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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Museums in the United Kingdom

Museums in the United Kingdom

Museums in the United Kingdom

The “United Kingdom” (UK), commonly known as Britain, consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom has many great cities with some fabulous museums.

London Museums

  • The British Museum
    • The British Museum is one of the oldest public museums in the world. It was established in 1753, the English Parliament founded it and set the model for all other public museums that followed. Before the introduction of the British Museum as an open museum, museums were private collections of kings, wealthy people, the church, or universities. The British Museum Act of Parliament in 1753 states that it was founded so that it may “be preserved and maintained, not only for the inspection and entertainment of the learned and the curious but the general use and benefit of the public.”
  • The National Gallery, London
    • The National Gallery, London, is an art museum founded in 1824. Its collection includes over 2,300 paintings dating from the 13th century to the 20th century. It is one of the most visited art museums in the world, and its principal building facade facing Trafalgar Square has not changed for two-hundred years.
  • Tate Britain
    • Tate Britain is part of the Tate network of galleries in England, with Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool, and Tate St Ives. It is the oldest gallery in the network, having opened in 1897. Tate Britain houses a significant and substantial collection of the art of British art from 1500 to the present day and has extensive holdings of the works of J. M. W. Turner, who bequeathed all his collection to the nation.
  • The Wallace Collection
    • The Wallace Collection is an art collection housed at Hertford House in Manchester Square, the former townhouse of the Seymour family, Marquesses of Hertford. Its collection comprises a remarkable range of fine and decorative arts from the 15th to the 19th centuries with a significant collection of French 18th-century paintings, furniture, porcelain, and Old Master paintings.
  • The Victoria and Albert Museum
    • The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is one of the world’s largest museums of decorative arts and design. Founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the V&A is located near the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Royal Albert Hall in London,
  • Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace
    • The Queen’s Gallery is an art gallery at Buckingham Palace, home of the British monarch, in London. It exhibits works of art from the Royal Collection on a rotating basis with about 450 works are on display at any one time. When not on exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, the masterpieces of the Royal Collection may be spread among many historic royal residences in the United Kingdom.
  • Courtauld Gallery
    • The Courtauld Gallery is an art museum that houses the art collection of the Courtauld Institute of Art, a college of the University of London specializing in the study of the history of art. The Courtauld collection includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other works from medieval to modern times; it is mainly known for its French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.
  • Tate Modern, London
    • Tate Modern is Britain’s national gallery that holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world.
  • Science Museum, London
    • The Science Museum is a major museum in London, which was founded in 1857 and today is one of the city’s major tourist attractions. The Science Museum now holds a collection of over 300,000 items; it also contains hundreds of interactive exhibits.
  • National Portrait Gallery, London
    • The National Portrait Gallery houses a collection of portraits of historical importance and more recent famous British people. It was the first portrait gallery in the world, established in 1856. Since then, it has expanded include regional centers at Beningbrough Hall in Yorkshire and Montacute House in Somerset.
  • Natural History Museum, London
    • Natural History Museum, London exhibits a vast range of life and earth science specimens. Its collection is comprising some 80 million items in botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology, and zoology. 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.
  • Charles Dickens Museum
    • The Charles Dickens Museum is the author’s house turned to into a museum about Charles Dickens. The museum is housed in a Georgian terraced house, which was Charles Dickens’s home from 1837 to 1839. Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine Dickens lived here, and the older two of Dickens’s daughters, Mary Dickens and Kate, were born in this house.
  • Hampton Court Palace
    • Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace 11.7 miles (18.8 kilometers) south-west and upstream of central London on the River Thames. The palace building project began  Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in 1515. However, in 1529, as Wolsey fell from favor, the King seized the palace for himself and enlarged it to cater to his royal court.
  • Sherlock Holmes Museum
    • The Sherlock Holmes Museum is dedicated to the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Situated in Baker Street, bearing the number 221B by permission of the City of Westminster, although it lies between numbers 237 and 241. The Georgian townhouse, which the museum occupies, was formerly used as a boarding house from 1881 to 1904 when the stories that describe Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson residing at that approximate location as tenants of Mrs. Hudson.
  • British Library
    • The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and the most extensive library in the world. As a legal deposit library, the British Library receives copies of all books produced in the United Kingdom and Ireland, including a significant proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK. The British Library holds over 170 million items from many countries.
  • Imperial War Museum
    • Imperial War Museums (IWM) has branches at five locations in England, three of which are in London. Founded as the Imperial War Museum in 1917, and its focus is on recording civil and military war efforts and the sacrifice of all conflicts in which British or Commonwealth forces have been involved since 1914. The museum’s collections include archives of personal and official documents, audiovisual material, and oral history, an extensive library, an art collection, and examples of military equipment and technology.
  • Churchill War Rooms
    • The Churchill War Rooms in London is one of the five branches of the Imperial War Museum. The museum features the Cabinet War Rooms, a historic underground complex that housed a British government command center throughout the Second World War, and the Churchill Museum. The Churchill Museum a biographical museum exploring the life of British statesman Winston Churchill.
  • Florence Nightingale Museum
    • The Florence Nightingale Museum is located at St Thomas’ Hospital on the River Thames in South Bank, London. The museum traces the history and story of Florence Nightingale, “the lady with the lamp.” Staring with her Victorian childhood to her experiences in the Crimean War, through to her years as an ardent campaigner for health reform. The museum illustrates her legacy and recognizes the critical role and profession of nursing.
  • Foundling Museum
    • The Foundling Museum in London tells the story of the Foundling Hospital, Britain’s first home for children at risk of abandonment. The museum houses the Foundling Hospital Collection as well as the Gerald Coke Handel Collection, an international collection of material on Handel and his contemporaries. The museum explores the history of the Foundling Hospital, which continues today as the children’s charity Coram. Artists such as William Hogarth and the composer George Frideric Handel are central to the Hospital story, and today the museum celebrates how creative people have helped improve children’s lives for nearly 300 years.
  • Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy
    • The Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy is a natural history museum that is part of University College London in London, England. It was established in 1828 as a teaching collection of zoological specimens and material for dissection. It is one of the oldest natural history collections in the UK. It contains around 68,000 biological specimens, many of which are very rare and several of which have been recently rediscovered.
  • Cutty Sark, Royal Museums Greenwich
    • Cutty Sark is the last surviving tea clipper ship and the fastest of her time. She is now a museum ship and part of the Museums Greenwich. The ship, which was built in 1869, has been raised over three meters allowing visitors the unique experience of exploring underneath and inside this 150-year-old sailing ship.
  • National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
    • The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, is a maritime museum. The museum forms part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, and it also incorporates the Royal Observatory, the 17th-century Queen’s House, and the Cutty Sark. The Museum has essential holdings in the history of Britain at sea comprising more than two million items, including maritime art, cartography, manuscripts including official records, ship models and plans, scientific and navigational instruments, instruments for time-keeping and astronomy. Its holdings including paintings relating to Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson and Captain James Cook.
  • Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
    • The Old Royal Naval College is a historical site considered to be the finest architectural and historical site in Britain. The buildings were initially constructed to serve as the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich, now generally known as Greenwich Hospital, which was designed by Christopher Wren, and built between 1696 and 1712. The hospital closed in 1869. Between 1873 and 1998, it was the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
  • Queen’s House, Greenwich
    • The Queen’s House is a former royal residence built between 1616 and 1635 in Greenwich, a few miles down-river from the then City of London. Its architect was Inigo Jones, for whom it was an early commission, for Anne of Denmark, the queen of King James I. The Queen’s House was the first classical building to have been constructed in England. It was Jones’s first significant commission after returning from his 1613–1615 grand tour of Roman, Renaissance, and Palladian architecture in Italy.
  • Royal Observatory, Greenwich
    • The Royal Observatory, Greenwich is situated on a hill in Greenwich Park, overlooking the River Thames. It has played a significant role in the history of astronomy and navigation and is best known for the prime meridian passes through it, and thereby gave its name to Greenwich Mean Time. The observatory was commissioned in 1675 by King Charles II, and Sir Christopher Wren chose the site.
  • Guildhall Art Gallery
    • The Guildhall Art Gallery houses the art collection of the City of London, England. The gallery was initially built in 1885 to house art collections from the City of London Corporation. Today it occupies a building that was completed in 1999 to replace an earlier structure that was destroyed in The Blitz in 1941. It is a stone building in a semi-gothic style intended to be sympathetic to the historic Guildhall, which is adjacent. The Guildhall Art Gallery collection consists of about 4,000 works, of which around 250 are on display at any one time. Many of the paintings are of London themes. There is also a significant collection of Victorian-era art, including Pre-Raphaelites, which features paintings by artists such as John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Abraham Solomon, Edward John Poynter, and Edwin Landseer.
  • HMS Belfast
    • HMS Belfast was a cruiser built for the Royal Navy that is now permanently moored as a museum ship on the River Thames in London. Belfast was the first ship in the Royal Navy to be named after the capital city of Northern Ireland, and one of ten Town-class cruisers began construction in 1936. She was commissioned in 1939 shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.
  • Jewel Tower
    • The Jewel Tower is from the 14th-century and was part of the Royal Palace of Westminster, in London. It was built starting in 1365 to house the personal treasure of Edward III. The tower is a three-story stone building which occupied a secluded part of the palace and was protected by a moat linked to the River Thames. The tower continued to be used for the monarch’s treasure and personal possessions until 1512, when a fire in the Palace of Westminster caused Henry VIII to move his court to Whitehall.
  • Jewish Museum London
    • The Jewish Museum London is a museum of British Jewish life, history, and identity. The museum has dedicated to exploring Jewish history, culture, and heritage. The museum was founded in 1932 and houses a collection of Jewish ceremonial art, and the museum’s Holocaust Gallery includes items and filmed survivor testimony. The museum also has exhibitions recounting the history of Jewish life in England, supported by a diverse collection of objects. There are also collections of paintings, prints and drawings, and an archive of photographs.
  • Bank of England Museum
    • The Bank of England Museum is located within the Bank of England in the City of London. The museum displays a wide-ranging collection detailing the history of the Bank from its foundation in 1694 to the modern-day. The displays include a representation of a late 18th-century office, known as the Stock Office, where holders of Bank stock would come to collect their dividends. Exhibits cover the history of the bank in chronological order, including many images showing the history of the bank and its building.
  • London Transport Museum
    • The London Transport Museum, based in Covent Garden, London, conserves and exhibits the transport heritage of Britain’s capital city. The museum’s exhibits cover all aspects of transportation in the city. The museum operates from two sites within London. The primary location in Covent Garden. The other site, located in Acton, is known as the London Transport Museum Depot and is principally a storage site that is open on regular visitor days throughout the year.
  • Museum of London
    • The Museum of London exhibits the history of London from prehistoric to modern times. Located on the London Wall, close to the Barbican Centre, it is part of the Barbican complex of buildings created in the 1960s and 1970s. The museum has an extensive urban history collection with more than six million objects. It is primarily concerned with the social history of London and its inhabitants throughout its history.
  • Museum of London Docklands
    • The Museum of London Docklands tells the history of London’s River Thames and the growth of Docklands. The museum is part of the Museum of London and opened in 2003 in an early-19th century Georgian “low” sugar warehouses built during1802 on the side of West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs, a short walk from the Canary Wharf development. The building that houses the museum was initially called No.1 Warehouse and was built during the expansion of West India Docks.
  • National Army Museum, London
    • The National Army Museum is the British Army’s central museum. It is located adjacent to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the home of the “Chelsea Pensioners.” The museum houses five galleries that cover British military history from the English Civil War up to modern-day. The museum focuses on the overall history of British land forces, unlike other military museums in the United Kingdom, which concentrate on the history of individual corps and regiments of the British Army.
  • Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
    • The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology is part of the University College London Museums and Collections. The museum contains over 80,000 Egyptian and Sudanese artifacts. The museum was established as a teaching resource for the Department of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College in 1892. Professor, William Matthew Flinders Petrie, conducted many important excavations, and in 1913 he sold his collections of Egyptian antiquities to University College, creating the Flinders Petrie Collection of Egyptian Antiquities, and transforming the museum into one of the leading collections outside Egypt. Petrie excavated dozens of significant sites in Egypt, and his successors continued to add to the collections, excavating in other parts of Egypt and Sudan.
  • Royal Air Force Museum London
    • The Royal Air Force Museum London, also commonly known as the RAF Museum is located on the former Hendon Aerodrome. It includes five buildings and hangars with close to 100 aircraft, showing the history of aviation and the Royal Air Force. It is part of the Royal Air Force Museum, and there is another site at RAF Cosford in Shropshire. The Museum at Colindale was once part of the RAF Hendon station, and before that, one of the first civilian airfields. In 1914, the aerodrome was requisitioned for Home Defence during the First World War. Hendon became a Royal Naval Air Station, training new pilots in the flying schools on site. Operations ceased after the end of the Great War.
  • Shakespeare’s Globe
    • Shakespeare’s Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse associated with William Shakespeare. The original theatre was built in 1599, destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614, and then demolished in 1644. The modern Globe Theatre reconstruction is an approximation based on available evidence of the 1599 and 1614 buildings. Shakespeare’s Globe was built close to the site of the original theatre and opened to the public in 1997. There is also an exhibition about Shakespeare’s life and work.
  • Sir John Soane’s Museum
    • The Sir John Soane’s Museum is a house museum that was formerly the home of the neo-classical architect John Soane. It holds drawings and models of Soane’s projects and his collections of paintings, drawings, and antiquities.
  • St Paul’s Cathedral
    • St Paul’s Cathedral, London, is an Anglican cathedral, which sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The present cathedral, dates from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction was part of a major rebuilding program in the City after the Great Fire of London. The cathedral is one of the most recognizable sights of London. Its dome, framed by the spires of the churches, dominated the skyline for over 300 years. It was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967.
  • City of London Police Museum
    • The City of London Police Museum focuses on the history of the police force for the City of London, the financial center of the UK. It is ‘One Square Mile,’ but it has its police force, separate from the Metropolitan Police. Exhibits include uniforms, Victorian-era police equipment, and artifacts, communication devices, World War II displays, and exhibits about Jack the Ripper and other famous murder cases.
  • Household Cavalry Museum
    • The Household Cavalry Museum is the museum of the Household Cavalry. Visitors can view the Household Cavalry horses in their 18th-century working stables. The museum focuses on the training and history of the regiment. The afternoon inspection of the guards and horses happens daily at 4 pm. This routine began in 1894 when Queen Victoria found the guards drinking and gambling in the afternoon instead of tending to their duty. She proclaimed that they would be punished by a Four ‘O’ Clock inspection daily for the next 100 years. This proclamation and punishment officially expired in 1994, but Queen Elizabeth II chose to continue the inspection parade out of respect for tradition.
  • Museum of Freemasonry
    • The Household Cavalry Museum is the museum of the Household Cavalry. Visitors can view the Household Cavalry horses in their 18th-century working stables. The museum focuses on the training and history of the regiment. The afternoon inspection of the guards and horses happens daily at 4 pm. This routine began in 1894 when Queen Victoria found the guards drinking and gambling in the afternoon instead of tending to their duty. She proclaimed that they would be punished by a Four ‘O’ Clock inspection daily for the next 100 years. This proclamation and punishment officially expired in 1994, but Queen Elizabeth II chose to continue the inspection parade out of respect for tradition.
  • Tower Bridge, London
    • Tower Bridge is a combined drawbridge and suspension bridge in London built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London. Tower Bridge is sometimes confused with the historically known London Bridge, situated some 0.5 mi (0.80 km) upstream. The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal tension forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The two towers carry the vertical components of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways. The drawbridge pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower.
  • Tower of London
    • The Tower of London is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies at the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078.
  • Wellcome Collection
    • The Wellcome Collection is a museum displaying a mixture of medical artifacts and original artworks exploring “ideas about the connections between medicine, life, and art.” The museum offers contemporary and historic exhibitions and collections, the Wellcome Library, a café, and a bookshop. The Wellcome Collection was founded by Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853–1936). An enthusiastic traveler, Henry Wellcome, amassed a massive collection of books, paintings, and objects on the theme of the historical development of medicine worldwide.
  • Westminster Abbey
    • Westminster Abbey is a large Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronations and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs. The building itself was a Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. Since 1560, the building is no longer an abbey or a cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England “Royal Peculiar,” a church responsible directly to the sovereign.

Edinburgh Museums

  • National Museum of Scotland
    • The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh was formed in 2006 with the merger of the new “Museum of Scotland” and the “Royal Museum.” The joint collections include Scottish antiquities, culture, and history,  plus science and technology, natural history, and world cultures. The two connected buildings stand beside each other in central Edinburgh.

Glasgow Museums

  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
    • The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum armor in the West End of the city, on the banks of the River Kelvin. It is situated near the main campus of the University of Glasgow. There is a myth in Glasgow that the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum building was accidentally built back-to-front. The grand entrance was always intended to face into Kelvingrove Park

Liverpool Museums

  • Walker Art Gallery
    • The Walker Art Gallery houses one of the largest art collections in England, outside of London. It is part of the National Museums Liverpool group and is promoted as “the National Gallery of the North.” The Walker’s collection includes European art from 1300 – 1900, 18th and 19th-century British art, including a significant collection of Victorian painting and many Pre-Raphaelite works, 20th-century works, and a considerable sculpture collection. The collection of decorative arts covers a wide range, from Gothic ivories to British ceramics up to the present day.

Manchester Museums

  • Manchester Art Gallery
    • The Manchester Art Gallery houses many works of local and international significance and has a collection of more than 25,000 objects. The gallery has an excellent art collection consisting of more than 2,000 oil paintings, 3,000 watercolors and drawings, 250 sculptures, 90 miniatures, and around 1,000 prints. It owns many decorative art objects, including ceramics, glass, furniture, metalwork, arms, and armor.

Bath Museums 

  • Roman Baths (Bath)
    • The Roman Baths complex is a site of a well-preserved ancient Roman public bath and museum. The Roman Baths themselves are below the modern street level. There are four main parts to the complex: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House, and the museum, holding finds from Roman Bath. The buildings above street level date from the 19th century.

Leeds Museums

United Kingdom Museums

A Tour of Museums in the United Kingdom

London Museums

Edinburgh Museums

Glasgow Museums

Liverpool Museums

Manchester Museums

Bath Museums 

Birmingham Museums

Leeds Museums

British Museums

The term “Great Britain” is often used to include the whole of England, Scotland, and Wales, including their component adjoining islands.

Explore United Kingdom Proverbs and Quotes

United Kingdom Museums

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“Museums provide places of relaxation and inspiration. And most importantly, they are a place of authenticity. We live in a world of reproductions – the objects in museums are real. It’s a way to get away from the overload of digital technology.”
– Thomas P. Campbell

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Photo Credits: By Maurice from Zoetermeer, Netherlands (The British Parliament and Big Ben) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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