10 reasons why you should visit the V&A Museum in London
When first-time visitors ask what they should see in London, I never fail to mention the museums. London’s a cultural capital, and the museums well document national and international history throughout the ages. They’re a popular stop on the sightseeing circuit, and one that won’t disappoint. Even if you’re not a regular museum attendee — like me — you’re still bound to learn something worthwhile.
And so, one March day, I found myself wandering into the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) while waiting for a friend. What was supposed to be a way of killing some time, turned into a visit that lasted over an hour.
Why travelers should visit the Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum – its history
The museum’s named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert — the head of the Royal Family at the time. Museum director, inventor Henry Cole, was responsible for organizing the Great Exhibition of 1851. This international exhibition of culture and industry included items from the museum, after which he would open the ‘Museum of Manufactures’ in 1852.
Victoria and Albert Museum – its location
The nearest tube station to reach the V&A is South Kensington. It’s around a 5-minute walk, and you can follow the signs to reach the museum. South Kensington’s known as the museum district of London, given the 2 other big museums nearby. These are the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum.
Other notable things you should know about the area, is that it’s within walking distance of department store Harrods. So, if you have expensive shopping taste, you’ll be right in your element here!
While it’s safe to say that London’s expensive for many things, the same doesn’t apply to the museums. All museums are free to enter in the UK capital, but you do have to pay to see specific exhibitions. It’s the perfect way to learn something new about different civilizations throughout history, and at no cost too. What’s more, the museum has free Wi-Fi, which I’m sure will please the travelers that are reading this!
That said, there’s no excuse not to visit the inspiring V&A Museum. If entering from the Cromwell Road entrance, you’ll be moonstruck the second you enter its magnificent lobby.
It’s the world’s largest museum…
…of decorative arts and design. Don’t even think about wearing high heels here, as there’s a lot of walking to do! The museum’s home to a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects, and covers 5,000 years of art. Inside its 145 galleries are different sections that include art and artefacts from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.
John Madjeski Garden
One of the highlights during my visit to the V&A Museum was the serene John Madjeski Garden. Photos of the area don’t do it justice, and once outside, you need a few minutes to take it all in.
It’s the perfect blend of traditional meeting modern design. An elliptical water feature takes centre stage, with steps around the edge, that visitors are more than welcome to sit on. When the sun’s out, the garden’s even more stunning, and the steps are a good spot for a summer picnic.
The garden also hosts temporary exhibitions, and has a picturesque Garden Café overlooking the green space.
“Spread over 2 large rooms, they feature a remarkable display of sculptures, friezes and tombs.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
“If entering from the Cromwell Road entrance, you’ll be moonstruck the second you enter its magnificent lobby.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
“…there’s no better feeling than walking into a room full of reading material. It’s even more of a bonus when the surroundings are grandiose and achingly beautiful.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
Different types of art and industry under one roof
Within its 12.5 acres of land mass is everything artistic and cultural you can think of. This includes textiles, silver, ironwork, costumes, sculptures and medieval objects. It’ll come as little surprise then, that the V&A has the largest and most comprehensive collection in the world.
For fans of post-classical sculptures, the V&A boasts the world’s largest collection. It also holds the impressive title of housing the largest Islamic art set in the west, with over 19,000 items. Here you’ll see everything from Persian rugs and carpets, to calligraphy, all ranging from the 7 to the 20th century.
One area sure to make you stop and pay attention, are the cast courts in the sculpture wing. Spread over 2 large rooms, they feature a remarkable display of sculptures, friezes and tombs. You’ll find reproductions of Italian Renaissance pieces, such as a full-size replica of Michelangelo’s David.
Jaw-dropping areas in the museum
I was speechless the second I walked into the European galleries. The section opened in December 2015 and houses European art from 1600 to 1815. The dimly lit grand hall feels like walking into a completely different building. High ceilings, wide spaces, and with ginormous canvas’ displayed on its walls.
The area also features furniture of the period. Look out for the striking German writing cabinet from the 16th century, and a French court suit from the 17th century.
The National Art Library
As an all-round bookworm, there’s no better feeling than walking into a room full of reading material. It’s even more of a bonus when the surroundings are grandiose and achingly beautiful.
It’s free to enter the National Art Library, but you do need to join to access its collections and services. Also, you can’t bring any bags into the library (for obvious reasons), so leave anything in the cloakroom. From the oak double-doors at the entrance to the perfect symmetry of the library, it’s a really inspiring space.
Inside are 3 large public reading rooms: the West Room, Centre Room and Reading Room. For anyone wishing to study, there are approximately 100 individual desks available. Its greatest item is the Codex Forster: a set of 3 manuscripts, some that include notebooks from Leonardo da Vinci.
An excellent gift shop
When it comes to museum gift shops, in truth, I tend to walk the other way. I usually find the merchandise uninspiring and overpriced. However, this isn’t the case with the V&A.
I spent far too long in the shop checking out the merchandise, and even bought a few things. From tote bags to stationery, jewellery to clothing, there are many things here that’ll catch your eye. I particularly like the range of prints and custom prints, and the prices are very reasonable too.
“An elliptical water feature takes centre stage, with steps around the edge, that visitors are more than welcome to sit on.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
Where to stay near the V&A Museum
Given its excellent central location, visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodation.
For a quiet piece of luxury nearby, you may want to consider booking a few nights at the Berkeley Hotel. Alternatively, the superb 5-star Flemings Mayfair hotel’s a great choice, and in a great neighborhood to match.
Where to eat near the V&A Museum
The V&A Museum just so happens to be across the road from the ‘most instagrammable café in London’. Elan Café is known for its flower-themed wall, for being a ‘grammar’s heaven’ and the cakes aren’t bad either!
For something a bit more special however, round off your day with an exceptional afternoon tea at the Berkeley Hotel. The Prêt-à-Portea is a fashionista foodie’s dream come true, in the form of cakes and cookies, rather than clothing itself!
Have you been to the V&A Museum? Did I entice you to visit on your next trip to London? Leave me a comment below, and share your thoughts.
Happy and safe travels till next time.
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