Culture vultures – this one’s for you. From cutting-edge, contemporary spots to legendary classics of the art world, here’s our rundown of 20 of the best London art galleries in town.
1. Royal Academy of Arts
An ancient ancestor in London’s extensive collection of art galleries, the Royal Academy of Arts has been run by artists since way back in 1768. Since celebrating 250 years of championing art and its artists, they’ve opened up a newly expanded campus with free displays, new spots to eat, drink, shop, and much more. Their exhibitions often present the work of some of the world’s most renowned artists. Current artists on show include Francis Bacon, Kawanabe Kyōsai and Joanna Hiffernan. They also have a great annual Summer exhibition.
You’ll find the Royal Academy of Arts at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD. Nearest station is Piccadilly Circus.
2. Tate Britain
The oldest of the country’s network of Tate galleries, and one of two in London, the Tate Britain is the home of British art all the way from 1500 right up to the present day. Its miraculous dome and grand, porticoed entranceway set the scene for what is sure to be a splendid afternoon exploring British history through art. And you’ll often find this beautiful building boasting works of art inside and out – see last year’s beautiful exterior transformation in celebration of Diwali!
You’ll find the Tate Britain at Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG. Nearest station is Pimlico.
3. Tate Modern
Modern art finds its spiritual home at the Tate Modern – the most popular art gallery in the world and the UK’s most-visited attraction back in 2019. Unlike Tate Britain, which houses a permanent collection of historic British art, Tate Modern is all about the here and now. Everything you’ll find within the gallery is modern art, dating only as far back as 1900. Don’t miss a visit to Yayoi Kusama’s mesmerising ‘Infinity Rooms’.
You’ll find the Tate Modern at Bankside, London, SE1 9TG. Nearest station is Blackfriars.
4. Serpentine South Gallery
You’ll find a wide range of contemporary art and architecture at the beautiful Serpentine South Gallery – thoroughly deserving of its place on this roundup of the best London art galleries. They’re leaders within the field and have ‘presented pioneering exhibitions for half a century from a wide range of emerging practitioners to the world’s most internationally-recognised artists‘. Make sure you also check out the Serpentine Pavilion – also in Kensington Gardens and right next door – a site for international architectural experimentation that changes every year!
You’ll find the Serpentine South Gallery at Kensington Gardens, London, W2 3XA. Nearest station is Lancaster Gate.
5. Serpentine North Gallery
Cross north over the picturesque Serpentine Bridge and you’ll find Serpentine Gallery’s little sister, living in a former Grade II-listed gunpowder store from 1805. A unique spot designed by famous architect Zaha Hadid, you’ll find cutting edge exhibitions at the Serpentine North Gallery and the Serpentine Shop, where you can buy all manner of gift items.
You’ll find the Serpentine North Gallery at West Carriage Drive, London, W2 2AR. Nearest station is Lancaster Gate.
6. The National Gallery
One of the most iconic London art galleries takes centre stage in London’s most iconic square! While The National Gallery houses one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world, this 200-year old building also stands as a work of art and piece of history itself. Founded in 1824, you’ll be able to view more than 2,300 paintings here – dating all the way back to the 13th century – with works from famous artists including Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent Van Gogh.
You’ll find The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN. Nearest stations are Charing Cross and Leicester Square.
7. National Portrait Gallery
Not to be confused with the preceding listing, this London art gallery does what it says on the tin: housing a huge collection of portraits that depict important and famous British people from throughout history. It was the first portrait gallery in the whole world when it opened in 1856, so this place really is the OG of portraits. Please note that the gallery is currently closed until 2023, so you’ll have to wait another year of so to explore this one.
You’ll find the National Portrait Gallery at St. Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE. Nearest stations are Charing Cross and Leicester Square.
8. Zabludowicz Collection
It is a Grade II-listed, former Methodist chapel that houses the Zabludowicz Collection in London. Though the building was built over 150 years ago, the art you will find in here is nothing short of modern mastery, and its historical and layered architecture provides a rich and challenging space for the presentation of contemporary art. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in this part of town.
You’ll find the Zabludowicz Collection at 176 Prince of Wales Road, London, NW5 3PT. Nearest station is Kentish Town West.
9. Hauser & Wirth
This international chain of galleries lands its London branch on the glamorous Savile Row, spread across two exhibition spaces: the North Gallery and the South Gallery. Here you can enjoy a range of engaging events with Hauser & Wirth; from artist talks, film screenings and workshops, to their dynamic exhibition programme that showcases modern art from emerging and established artists around the world. Current exhibitions in the pipeline include ‘Larry Bell, New Work’ and ‘Luchita Hurtado’.
You’ll find Hauser & Worth at 23 Savile Row, London, W1S 2ET. Nearest stations are Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus.
10. Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art
Known as one of the edgiest, artiest universities in London, it’s no surprise that Goldsmiths has opened its very own contemporary arts institution. And to be fair to them, it’s pretty damn cool. This Grade II-listed, former Victorian bathhouse boasts a deliciously diverse range of art – from world-class exhibitions by international artists, to new projects and emergent practices. Check out ‘Animal Magnetism’ – the first solo exhibition in a UK institution by renowned American sculptor Virginia Overton.
You’ll find the Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art at St James’, New Cross, London SE14, 6AD. Nearest stations are New Cross and New Cross Gate.
11. Dulwich Picture Gallery
The world’s first purpose-built public art gallery was established more than 200 years ago, because its founders believed as many people as possible should see great paintings. A philosophy that will never get old! Today, the Dulwich Picture Gallery houses one of the finest collections of Old Masters in the world, especially rich in French, Italian and Spanish Baroque paintings, as well as in British portraits from Tudor times to the 19th century. Come and take a look at exceptional art inside an intimate, welcoming setting – one of Britain’s most valued architectural treasures.
You’ll find the Dulwich Picture Gallery at Gallery Road, London, SE21 7AD. Nearest stations are North Dulwich and West Dulwich.
12. 180 The Strand
Set within a towering Brutalist building and billed as the ‘heart of London’s creative community‘, 180 The Strand plays host to 180 Studios – a network of production and exhibition spaces that are home to some of the most creative art exhibitions you’ll find within the capital. Current exhibitions include ‘LUX’, ‘Isle of Dogs’ and ‘The Infinite Mix’.
You’ll find 180 The Strand at 180 Strand, Temple, London, WC2R 1EA. Nearest station is Temple.
13. Hayward Gallery
A world-renowned contemporary art gallery, and a landmark of beautifully Brutalist architecture. You’ll find some really ‘out there’ exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery, and it’s certainly worth a visit to check out what else the Southbank Centre has got going on – think gigs, festivals and other shows too.
You’ll find the Hayward Gallery at the Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX. Nearest station is Waterloo.
14. Saatchi Gallery
In the last few years, the Saatchi Gallery has presented 15 of the 20 most visited museum exhibitions in London, which says a lot about how popular this place is. Located in Sloane Square, they’ve got over 35 years’ worth of art exhibitions – showing everything from Tutankhamun’s Tomb to Andy Warhol. This June sees the arrival of ‘Vision & Virtuosity’ by Tiffany & Co. Bling, bling.
You’ll find the Saatchi Gallery at the Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London, SW3 4RY. Nearest station is Sloane Square.
15. Whitechapel Gallery
Aldgate East’s next door neighbour may look traditional from the outside, but step inside and you’ll be blown away by this hub for talent, where ‘history has always been the future‘. The Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world-class artists, from modern masters Pablo Picasso and Mark Rothko, to contemporaries such as Sophie Calle and Sarah Lucas. They also have really great cake in this Whitechapel-based café and if you’re a bit of a bookworm, their bookshop is a good ‘un.
You’ll find the Whitechapel Gallery at 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX. Nearest station is Aldgate East.
16. NOW Gallery
The grooviest gallery on the Greenwich Peninsula presents three solo shows each year. The glass facade frames this 7m high space, creating a window into an artistic world. A key feature of the NOW Gallery’s artist endeavours is their immersive nature, so expect some wild and wonderful exhibitions. Stay for NOW Later events, where live art, music and performances invite you to experience artists’ work from an alternative perspective…
You’ll find the NOW Gallery at The Gateway Pavilions, Peninsula Square, Soames Walk, London, SE10 0SQ. Nearest station is North Greenwich.
17. Museum of London
Bringing the history of London to the people of London. The greatest stories from the greatest city are spread across nine permanent galleries, taking you on a huge journey from ‘London Before London’, through to ‘Roman London’ and ‘Medieval London’, to key historic moments such as ‘The Great Fire’, and the evolution of London as the ‘People’s City’. Guest exhibitions at the Museum of London have included one dedicated directly to the history of the iconic rock band The Clash.
You’ll find the Museum of London is 150 London Wall, Barbican, London, EC2Y 5HN. Nearest station is Barbican.
18. Newport Street Gallery
Vauxhall’s Newport Street Gallery is the product of Damien Hirst’s dream to share his extensive art collection with the public. Since it opened back in 2015, Newport Street Gallery has been hosting a range of different exhibitions, from major artists like Jeff Koons to rising stars that Hirst is keen to spotlight. Current exhibitions include ‘The Cloud of Witness’ – an exhibition of over 70 works by little-known Australian artist Keith Cunningham.
You’ll find the Newport Street Gallery at Newport Street, London, SE11 6AJ. Nearest station is Vauxhall.
19. South London Gallery
The penultimate entry on this roundup of the best London art galleries is one of South London’s best. Camberwell’s South London Gallery has been open to the general public for around 130 years, and it comprises a series of exhibition spaces, a bookshop, a lovely little café and a picturesque garden out the back. Created by artist Gabriel Orozco, it was developed in collaboration with six architects and Kew’s Royal Botanical Gardens. Along with various eclectic exhibitions, they also host regular film showings, talks and events.
You’ll find the South London Gallery at 65 Peckham Road, London, SE5 8UH. Nearest stations are Peckham Rye and Denmark Hill.
Rounding off this list of the best London art galleries is much more than just an art gallery. It’s also an advocacy charity who’s mission is to champion the work of artists who ‘use photography and film to highlight questions of race, representation, human rights and social justice‘. Located on Rivington Place in Hackney, Autograph houses gallery spaces, pop-up cinema spots and an education studio in its interior. It was also England’s first permanent public space dedicated to diversity in the visual arts.
You’ll find Autograph at Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA. Nearest station is Old Street.