Visitors to London keen to visit museums may take heart: there are many museums and art galleries in town that cost absolutely nothing to visit. That’s one of the things that even the Brits love about their capital. If you come into town with empty pockets, you can still enjoy world-class cultural icons. Even the places that demand an entrance fee tend to keep their prices low and reasonable.
If you aren’t looking specifically for free venues then, of course, you can widen your scope.
So, to where should you head first? The truth is, if you’re staying somewhere like the Grand Royale Hotel London, you don’t need to travel far. Within a short walk of your hotel, you will find Kensington Gardens, The Natural History Museum and the V&A (which, incidentally, are all absolutely free to walk around).
In order to plan your stay effectively, we thought we’d help you. We’ve come up with two days’ worth of itineraries in order that you can head for the best places in town, take in the culture and head back to your hotel without spending too long planning. So without further ado, take a look… Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Visit London to find out about other events and exhibitions.
Let’s start in the location closest to the Grand Royale Hotel London. As we have already said you are not far from Kensington Gardens which are part of the Royal Parks of the UK. Once the private gardens of nearby Kensington Palace the gardens are a great starting point. Theoretically, you could spend a whole day here but we know you’d like to spread your wings.
Next stop: The Royal Albert Hall. Opened in 1871 the RAH was (and still is) a jewel in the crown of British life. The Victorian concert hall has hosted leading artists from around the world ever since it was opened. And of course, the BBC Proms, an eight-week summer season of orchestral classical music, are traditionally broadcast from here each year. A guided tour of the theatre can be arranged via Tripadvisor.
Next on the list is a short walk south along Exhibition Road. A must for any London visitor is the V&A museum. Founded in 1852 and named after the ruling couple of the day – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – the museum houses over two million displays of ceramics, glass sculptures, costumes, jewellery, furniture and photographs.
Today there will be no travelling by tube. All of these museums are within ten minutes’ walk of each other. Next on the list is a museum across the road from the V&A called The Natural History Museum. Built in 1883 the museum housed originally a small collection of artefacts from around the world collected by Doctor Sir Hans Sloane. It is now one of the world’s leading natural history museums.
Next, we have The Science Museum. Founded in 1857 this is a must towards the end of the day. The collection of centuries-old technological artefacts includes lots of hands-on exhibitions and interactive experiences. An IMAX cinema inside hosts films about the early days of the jet engine and the steam train.
On your way back to the Grand Royale Hotel London why not stop off at the Serpentine Gallery? Found within the confines of Kensington Gardens the gallery hosts the work of numerous artists. With two galleries and a setting like none other, the Serpentine Gallery is worthy of a visit. Internationally acclaimed artists have their work on display. If you enjoy admiring contemporary art installations (some of which you can walk through) then this is the place to end your first day in London.
Today you will make your way towards the Thames. We’re going to head for Embankment. The best tube station to aim for if you intend to make a day in this area is Victoria Embankment. Come out of the station at the Charing Cross exit (not Embankment exit) and walk up the road (Villiers Street) towards The Strand.
Take a right and head towards Covent Garden. Within the boundary of Covent Garden, you will find the first museum on the list: The London Transport Museum. Founded in 1871 the LT museum is housed within a glass-fronted building that used to be part of the flower market of the old Covent Garden. You will find examples of London transportation dating back to the early Victorian era. You can even get on board some of the exhibits.
Heading due west on the Strand you will, after about 20 minutes, come to Trafalgar Square where you will find the National Gallery. Founded in 1824 the gallery houses almost 2,500 paintings by international artists. Some of the earliest works date back to the 1200s! Take a load off your feet for a while before making your way out again. The café at the National Gallery serves exceptional food and drinks.
Head down Whitehall – the seat of the British establishment. As you walk along you will notice some old and grand buildings, one of which is the building of the Household Cavalry. It is a difficult building to miss because it is traditionally guarded by members of the Household Cavalry. If you were to walk through the archway you would find Horseguards Parade, upon which every year a large military parade takes place. The Household Cavalry Museum is a living museum within the confines of Horseguards Parade.
Walking along Whitehall a little further (and past the London residence of the British PM) you will arrive at King Charles Street, in what was the heart of the King Charles’s palace of Whitehall. The Churchill War Rooms are located here: a monument to the courage and determination of Allied troops during WW2. It is from this underground bunker that Winston Churchill and his ministers won the war.
The nearest station to the War Rooms is Westminster Station just opposite Big Ben. The last item on our list is the Fashion Museum London. Take a District Line train from here to Tower Hill and then alight and cross the Thames over Tower Bridge. The Fashion Museum is located just off Tower Bridge Road. Founded in 2003 the contemporary museum exhibits the latest textile fashions and often has ad hoc exhibitions of the fashions of bygone eras.