From the dramatic Scottish highlands to the rugged cliffsides of the Cornish coast, the United Kingdom is a country rich in arts, culture, and history. For history buffs, there are lots of museums showcasing the region’s ancient past and artefacts. If you love supporting local artists and their works, there are also tons of art galleries where you can spend entire afternoons roaming the halls and admiring the artworks. Whether you’re holidaying for the weekend or staying the whole season, don’t forget to add these hotspots to your list. Travel back in time with this wonderful selection of museums and art galleries in the UK!

The Ultimate List Of Museums And Galleries To Visit In The UK

Feeling excited about your trip and don’t know which museum or gallery to visit? You’re in luck because this complete guide covers all the iconic museums and art galleries across the UK. Starting off in the city of London, this bustling metropolis has plenty to offer, especially along Exhibition Road. If you’re looking for something more unique and interesting, specialised museums across Cornwall, Wales, and Scotland should provide a fun adventure. So, for first-time visitors, make sure to stop by these fascinating institutions throughout your visit to the UK:

1. Natural History Museum, London

Natural History Museum
“Natural History Museum”, by Julian Herzog, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Natural History Museum is one of the three major museums along Exhibition Road in South Kensington. It was officially known as the British Museum until its legal separation in 1992. Nevertheless, the museum still has one of the biggest collections in the country, boasting artefacts and specimens from fields such as botany, palaeontology, and zoology. Like many publicly funded museums, admission to the Natural History Museum is free and open all year round.

History buffs will absolutely love a visit to the Natural History Museum with its displays of dinosaur skeletons and collections from Charles Darwin. You can also visit the museum and leaf through its extensive books, manuscripts, and artworks. The marvellous architecture of the museum alone is surely worth a peek!

2. Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Cornwall

Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
“Museum of Witchcraft and Magic”, by JUweL, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic is a unique museum located in the coastal village of Boscastle in Cornwall. It was first opened in 1951 by Cecil Williamson who claimed to be a folk magician. Nowadays, it’s one of the biggest collections of occult in the world with exhibits dedicated to Wicca practices and ceremonial magic. From fascinating sculptures to interesting paraphernalia, it’s a popular tourist attraction for locals and holidaymakers.

When you stop by, remember to keep an open mind so that you can fully appreciate the collections. Feel free to roam through the museum, admiring the dioramas and life-sized witch sculptures. Whether you believe in magic or not, you can’t deny that the museum is a curious place to visit!

3. St. Fagans National Museum of History, Wales

St. Fagans National Museum of History
“St. Fagans National Museum of History”, by Sionk, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

St. Fagans National Museum of History, usually referred to as St. Fagans, is an open-air museum built in the city of Cardiff in Wales. The museum is a spectacular display of Welsh culture, lifestyle, and history. Boasting over 40 different buildings, St. Faganshas aims to present its local architecture by building life-sized models of a chapel, schoolhouse, and tannery among many other structures. The museum also has a functioning blacksmith, pottery, and working farm where the products are sold to tourists.

Visiting St. Fagans will take almost an entire day but it’s surely worth the trip. The museum is welcoming to families and big groups with guided tours and workshops available at its main centre. Every summer, the museum also hosts a theatre festival where they put on shows from Shakespeare!

4. Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Victoria and Albert Museum
“Victoria and Albert Museum”, by Mike Peel, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Victoria and Albert Museum is the world’s largest museum of arts and design based at the heart of London. Spanning over ten acres of land and showcasing at least a hundred galleries, the museum’s collections are one-of-a-kind with more than a million in permanent exhibitions. Among its objects, the V&A has the biggest selection of sculptures from around the world, especially from the Italian Renaissance. There’s also an impressive display of metalwork and Islamic artworks, as well as artefacts from Asian countries.

With exhibits and galleries that you can roam for days, the museum is a haven for art and history lovers. You can go on guided tours, attend arts and crafts workshops, or check out one of their special events. Thanks to its convenient location, you can easily visit the museum and London’s other fun attractions!

5. Tate Modern, London

Tate Modern
“Tate Modern”, by N Chadwick, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Tate Modern is an art gallery based in London and is one of the biggest museums housing modern and contemporary art. Just like other public museums in the UK, visiting the gallery is free, but there are occasional ticket charges for temporary exhibitions. Nevertheless, Tate Modern is one of the most visited museums in the world, garnering millions of visitors each year. If you’re visiting London for the first time, you should add Tate to your list of must-see attractions!

Aside from its massive exhibitions, there are lots of other spots you can visit at Tate such as their performance spaces and auditoriums. There’s also an educational centre and studio where school groups can learn more about the museum’s practices. And if you want a souvenir of your visit, Tate has a dedicated gift shop, bookstore, and even an onsite restaurant!

6. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

National Museum of Scotland
“National Museum of Scotland”, by M J Richardson, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The National Museum of Scotland is a vast museum in Edinburgh showcasing Scottish history and culture. Until 2006, the museum was separated into two distinct institutions, namely the Museum of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Museum. The latter is decorated in classic Victorian architecture while the former is housed in a more modern building. In 2011, the museum opened more than ten new galleries and acquired thousands of objects into its growing collection.

Visitors love checking out the exhibitions of ancient Egyptian artefacts and Scottish relics. If you fancy interesting objects, there’s the stuffed body of Dolly the Sheep or one of Elton John’s amazing costumes. The best part is that the museum is free, so you can visit anytime!

7. The Writers’ Museum, Edinburgh

The Writers’ Museum
“The Writers’ Museum”, by Sgerbic, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Writer’s Museum is a specialised museum based in the capital city of Edinburgh in Scotland. Unlike other museums in this list, the collections are kept in a preserved stone house that was built in 1892, also known as Lady Stair’s House. The museum aims to preserve the love of literature and display the lives and works of Scottish writers including Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter Scott, and Robert Burns. Aside from manuscripts, the museum also has portraits, personal objects, and other mementoes from noteworthy literary figures in history.

Guests are free to roam the exhibit rooms and check out the books of Stevenson encased in glass. There’s also a statue of Burns and a Ballantyne display. If you like souvenirs, you can check out the onsite gift shop for some nifty crafts!

8. Science Museum, London

Science Museum
“Science Museum”, by Shadowssettle, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Science Museum is one of the major museums solely dedicated to the pursuit and preservation of science and technology. First founded in 1857, it’s now one of the most visited museums in London. Some of its popular sections include the Energy Hall, which is the main room for visitors, and Exploring Space, a historical gallery displaying the progress of human space exploration. The Science Museum also has a special hall for temporary exhibits which may incur a small fee for curious guests.

In addition to its spectacular exhibits, the museum is also known for its engaging events. Families will love Astronights which is an evening filled with science-based activities for children and adults. You’ll also get to spend the night at the museum and have breakfast while being treated to a scientific show!

9. National Gallery, London

National Gallery
“National Gallery”, by Diego Delso, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The National Gallery is an art museum located in Trafalgar Square in the city of Westminster in London. It was first established in 1824 and unlike the museums of its time, its collections were not sourced from the royal art collection. The museum was built from private donations and patronage until it grew into the institution it is today. With its extensive collections, the National Gallery takes pride in showcasing works all the way “from Giotto to Cezanne.”

Two of its most popular exhibits are located in the Central Hall and the Barry Rooms. Room 34 also has a spectacular dome roof that could captivate its visitors. And you can’t forget the Staircase Hall where you can see artworks loaned from the Royal Collection!

10. British Museum, London

British Museum
“British Museum”, by Ham II, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Any holiday in the UK won’t be complete without a visit to the British Museum. Considered England’s national museum, its collection boasts thousands of objects from fields such as art, culture, and human history. Some of its most important acquisitions include the Egyptian mummies, the Rosetta Stone, and the Greek Elgin Marbles. The British Museum is also the first public museum in the world and receives millions of visitors per year.

It could take days to visit all of the museum’s decorated halls and special exhibits. If you want to stick to the highlights, you can’t miss out on visiting the Great Court with its marvellous staircase and glass ceiling. You can also book a guided tour so that you can maximise your visit and let the kids have fun!

Final Thoughts

If you’re planning your next weekend break, why not spend it in one of the UK’s celebrated museums or art galleries? Not only will you surround yourself with beautiful artworks and fascinating artefacts, but you’ll also get to know local history and witness some of the most important historical events. Whether you’re checking out a museum or art gallery, you’ll be treated to non-stop trivia with dedicated workshops and tours.

Families will love visiting the classic spots such as the British Museum or the Science Museum. If you’re in it solely for the art, then you should pay a visit to the National Gallery or Tate Modern in London. There are also specialised museums for guests who want more than roaming halls. The open-air museum of St. Fagans or Cornwall’s Museum of Witchcraft and Magic should do the trick!

Featured Image: “National Gallery”, by Diego Delso, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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