Top 5 museums to visit

With ground-breaking exhibitions, innovative new displays and galleries, and works by some of the art world’s most renowned artists, Britain is home to an abundance of top-quality museums. But a handful of London and Manchester’s museums really stand out from the crowd, providing a unique opportunity to discover British history, culture and heritage.

1. Museum of London

Discover London through history at the Museum of London, an eclectic mix of galleries and exhibitions dedicated to the extensive capital city. Uncover how the metropolis overcame war and fire, browse artefacts linked to the city’s expansion and see an icon of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Beasts of London takes a tour through the city’s history, but with a twist – it’s narrated by the animals who once lived there! The immersive digital installation focuses on how creatures from lions and elephants, to rats and pigeons, have helped to shape the city and its beastly history. Running until 5 January 2020, the special exhibition will guide you through time, from the Roman era, through Medieval London and all the way until the present day.

The Museum of London is a modern building at London Wall near the City of London.
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Museum of London

2. Royal Academy of Arts

Having celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2018, the Royal Academy of Arts continues to showcase a wide array of works from internationally renowned artists, sculptors, and many more. The gallery welcomes Turner Prize winner Anthony Gormley in September, hosting the most significant set of works for more than a decade. As part of an exhibition detailing his illustrious 45-year career, the sculptor and creator of the Angel of the North is set to fill part of the Royal Academy with seawater for the exhibition from 21 September to 3 December. The Academy is also set to display more than 50 paintings, prints and drawings from Lucian Freud, bringing together a vast collection of his self-portraits for the first time. Spanning a period of nearly seven decades, his self-portraits showcase his extraordinary development as a painter and provide insight into the mind of a modern master of British art. You can see all the works for yourself if you visit between 27 October and late January 2020.

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Royal Academy of Arts

3. Victoria and Albert Museum

A world leading museum of art and design, the Victoria and Albert (V&A) is packed with a collection of more than 2.3 million objects that spans five millennia of human creativity. Within its vast walls you can discover collections relating to everything from architecture and fashion to jewellery, furniture and painting. A special exhibition, Food: Bigger than the Plate, invites you to try, taste and debate food, taking in its journey from land to table. Running until 20 October, it examines sustainable food growth and asks people to rethink what they think they know about food. There’s also an exhibition exploring the works of British fashion designer Mary Quant and a display of Beatrix Potter’s Art, including a set of childhood sketches by the famed writer and illustrator. Whether it’s art, sculpture or design that peaks your interest, the V&A has something for all ages.

Couple standing in an ornate, gold gilded gallery of the V&A Museum, London
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Victoria and Albert Museum

4. National Football Museum

Delve into the history of the ‘beautiful game’ at the National Football Museum, an exciting collection of memorabilia, displays and interactive games for all the family. Housed in the striking Urbis building in Manchester city centre, you can test your skills with an interactive football experience, get up close to the 1966 World Cup Final ball and see Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’ shirt. Soak up the pressure of a virtual Wembley Stadium match and go for glory in the Penalty Shootout game, test your reactions on Shot Stopper and try to pick the perfect ball with Pass Master – just a handful of the immersive games on offer. The museum explores how football has developed through time, assesses the role of fans and takes an in-depth look at some of the sport’s greatest moments.

The National Football Museum.
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National Football Museum

5. Science and Industry Museum

Be inspired at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, a space devoted to showcasing power, innovation and discovery. With hands-on exhibits and a collection that demonstrates 250 years of Manchester’s influence on the world, you can link past and present, as well as scientific theory with real-world applications. Based on the site of the world’s oldest surviving passenger railway station and in the city that sparked the industrial revolution, the museum has a rich and varied story to tell. A new blockbuster exhibition, running from 20 July - 5 January, will bring the science behind the sun to life, exploring mankind’s relationship with our closest star. Discover how the sun rises over Antarctica, stand in the heart of solar storm and feel the heat at the museum’s indoor beach!

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Science and Industry Museum
10 Dec 2019(last updated)