The Best Museums in Kensington

Written on 6 January 2020 by Giles Cook in London

If you’re planning a day out with friends and family, you can’t go wrong with South Kensington. There’s plenty to do, from the iconic shopping emporiums of nearby Knightsbridge to all the outdoor attractions of Hyde Park – not to mention the wonders of the Royal Albert Hall.


But ‘South Ken’ is known for is its legendary museums – most of all the big three to be found around Exhibition Road; the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and the Science Museum. All three are free to visit and you could spend a day in any one and still be nowhere near having seen everything. If you haven’t visited in a while, January is the perfect time to pop back, with fewer tourists and shorter queues at the weekend.

Read on for our guide to these and other must-see museums in South Kensington.


The V&A

The V&A opened in 1857 as the South Kensington Museum – the first in London to have its own restaurant. It was renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1899 when Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of its new buildings along Exhibition Road and Cromwell Road.

The V&A describes itself as the world’s leading museum of art and design, and it certainly lives up to the hype. From rare ancient artefacts to cutting-edge fashion, you’ll find it all among the museum’s permanent collection of more than two million objects, spanning 5,000 years of human creativity.

It would be impossible to cover it all, so concentrate on one or two galleries. Choose from rooms of decorative arts, jewellery, textiles, furniture, ceramics or fashion – check out the museum’s site map on its website to plan your visit.

Entry to the collection is free, or book ahead for the temporary exhibits – you can currently catch its talked-about show on fashion designer Mary Quant, explore the extraordinary world of fashion photographer Tim Walker or find out how cars accelerated the modern world.

Click Here to find out more.


The Science Museum

Europe’s most visited science and technology museum has more than 15,000 exhibits on display. Through its world-class collection of iconic objects, such as the Apollo 10 command capsule and Stephenson’s Rocket, the museum inspires visitors with stories of incredible scientific achievement.

The recently opened Wellcome Galleries are home to an extraordinary collection of medical artefacts – from the world’s first MRI scanner to Fleming’s penicillin mould, exploring 500 years of history.

Or visit the interactive Wonderlab, where you can explore, hands-on, the scientific phenomena that shape our everyday lives.

Current special exhibitions include Top Secret; from Ciphers to Cyber Security, which looks at the world of codebreakers and secret communications – until February 2020.

Click Here to find out more.


The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum opened in 1881, although its origins are in the 18th century when naturalist Sir Hans Sloane’s vast collection of specimens and artefacts was bought by parliament.

This landmark building is possibly most famous for its dinosaurs – don’t miss the chance to get up close and personal with a giant T-rex. You can also see a 25-metre-long blue whale skeleton, a rare piece of Mars rock and Victorian palaeontologist, Mary Anning’s ichthyosaur fossil.

The museum houses more than 80 million specimens spanning 4.5 billion years of the earth’s history. Visit its Darwin Centre’s ‘Cocoon’ to see some of them – from tiny beetles to metre-high plants.

Temporary exhibitions include the winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. This paid-for exhibition showcases the supreme skill of the best global photographers as they capture the natural world.

Click Here to find out more.


Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is the official residence of TRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children. While you probably won’t get to meet Wills and Kate, you can explore the birthplace of Queen Victoria and find out how her early life shaped the future monarch. As with all Historic Royal Palaces, there is a charge for visitors.

Click Here to find out more.


The National Army Museum

This free museum, in nearby Sloane Square, is well worth a visit. It tells the story of the British Army through fascinating personal accounts, interactive displays and thousands of objects – from the skeleton of Napoleon’s horse to Lawrence of Arabia’s robes. The museum hosts free talks and events too.

Click Here to find out more.


The Design Museum

Based on High Street Kensington, this museum offers an insight into all manner of creativity – including fashion, architecture, furniture, graphic, product and digital design. Entry to the permanent collection is free and temporary exhibitions can be booked in advance.

Click Here to find out more.


Find out more

With its wealth of museums, South Kensington is certainly worth a visit. If you’d like to find out more about living in this amazing part of London, contact us today.

Giles Cook

Giles recently joined Best Gapp in 2017 as Partner Designate and Head of Residential Agency, bringing over 20 years’ experience to the firm. Following a three-year stint as an Area Director for Foxtons, he went on to head up Chestertons’ sales and lettings operations in central London, before becoming a Partner at top Knightsbridge boutique WA Ellis.

All articles by Giles Cook


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