London wouldn't be the city it is without its thriving art scene. There are an estimated 1,500 permanent exhibition spaces in the city, encompassing every art style and movement — from classical to contemporary; Renaissance to realism.
Whatever your taste, you're guaranteed to find something up your alley. Not sure where to start? You've come to the right place. We've rounded up some of the best art galleries in London — from small independents to world-famous institutions. Scroll on to get your culture fix...
Best art galleries in central London
The National Gallery
The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is one of the world's most visited art galleries, boasting a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. You'll find all the big names, including Monet, van Gogh and da Vinci. Entry to the permanent collection is always free but there is a charge for the temporary exhibitions.
Royal Academy of Arts
As Britain’s longest established art school, the RA has been championing art and artists for over 250 years. It presents its collection of art and architecture in free displays throughout its home on Piccadilly, as well as holding world-class art exhibitions, including the hugely popular annual Summer Exhibition.
The Hayward Gallery in the Southbank Centre is one of London's top contemporary art galleries and a landmark of brutalist architecture. Its year-round exhibition programme presents an impressive array of some of the world's most influential artists. Past highlights have included exhibitions featuring the likes of Paul Klee, Bridget Riley and Antony Gormley.
Best art galleries in east London
The Whitechapel Gallery in the capital's gritty East End opened in 1901 as one of the first publicly funded galleries for temporary exhibitions in London. Its beautiful Grade II listed building has premiered the talents of the likes of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo, and continues to host some of the most audacious and interesting contemporary artistic talents.
Contemporary art curator Maureen Paley's namesake gallery is a must-visit when passing through Bethnal Green. It exhibits a diverse range of established and emerging international artists within a light and airy industrial space.
The Barbican Centre
The Barbican Centre is one of London's best-loved brutalist beauties. Beyond its thick concrete walls lies an oasis of culture, including art and design, theatre, cinema and music. Keep an eye out for its rotating programme of free and paid-for art exhibitions, which showcase some of the world's most significant artists.
Best art galleries in north London
Camden Art Centre
Camden Art Centre on Finchley Road was designed with the purpose of encouraging the community to engage with art and the people that make it, while connecting to their own creativity. It holds regular exhibitions, events and courses and is a go-to for north London's contemporary art lovers. Entry is always free.
Victoria Miro Gallery
Housed in a former factory smack bang in the centre of buzzy Hoxton, the Victoria Miro Gallery is a hub for contemporary art that counts the likes of Grayson Perry, Alice Neel and Yayoi Kusama among its exhibited artists.
Art collector Anita Zabludowicz transformed an incredible nineteenth-century chapel in Chalk Farm into a vibrant space dedicated to the conservation and collection of new work by artists from the earliest stages of their careers. Pay a visit to the Zabludowicz Collection for inventive and experimental works that push the boundaries of contemporary art.
Best art galleries in west London
The Serpentine Gallery offers a dose of culture within the tranquil surrounds of Hyde Park. Throughout its 50-year history, the gallery has celebrated artists who have gone on to international acclaim, including Anish Kapoor, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Marina Abramović.
Chelsea's Saatchi Gallery was founded in 1985 by Charles Saatchi, originally drawing on his personal collection, before quickly becoming a globally recognised authority in contemporary art. Over the years it has exhibited works by everyone from Andy Warhol to JR.
While not strictly an art gallery, the Design Museum in Kensington is not to be missed if you're a lover of contemporary art or design. It showcases everything from architecture and fashion to graphics, product and industrial design.
Best art galleries in south London
Dulwich Picture Gallery
The Dulwich Picture Gallery houses an impressive collection of 17th-and-18th-century European Old Masters as well as a rotating program of contemporary exhibitions in a beautiful building designed by Sir John Soane. It opened its doors in 1814, as the world's first purpose-built public art gallery.
Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art
This south London gallery in a grade II-listed former Victorian bathhouse was designed by Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble. Situated at the heart of Goldsmiths, University of London, it builds on Goldsmiths’ world-renowned artistic reputation and hosts international artists, projects and residencies alongside talks, performances, films and other events.
Newport Street Gallery
Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall was built specifically to put on shows of Damien Hirst's personal art collection, as part of Hirst's long-term ambition to share his art collection with the public. The incredible vaulted space has showcased everyone from Jeff Koons to Tracey Emin.
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