A day of museum-hopping in South Kensington

18 January 2022

London’s known for its diverse culture, just as much as its steep history.

So, if you’re on a time limit and want to cram lots in one day, where should you venture? Perhaps you’re in London for work and don’t have a lot of spare time, or you’re in transit to visit further afield such as York or Edinburgh.

Maybe you have a lot of time but with all the options, you simply just can’t decide. Whatever the reason, a museum crawl, like a typical British pub crawl - only with more statues - is your answer.

The best place to try one out is South Kensington. Especially for first-time visitors to the city, this can give you a great taste of some of London’s cultural highlights.

This guide will take you through some of South Kensington’s staple museums, which you can easily visit in one day if you wanted to, and what you can expect to see from each of them.

From smaller collections for more niche interests to larger collections for a wider variety of cultural interests, there’s something for everyone.

South Kensington museums are some of the most famous in London, some on one road - dubbed Exhibition Road - and are completely free to enter.

Bear in mind that London is best accessed by public transport, and the accessibility policies for these museums will differ, so we think it’s best to plan.

The V&A

The esteemed Victoria and Albert Museum, a.k.a. the V&A, is a great place to start as you explore their collection of decorative art and design.

Especially combined with a trip to their historic café is the perfect place to gain energy for the day’s trip.

When it comes to chic museums, the V&A is often London’s more desired spot, and has set trends since its opening in the 1850s.

Known for its fashion exhibition, it’s also housed treasures such as manuscripts by Leonardo Da Vinci and the Ardabil carpet, which takes the crown as the world’s oldest carpet.

It’s also a stone's throw away from the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum – a perfect combination for a day out.

Natural History Museum

From The V&A it’s easy to get to the Natural History Museum, though if you were expecting Dippy the Dinosaur in its iconic grand hall - you might want to check where he is on tour.

The entrance hall still has grandeur, with a twenty-five-metre skeleton of a blue whale replacing the famous dinosaur.

If you’re visiting closer to the festive season, see if you’ll be able to pluck up the courage and hit the ice rink to get you in the festive spirit.

Inside its walls, the museum focuses on its namesake - natural history - and even has Charles Darwin's very own pigeons!

The museum also has some great paid exhibitions, for those looking to spend more time here with plenty for the kids to keep busy with.

But one exhibition we highly recommend is ‘Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix It’.

You’ll be amazed by how our actions have impacted the planet and are dramatically shown via 40 objects selected by the museum’s scientists.

Science Museum

Your next up stop of the day is the Science Museum. It’s quite simply a wondrous playground for the mind, perfect for science nerds and curious kids alike.

Science is analysed from every angle over three floors, narrated by famous celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Benedict Cumberbatch.

For kids, the Wonderlab includes a magical Chemistry Bar and a friction slide – a super fun way to learn as you drop at a high speed.

And for adults, there’s a whole host of different sections - from what goes on in the human psyche, to the Apollo 10 capsule - to keep you captivated.

The Science Museum also has a fabulous gift shop which is stocked full of interesting and unique gifts that could easily work as Christmas presents

The Design Museum

The last stop on your museum-hopping crawl is The Design Museum. It’s slightly further afield but still just a bus or tube journey on Kensington’s fashionable high street!

You’ll be transported by the mix of stunning modern and contemporary design – regular exhibitions include anything from fashion designers to musicians and the value of sneakers.

Originally set in an old banana warehouse in Shad Thames upon its opening by design legend Sir Terence Conran in the late 1980s, it’s known for its chic exhibitions and is definitely a must to check out. 

You can even explore a remarkable exhibition all about Sir Terence Conran, ‘The Conran Effect’, to celebrate what would have been his 90th birthday.

Perhaps you’re also a fan of the late singer, Amy Winehouse?

You’ll be taken aback by the mesmerising story of Amy’s early career, the outfits she wore on stage, and the handwritten lyrics she wrote.

More fascinating sights

From the museums, you can also enjoy a trip to the Kensington Gardens, Kensington Palace, or Hyde Park, where you can even stop by the Serpentine Gallery.

If the sun’s out, see if you can rent a boat on The Serpentine Lake. You can find even more culture and history by visiting the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, the Peter Pan statue, or Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.

With South Kensington having all these museums so close together, as well as other attractions close by, it’s up to you how much you’d like to fit in your day trip.

But they’ll never be a dull or boring moment – there’s inspiration pouring from every angle, and memories to treasure and recreate for years to come.