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With over 500 years of British art in one location, Tate Britain is one of the leading art museums in all of Europe and it’s definitely one of the best museums in London for art enthusiasts.
While the National Gallery offers a chance to see a wide collection of art from around the world, Tate Britain is homegrown, featuring those artists that have shaped the UK over the centuries.
In this Tate Britain review, I’ll go over my best tips for visiting Tate Britain as a local who has lived near London for over 12 years now (and been to “the Tate,” as it’s called, dozens of times!).
We’ll go over everything from the best time to visit Tate Britain, how to get there easily, and if you need to plan on paying anything for entrance (no, for most people, but yes, if you go to a special exhibition).
Let’s get started!
Tate Britain Basics
Let’s get the basics out of the way before we dive into the wonderful world of this British art museum to make sure you know where you’re going!
Tate Britain is open between 10am and 6pm daily, except for between December 24th and December 26th when it is closed for the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays.
You can find it at:
London SW1P 4RG
if you put that into your Google Maps or Citymapper (check out my guide to the best apps for London here).
And entrance is completely free to the permanent exhibitions.
Tips for Visiting Tate Britain
1. Arrive by tube or bus
Tate Britain, being in Central London, is most easily accessed by public transportation.
The closest London tube station is Pimlico, on the Victoria Line, but you can also walk from Westminster Station, which is served by more lines (Jubilee, District, and Central).
Or there are plenty of buses that run past the area, if you prefer to take a London bus.
2. Visit on a weekday morning for lowest crowds
Tate Britain is a very popular and famous museum in London and it draws the crowds, but it’s not always chock full of people.
The least busy times, in my experience, are first thing after opening on a weekday morning.
It also gets less busy at the end of the day, before closing at 6pm.
3. Leave large bags at home
Tate Britain does have a cloakroom if you want to store smaller bags or items, but they do not allow for items larger than a carry-on bag to be stored at the museum.
This means that if you are visiting Tate Britain right after you fly into London or right before you fly out, you’ll want to make sure you store your bags somewhere else using a service like Luggage Hero.
4. Use the Manton entrance for step-free access
Tate Britain has two main entrances: the Millbank entrance, along the River Thames, and the Manton entrance, on Atterbury Street.
The Millbank entrance is the “classic” entrance that faces the river, but it also has a lot of steps, so if you’d like to use the accessible entrance on the side of the building with no steps, then head to Atterbury Street to use the Manton entrance.
5. Book their special exhibitions in advance
Tate Britain has rotating special exhibitions featuring either specific artists, or specific themes (for instance, a “Women in Revolt!” theme which is in the gallery in 2024).
While the permanent galleries are free to enter, special exhibitions do require tickets and are for a fee – this helps keep the gallery running and these are limited-time and specially curated exhibits.
If you’re an art lover, it’s definitely worth seeing if they have any special exhibitions on at the time of your visit that you might be interested in – check out their calendar here.
6. Use the Tate’s “10 Artworks” guide to see the highlights
Not sure where to start?
The Tate has put together a list of their Top 10 artworks on their website, so you can use these to plan your visit and try to check them all off of your list.
This is a great way to stay focused and not just aimlessly wandering galleries if you don’t have a huge background in art and want to make sure you’re seeing the highlights.
7. Take young kids to the Play Studio and Story Space
While an art museum like the Tate is not necessarily the perfect place for a day out with kids (more on that in a bit), they do have some cool rooms like the Play Studio and Story Space that are geared towards small children, allowing them to build their imaginations and creativity in age appropriate ways.
One thing to note, though, is that the opening hours of these spaces is often on the weekends or during school vacation/holiday time only, so you can’t expect them to be open on any random day.
8. Eat lunch at the Djanogly Cafe
One of my favorite things about many London musuems is that they’ve got great cafes with a variety of options, from sandwiches to salads to children’s meals.
The Djanogly Cafe in Tate Britain is no different.
Try quiches and tarts from the Deli counter or go for a hot soup, sasage roll, toastie, or a sandwich or wrap to have a filling lunch while you’re at the museum.
9. Become a member for year-long free entry to exhibitions
If you’re living in London or visiting often, becoming a Tate member is a great way to get free entry to exhibitions at both Tate Britain and Tate Modern – over the course of the year, the membership is a better deal than individually booking exhibition tickets, and it also allows you member’s only access to specific areas of each museum.
10. Consider an adults-only visit
As I mentioned, despite the Play Studio and Story Space, overall Tate Britain is not a hugely kid-friendly museum.
It’s a prestigious art museum, and while they do encourage family visits, you won’t find the interactive exhibitions and general “kids making loud noise is acceptable” vibe like you would at the Science Museum or Natural History Museum.
11. Turn your flash off (but take photos!)
You are allowed to take pictures in Tate Britain, but you must have your flash off, so make sure to be respectful of the gallery rules and turn off the flash before heading inside.
12. Head to the Clore Foyer for the quiet(est) time
Want some quiet space within the museum?
While in general it isn’t as bustling as some of the other museums and invites more quiet contemplation, the Clore Foyer is one of the quietest spaces within the museum if you need to escape for a moment.
13. Prepare for your bag to be security checked
Your bag will be security checked before you head into the museum – this is to make sure that not only do you not have items that could damage other people or used as weapons, but that you’re not bringing things that could damage the artwork or don’t have other nefarious motives!