Ten must-see attractions for art lovers in London


You’re only in London for a couple of days and want to do the full-on “culture vulture” thing – but where do you start? The Milestone’s Head Concierge, Jim Cameron, gives you his top tips.


22nd July 2011

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Jim Cameron

The National Gallery. Open 361 days a year and free of charge, it houses a spectacular collection of Western European painting from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Contains over 2,300 works, including many famous works, such as van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

Tate Britain. Free entry to the world’s largest collection of British art from 1500 to the present day. Highlights include masterpieces by William Hogarth, the eighteenth-century portraitists Gainsborough and Reynolds, the animal painter George Stubbs, the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who revolutionised British art in the nineteenth century; and in the twentieth century of the work of Stanley Spencer, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon and the Young British Artists (YBAs) of the 1990s.

Blake and Constable have dedicated spaces within the gallery, while the unique Turner Collection of about 300 paintings and many thousands of watercolours is housed in the specially built Clore Gallery


The V & A Museum

Victoria & Albert Museum. The world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. This spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, in virtually every medium, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa.

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. The museum also possesses the world’s largest collection of post-classical sculpture – the holdings of Italian Renaissance items are the largest outside Italy. Admission to permanent collections is free.

The Royal Academy of Arts. Holds the unique position of being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate. The Academy now enjoys an unrivalled reputation as a venue for exhibitions of international importance. Their summer exhibition, held every year without interruption since 1769, attracts around 10,000 works.

Tate Modern. Created in 2000 from a disused power station Tate Modern displays the national collection of international modern art. It includes important masterpieces by both Picasso and Matisse and one of the world’s finest museum collections of Surrealism, including works by Dalí, Ernst, Magritte and Mirò. Its substantial holdings of American Abstract Expressionism include major works by Pollock as well as the nine Seagram Murals by Rothko. Tate has significant collections of Pop art, including major works by Lichtenstein and Warhol, Minimal art and Conceptual art.


The Tate Britain

Shakespeare’s Globe. The Globe Theatre is a faithful reconstruction of the open-air playhouse, first built in 1599, where Shakespeare worked and for which he wrote many of his greatest plays.

Each year the theatre season runs from April to October with productions of work by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, as well as modern writers. Each year over 350,000 members of the audience experience the ‘wooden O’ sitting in a gallery or standing as a groundling in the yard, just as they would have done 400 years ago.

The Courtauld Gallery. The Courtauld Gallery is one of the finest small museums in the world. Its collection stretches from the early Renaissance into the 20th century and is particularly renowned for the unrivalled collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. The Gallery also holds an outstanding collection of drawings and prints and fine example of sculpture and decorative arts.

The British Museum. Founded in 1753, the world’s first national public museum now has nearly 6 million visitors a year. Admission is free and it houses seven million objects representing a rich history of human culture. For a brief introduction to highlights of the collection see the museum’s A history of the world in 100 objects programme.

St Paul’s Cathedral. The present building dates from the 17th century and was designed by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666. It is generally reckoned to be London’s fifth St Paul’s Cathedral, all having been built on the same site since AD 604. The cathedral is one of London’s most famous and most recognisable landmarks. At 365 feet (111m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1962, and its dome is also among the highest in the world. Houses over 200 memorials and tombs of famous British figures including Sir Winston Churchill, Dr Samuel Johnson, The Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson.

The Wallace Collection. Situated in an historic London town house its 25 galleries boast unsurpassed displays that include famous paintings by artists such as Titian, Rembrandt, Hals (The Laughing Cavalier) and Velázquez and for its superb collections of eighteenth-century French paintings, porcelain, furniture and gold boxes, probably the best to be found anywhere outside France. Entry is free.

If you get around even half of these attractions and you’ll need one of the Milestone’s legendary traditional afternoon teas to help you recover from an overload of the arts!

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