London Museums and Galleries
David Zwirner Gallery
24 Grafton St., Mayfair
The London branch of this NYC-based gallery operates out of an elegantly restored Georgian townhouse in Mayfair. It's a fittingly grand setting considering David Zwirner's stable of contemporary artists is impressive to say the least: Francys Alÿs, Jockum Nordström, and Luc Tuymans have all shown here.
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Gallery Rd., South London
Situated in a particularly green neighborhood in South London, the Dulwich Picture Gallery is the first of its kind in England, and houses a stellar collection of masters' work from Rubens to Poussin, along with an always-exciting rotation of contemporary and classic exhibitions.
40 Brunswick Sq., Holborn
The Foundling Museum, devoted to the history of the Foundling Hospital, London’s first home for abandoned children, also shines the spotlight on three great men: philanthropist Thomas Coram, artist William Hogarth, and composer George Frideric Handel. There's a lot to see and do, from the original Hospital's Art Collection, which includes 18th-century paintings and sculptures, to the Gerald Coke Handel Collection, which is the largest privately-owned collection of Handel memorabilia.
Kingsland Rd., Shoreditch
If you find yourself in Shoreditch, consider taking a quick trip to the Geffrye Museum. The focus here is on homes and home décor, specifically how both have changed over the span of 40 years. Situated in a series of original almshouses, the buildings and grounds have been lovingly restored to showcase original antiques and furnishings from London's past, as well as an enormous garden. The period rooms (if you're the nostalgic type, you'll love the '90s-style loft) take visitors on a journey through British life starting in 1690. It's the sort of place that's great to visit with kids: there's plenty of roaming room within the gardens, so they can burn off excess energy between learning.
Hauser & Wirth
23 Savile Row, Mayfair
With successful gallery outposts in New York, Zurich, and London, Hauser & Wirth is one of the most respected names in contemporary art. Rather than rely solely on the heavy hitters (Louise Bourgeoise, Dan Graham, Eva Hesse's estate), they give wall space to up-and-coming talent like Rashid Johnson and Bharti Kher, too.
Museum of London
150 London Wall, City of London
Along with their extensive, eclectic collection, and ever-changing exhibits, the museum runs free kids activities every Sunday during term-time and every day during the school holidays.
Natural History Museum
Cromwell Rd., Kensington
Built in 1881, the Natural History Museum is also a world-renowned research center and boasts as much historical significance as scientific: Specimens collected by Darwin can be still be found in its halls. In addition to permanent galleries (we love the Earth Galleries, designed by Neal Potter) and exciting exhibitions, the museum features a wildlife garden, shows, films, hands-on activities for kids, and more. Especially fun for kids are the Dino Snores sleepovers, where, in Night at the Museum fashion, kids discover what happens when staff and visitors go home. During the holidays they'll also enjoy the museum's outdoor skating rink (which can be reserved in its entirety for private sessions with the ice marshall). While it's wonderful for families, the museum proves equally interesting for adults, who can enjoy programs like Nature Live and talks with experts in science and natural history. Go right before 10am and enter on the right-hand side near the science museum to dodge the lines.
Burlington House, Picadilly
With graduates like J.M.W. Turner, David Hockney, John Constable and many, many others, The Royal Academy is simultaneously one of England's most competitive art schools and also one of its most inventive exhibition spaces. The students and remarkable-in-their-own-right faculty make the Academy more of a community rather than just a space to experience great art. Don't miss their annual Summer Exhibition: A tradition since 1769(!), it's an enormous open-entry show with submissions from around the world that's meant to offer insight into future art-world trends.
Duke of York's HQ, King's Rd., Pimlico
Charles Saatchi's gallery is famous for championing artists before the rest of the art world catches on. Legendary for his early support of Damien Hirst and the rest of the YBAs (that's Young British Artists for the uninitiated), Saatchi's roster is still one of the most forward-thinking in contemporary art. The excellent on-site Gallery Mess Cafe and its daily afternoon tea service (there's a boozy version that involves a jug of Pimms and an option for kids, too) deserve mention.
Kensington Gardens, Kensington
The Serpentine Galleries are a must-see for contemporary art lovers. Located in a former teahouse, the original Serpentine Gallery continues to champion cutting-edge modern art, and if you continue to walk across Serpentine Lake, the collection extends to the new Sackler Gallery, which was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid. Take the time to explore the grounds, including the Gallery’s Pavilion, which provides a site for architectural experimentation with temporary structures that are always worth checking out.
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