premises and in 2016 it got an addition — evidence that things were going well. Tate Modern showcases contemporary art installations from the 1900’s to the present.
Architectour Tip? Giles Gilbert Scott was also the architect who designed the famous red telephone boxes
Location: Bankside, SE1 9TG (Google)
We hope you liked this list and get yourself started as there are another 240+ museums waiting for you in London. If you need some help to arrange your plan or want to listen to London’s quirkiest and most fun stories, then make sure to book a tour with us.