The Designer's Guide to London


London is home to hundreds of awesome museums - featuring some incredible collections, you can see an amazing range of ancient, new and antique objects. And if that wasn't enough, many of them are free to enter so it won't cost you a penny to see what they have on offer!

The Barbican

  • Location: Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Mon-Sat: 09:00 - 23:00; Sun: 12:00 - 23:00
  • Entry: £10 (standard art gallery ticket)

For awesome art exhibitions, theatre performances, film screenings and classical and contemporary music concerts, head to The Barbican. A beautiful example of Brutalist architecture, this building is Europe's largest multi-arts and conference venue. It's also home to the London Symphony Orchestra.

Designer views

Mike Lythgoe

"There's so many great galleries in London that it's hard to pick a favourite. The Barbican always has amazing installation pieces, such as the Rain Room by Random International, but be sure to get there early because the queues can be killer!" - Mike Lythgoe, designer at Studio Output

Ali Vermillo

"The Barbican - because of the variety they have on offer. At the moment they have the Rain Room, which I really want to go to - its a digital sensory experience where you can control the rain. That's my next stop!" - Ali Vermillo, junior creative at Uniform

Design Museum

  • Location: 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Mon-Sun: 10:00 - 17:45
  • Entry: Adult - £9.50; Concession - £8.30; Student - £5.95

London's Design Museum is one of the world's leading venues evoted to contemporary design in every form. Whether you specialise in architecture, fashion, graphics, product, or industrial design, there's something here to inspire everyone. In operation for 22 years now, the museum has welcomed five million visitors and staged over 100 exhibitions.

Designer view

James Kirkup

"Get a membership and go to everything they show. Immense collections on show and some of the nicest views of London the city has to offer." - James Kirkup, graphic designer at Poke

Horniman Museum

  • Location: 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Mon-Sun: 10:00 - 17:30
  • Entry: Free

Operating since Victorian times, the Horniman Museum first opened its doors in 1890 when Frederick John Horniman decided to share his extraordinary collection of objects with visitors. Over the years, this collection has grown substantially and includes internationally important collections of anthropology and musical instruments, as well as an acclaimed aquarium and natural history collection. And for those of you who find it difficult to look but not touch, this museum also allows visitors to pick up, try on and even play with some of the objects.

Designer view

Neil McFarland

"Checking out the Horniman Museum is one of my recommendations. Not only does it have a fascinating collection of artefacts from all over the world (including an over-stuffed walrus), it also has a pretty decent aquarium, so it’s definitely worth the trip." - Neil McFarland, lead visual designer at ustwo

  • Location: St.Martin's Pl, London WC2H 0HE (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Mon-Wed: 10:00 - 18:00; Thurs-Fri: 10:00 - 21:00; Sat-Sun: 10:00 - 18:00
  • Entry: Free

The National Portrait Gallery houses the finest collection of portraits of men and women who have shaped British history. The art gallery's permanent displays are regularly accompanied by a diverse programme of special exhibitions and events. There is also a restuarant on the top floor offering stunning views across the city.

Designer views

Jonathan Denby

"I'm a huge fan of the National Portrait Gallery over by Trafalgar Square. Twin your visit with one to the National Gallery right next door for a great few hours of worldwide culture to spark creativity." - Jonathan Denby, creative professional at Digital Annexe

Lucie Agolini

"Head to the National Portrait Gallery, especially when the BP Portrait competition comes to town. Thursday and Friday late nights are pretty good - see some art, have a drink. Lovely!" - Lucie Agolini, digital designer at Digital Annexe

Natural History Museum

  • Location: Cromwell Rd, London SW7 5BD (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Mon-Sun: 10:00 - 17:50
  • Entry: Free

The Natural History Museum is home to over 70 million natural history specimens, featuring everything from spiders and giant squid to dinosaur bones, mosses, and meteorites. One of three large museums on the same road, the Natural History is a favourite among British people for many reasons, one being the Diplodocus skeleton that greets you on entrance.

Designer views

Antar Walker

"Natural History Museum, because it's awesome, and anyone who says different is lying. The giant Sequoia as you walk in is my favourite part." - Antar Walker, art director at The Mill

Alex Brooke

"The Natural History museum, who doesn't love it? The massive dinosaur skeletons are enough to make anyone feel like they're a child again due to the grand scale of them. There are also lots of opportunities to take awesome, creative photographs. An enjoyable trip no matter how many times you visit!" - Alex Brooke, web designer and developer at Gamaroff Digital

Jonathan Denby

"The National History Museum is always a winner, especially a quick mooch around the dinosaur section. Incredible that you can that close to creatures that have been extinct for many millenia." - Jonathan Denby, creative professional at Digital Annexe

Science Museum

If you fancy a change of subject when you're finished at the Natural History museum, head down the road to the Science Museum. Founded in 1857, the museum is world renowned for its historic collections, awe-inspiring galleries and inspirational exhibitions. A popular tourist attraction, the Science museum welcomes nearly three million visitors each year.

Designer views

Lucie Agolini

"Adults evening at the science museum: generally themed and always very interesting with a wide range of different exhibitions, lectures and performances - plus you can walk around with a drink and a cup of sausage rolls, what more could one want?!" - Lucie Agolini, digital designer at Digital Annexe

Jonathan Denby

"The Science Museum fascinates me all the time. The Google Web Labs in the basement are great to explore up and coming tech concepts, while you can put everything you use today in to great perspective with a few of the other exhibits." - Jonathan Denby, creative professional at Digital Annexe

Sir John Soane Museum

  • Location: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Tues-Sat: 10:00 - 17:00
  • Entry: Free

In an ordinary street in the area of Holborn sits an eccentric little building, which was once the home of architect Sir John Soane. The designer behind the Bank of England, Soane spent much of his life collecting rare and precious artefacts. Now transformed into a museum, the building comprises his collections and personal effects, acquired between the 1780s and his death in 1837. Visitors to Soane's former home can see over 20,000 architectural drawings, antiquities and works by various artists, including William Hogarth.

Designer views

Tom Muller

"Probably my favourite museum in London is the John Soane Museum, which is the house of architect Sir John Soane. Entry is free into this fantastic house filled (to the rafters) with ephemera he collected during his life time." - Tom Muller, freelance graphic designer and art director

Darren Walsh

"Just round the corner from the British Museum is the perfectly preserved residence of British Architect Sir John Soanes. This man was a legend. He used his wealth to acquire rare artefacts that even the British Museum would love to get their hands on." - Darren Walsh, digital designer at Digital Annexe

Tate Modern

The Tate Modern is a must-visit for any creative. The famous London art gallery houses the UK's collection of modern and contemporary art from 1900 to the present day, as well as hosting regular special exhibitions and events. The Tate is also visited daily by people with a passion for architecture. A former Bankside Power Station, the building was converted by architects but the huge turbine hall, which housed electricity generators, remains and is used to display large specially-commissioned works.

Designer views

Phil Birchall

"There's a Lichtenstein exhibition that kicks off at the Tate Modern this month, I think that will be awesome. You cant help but love the space at TM, they've just opened the Vaults too, huge old oil tanks that were used to powered the turbines before it was regenerated." - Phil Birchall, designer and owner of GRIN

May Foster

"The Tate Modern is a must for the size and turbine hall - plus the excellent book shop!" - May Foster, graphic designer at Links of London

Ash Joseph

"As clichéd as it sounds, I'd recommend the Tate Modern. It's so big and so varied that there’s something there for everyone." - Ash Joseph, marketing creative at The Foundry

Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Location: Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Mon-Sun: 10:00 - 17:45; Fri: 10:00 - 22:00
  • Entry: Free

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) houses a permanent collection of over four-and-a-half million objects in the subject of decorative arts and design. Founded in 1852, the museum was named after Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. Today, its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, in virtually every medium from cultures from around the world.

Designer views


"The permanent exhibitions at the V&A are a great resource, especially the theatre and costume section. Their temporary exhibitions can be good too - a particularly brilliant day involved seeing Vivienne Westwood and Bill Brandt one after the other, with a cup of tea in the middle." - Sarah Driver, designer at Grub Street Publishing

Suki Hubbard

"The V&A for architectural beauty (especially the tiled café), variety of things to see and exhibition design. And the Open Studio season." - Suki Hubbard, freelance graphic designer

Tom Muller

"The V&A has a track record for putting on great design related exhibitions (my favourite of recent years is still the Cold War Modern retrospective), while housing a stunning permanent arts collection." - Tom Muller, freelance graphic designer and art director

The Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Collection is described on its website as "a free visitor destination for the incurably curious". Located in Euston Road, the museum explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. Founded by Sir Henry Wellcome, a 19th century pharmacist and entrepreneur who amassed a vast collection of objects relating to the medical trade, all now displayed in this unique museum.

Designer view

Iris van Zwam

"The Wellcome Collection in Euston is one of the better gallery spaces in London. It explores ‘ideas about the connections between medicine, life and art’. The Café is a beautiful open space with amazing light installation by Jonathan Coles Lighting Design hanging above the tables. It makes you feel like lying on your back and looking at the stars for a while... The current exhibition is a must see too: 'Death: A self-portrait'. Open until 24 February 2013." - Iris Van Zwam, development manager at gpstudio

We'll be updating this post regularly, so let us know if we've missed anywhere out - and tell us about your London experiences in the comments below!

Discover more in our London guide


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