London culture: The best places for arts and culture in the city
London is full of museums and cultural hotspots that tourists travel from all corners of the world to see. With thousands of years of history between them, we take a look at some places bursting with British culture that everyone should visit when travelling to the capital city.
Arts and Culture in London
Royal Academy of Arts
Discover a treasure trove of Impressionist masterpieces from the stunning Ordrupgaard Collection at the Royal Academy. The key highlight is a spectacular series of Post-Impressionist works by Gauguin.
Although it only opened in 1982, the Barbican is regarded as a home of London arts, showcasing the best in dance, film, music, theatre and visual arts. When the building first opened, it was labelled a “concrete pyramid” due to its looks, but was renovated with statues and decorations to look prettier and stand out from buildings around it.
If you want to soak up British culture, a trip to Shakespeare’s Globe is a must. Shakespeare’s Globe is a reconstruction of the Bard’s Globe Theatre, originally built in 1559. After being built and demolished twice, the current Shakespeare’s Globe has been open since 1997, founded by British actor Sam Wanamaker. As you walk around the theatre, you’ll be able to feel the Elizabethan era come to life, with displays full of information about the British writer, as well as the state of theatre during the 16th century. During the summer months, you can also buy tickets to stand in the crowd and watch a Shakespeare production. Check out what Shakespeare works are playing in London and visit Shakespeare’s Globe now.
Home to the British monarchy, Buckingham Palace is the London residence of the ruling monarch of the United Kingdom. Throughout history, it has often been a place where the public will come to celebrate royal events, as well as mourn the deaths of members of the royal family. Visitors can enjoy the ‘changing the guard’ ceremony in warmer months, but during the year, anyone can take their photo outside the palace. In the summer, tourists can go inside the palace and view iconic portraits in the Picture Gallery and walk up the Grand Staircase.
Westminster Abbey has been an active church since 960AD. Throughout its history, the abbey has been home to every coronation since 1066 and has seen sixteen royal weddings, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Visitors to the abbey can take in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Poets Corner, as well as pay their respects to leading British cultural figures including Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton and Geoffrey Chaucer. With more than a million people visiting Westminster Abbey each year, it’s a great place to explore some of the greatest moments in British culture.
Tower of London
With magnificent exhibits including the Crown Jewels and ravens around the grounds, the Tower of London is a showcase of British history and culture. During a visit to the tower, you can see where prisoners were kept before they were hung, drawn and quartered as well as walk around rooms which used to be the royal palaces. Dating back to 1075, the Tower of London brings six palaces together into a historical landmark right in the centre of London, which continues to attract those who want to learn all about British history.
With over eight million works, the British Museum preserves historical artefacts from cultures all around the world. Members of the public have been able to visit the museum since 1759, however the museum has undergone numerous expansions in order to keep up with the amount of British history! Free to enter, the museum holds regularly changing displays, with previous exhibits on Ancient Greece, lost worlds in Egypt and the American Dream.
Trafalgar Square is home to the National Gallery, an art museum that opened in 1824 and currently has over 2,000 paintings hanging on the walls. The National Gallery was visited by 5.2 million people in 2017, taking in paintings from well-known artists including Cezanne, Michelangelo and Van Gogh. Housing priceless works such as these, it is one of the busiest museums in the world, alongside the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
With three theatres inside and over three million tickets sold for National Theatre production, it’s worth taking a walk down the Southbank to see the theatre. With initial talks for the theatre in 1848, the building was opened in 1977 and has been home to numerous award-winning productions including War Horse and The History Boys. The National Theatre first put on shows at the Old Vic, notably Hamlet in 1963 under the Artistic Director Laurence Olivier. Now, National Theatre shows regularly transfer to West End theatres and on Broadway. Find out more about the National Theatre with our complete guide and see a show at the National Theatre now.