A visit to the capital isn’t complete without seeing Big Ben and the London Eye, but seek out the smaller, quirkier museums and art galleries for a more eclectic cultural experience. To celebrate the best bits of London’s culture scene, Culture Trip has teamed up with British Airways, the nation’s flag carrier, to take you on a cultural adventure. With convenient flight times to centrally located airports, you’ll get more time to spend exploring.
The Serpentine Gallery and Pavilion
Venture into Hyde Park to find this leading contemporary art gallery. Spread between two buildings less than five minutes’ walk from each other, the Serpentine Gallery has been putting on thought-provoking exhibitions of new and established artists since opening in 1970. As well as organising great shows throughout the year, each summer it commissions a designer or architect to create a large pavilion to sit in its grounds and be enjoyed by the public.
A trip to this unassuming Spitalfields townhouse is like stepping back in time. Dennis Severs wanted people entering his home to imagine what life was like for a fictitious family of Huguenot silk-weavers who lived there from 1724 to 1919. The rooms are such rich and detailed time capsules of former centuries that it feels like the imaginary individuals are in the room with you. Book in for a candlelit silent evening tour to feel the full effect.
The former home and studio of Victorian artist Frederic Leighton, this unusual museum is often rightly described as a private palace of art. Not only does it house an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures by Leighton and his contemporaries, but it’s worth a visit for the ornate architecture and interior design alone. As well as the classic Victorian decor, you can look around the spectacular central Arab Hall with its golden dome, beautiful tiles and intricate mosaics, and see lots of unfinished works of art in Leighton’s grand studio.
The Horniman Museum is full of family-friendly exhibits
If you love the Natural History Museum, you need to pay a visit to the Horniman in South London. This anthropological museum set in 16 acres of landscaped gardens is full of treasures, including a great natural history gallery featuring taxidermy, skeletons, jars of specimens and the museum’s unofficial mascot, a large overstuffed walrus. Elsewhere there’s a butterfly house, an aquarium, a collection of 8,000 musical instruments and a gallery of over 3,000 objects from different cultures around the world. Go on a sunny day so you can make the most of the outdoor nature trail.
The UK’s only public gallery dedicated to illustration and graphic art can be found just behind King’s Cross station. Created by world-renowned illustrator Sir Quentin Blake in 2014, the small gallery shows exhibitions from emerging artists and old masters, and puts on a captivating range of talks and events. And if you feel inspired to pick up a pencil after a visit here, book onto one of their masterclasses.
This contemporary art oasis in an ex-Victorian furniture factory sits quietly behind the bustle of Old Street roundabout. Representing heavyweight artists including Yayoi Kusama, Grayson Perry, Chris Ofili, Doug Aitken, Conrad Shawcross and many more, the exhibitions here are always worth a look. Discover work from emerging artists or new stuff from the big names and be sure to pay a visit to their tranquil garden out the back.
Looking for flights or a great flight and hotel deal for your cultural tour of London? Check out British Airways for convenient flight options and carefully selected hotels in the heart of London to combine and save. Book your trip now with the nation’s flag carrier.
After soaking up the cultural sights of the city, enjoy a stylish and creative hotel. Effortlessly edgy, The Curtain slots perfectly into its artistic Shoreditch surroundings with its warehouse design, exposed brick walls and custom artwork by Mick Rock. Try its range of bars and tempting food, then relax in the marble bathrooms and supremely comfy kingsize beds. More surprises await in the basement: a members’ club, screening room, 24-hour gym and a spa that operates a pop-up-style rotation of the newest pampering treatments. For a mid-range option, The Queen’s Gate Hotel, with its intimate and elegant atmosphere and Kensington location, makes a great choice. If exploring London on a budget, the Holiday Inn London Kensington High Street is a good place from which to discover the sights.