Explore some of the best museums in south kensington any time when you got the chance.
Table of Contents
South Kensington is a district just west of Central London in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Historically it settled on part of the scattered Middlesex village of Brompton.
Its name was supplanted with the advent of the railways in the late 19th century and the opening (and shutting) and naming of local tube stations.
The area is known as a popular tourist destination owing to the density of museums and cultural landmarks. Adjacent affluent centres such as Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Kensington, have been considered as some of the most exclusive real estate in the world.
Since World War I it has become a cosmopolitan area attracting Belgian and French refugees, but also Poles during World War II and after, and latterly Spanish, Italian, American, and Middle-Eastern expatriates.
The French presence is emphasised by the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, the French Institute, hosting the Ciné Lumière a window on French cinema and the Alliance française and the French consulate, among other diplomatic residences.
With a French bookshop and many international cafés in the area, it has been called Paris’s 21st arrondissement.
7+ Popular Museums In South Kensington
• The Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum in London is a natural history museum that exhibits a vast range of specimens from various segments of natural history.
It is one of three major museums on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, the others being the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Natural History Museum’s main frontage, however, is on Cromwell Road.
The museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology.
The South Kensington museum is a centre of research specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation.
Given the age of the institution, many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Charles Darwin.
The museum is particularly famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons and ornate architecture—sometimes dubbed a cathedral of nature—both exemplified by the large Diplodocus cast that dominated the vaulted central hall before it was replaced in 2017 with the skeleton of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling.
The Natural History Museum Library contains extensive books, journals, manuscripts, and artwork collections linked to the work and research of the scientific departments; access to the library is by appointment only.
The museum is recognized as the pre-eminent centre of natural history and research of related fields in the world.
Although commonly referred to as the Natural History Museum, it was officially known as British Museum (Natural History) until 1992, despite legal separation from the British Museum itself in 1963.
Originating from collections within the British Museum, the landmark Alfred Waterhouse building was built and opened by 1881 and later incorporated the Geological Museum.
The Darwin Centre is a more recent addition, partly designed as a modern facility for storing the valuable collections.
Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Natural History Museum does not charge an admission fee.
The museum is an exempt charity and a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is a patron of the museum. There are approximately 850 staff at the museum.
The two largest strategic groups are the Public Engagement Group and Science Group.
• Victoria And Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A) in London is the world’s largest museum of applied arts, decorative arts, and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects.
It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
The V&A is located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in an area known as “Albertopolis” because of its association with Prince Albert, the Albert Memorial and the major cultural institutions with which he was associated.
These include the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Royal Albert Hall and Imperial College London.
The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. As with other national British museums, entrance is free.
The V&A covers 12.5 acres (5.1 ha) and 145 galleries. Its collection spans 5000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa.
However, the art of antiquity in most areas is not collected. The holdings of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world.
This South Kensington museum owns the world’s largest collection of post-classical sculpture, with the holdings of Italian Renaissance items being the largest outside Italy.
The departments of Asia include art from South Asia, China, Japan, Korea and the Islamic world. The East Asian collections are among the best in Europe, with particular strengths in ceramics and metalwork, while the Islamic collection is amongst the largest in the Western world. Overall, it is one of the largest museums in the world.
Since 2001, the museum has embarked on a major £150m renovation programme. New 17th- and 18th-century European galleries were opened on 9 December 2015.
These restored the original Aston Webb interiors and host the European collections 1600–1815.
The Young V&A in East London is a branch of the museum, and a new branch in London is being planned.
The first V&A museum outside London, V&A Dundee opened on 15 September 2018.
• Science London Museum
The Science Museum is a major museum on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, London.
It was founded in 1857 and to date is one of the city’s major tourist attractions, attracting 3.3 million visitors annually.
Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Science Museum does not charge visitors for admission, although visitors are requested to make a donation if they are able.
• Exhibition Road
Exhibition Road is a street in South Kensington, London which is home to several major museums and academic establishments, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.
The British Museum is a public museum dedicated to human history, art and culture located in the Bloomsbury area of London.
Its permanent collection of eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence.
It documents the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. The British Museum was the first public national museum in the world.
• Design Museum
The Design Museum in Kensington, London exhibits product, industrial, graphic, fashion, and architectural design. In 2018, the museum won the European Museum of the Year Award.
The museum operates as a registered charity, and all funds generated by ticket sales aid the museum in curating new exhibitions.
• Clockmakers Museums
The Clockmakers’ Museum in London, England, is believed to be the oldest collection specifically of clocks and watches in the world.
The collection belongs to and is administered by the Clockmakers’ Charity, affiliated to the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, founded in 1631 by Royal Charter.
Since 2015 it has been housed in a gallery provided by the Science Museum in South Kensington, having formerly been located in the Guildhall complex in the City of London since 1874, where it first opened to the public. Admission is free.
• The National Gallery
The National Gallery is an art museum in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, in Central London. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900.
South Kensington is affectionately known as ‘South Ken‘ or London’s museum quarter, South Kensington is home to some of the world’s most famous and prestigious museums – and a lovely collection of garden squares and elegant stucco terraces.