A Visitor’s Guide to Tate Modern (by a local!)

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As one of the largest contemporary and modern art museums in Europe, Tate Modern is a must-visit for any art lover when you come to London.

I’ve lived in London for over 10 years and have been to the Tate Modern so many times that I’ve lost track – whether I’m going to see the galleries, enjoy the café, or even just get some work done in the comfy chairs I find in the nooks and crannies of the museum, I always enjoy myself!

In this Tate Modern review, we’ll go over who should go, my top tips for visiting, and what to expect when you visit Tate Modern.

Who should go to Tate Modern?

Tate Modern is the perfect London museum for:

  • art lovers
  • adults who want to make the most of London and see as much as possible (even if you don’t necessarily consider yourself a modern art ‘person’)

Tate Modern isn’t great for you if you are decidedly against “modern art” or feel like you don’t understand or appreciate contemporary art and have no plans of trying to do so (in that case – try Tate Britain!)

It’s also not great for kids – there are some cool galleries that elementary aged and above could enjoy for a little bit, but definitely the younger they are, the less there is to do at this London museum for them and some things are adult in theme.

There is the “Tate Draw” area with digital sketch pads that the kids like, if you want to visit Tate Modern and do have kids, but this isn’t something I’d recommend adding to your list if you’re specifically looking for things that the little ones will enjoy in London.

Check out the YouTube channel for more London tips

Tate Modern Galleries

Tate Modern has a number of modern galleries to look at that are completely free to enter and permanent exhibitions (compared to the visiting or temporary exhibitions we’ll discuss next).

They range from, well, everything you can think of – sculpture, photography, interactive displays, video, paintings, drawings.

Some are based around particular artists, some around theme, some around color.

To give you an idea for what you might see as you wander your way around, enjoy this photo dump of some of my favorite areas and displays!

Temporary Exhibitions

In addition to the permanent galleries, there are constant temporary exhibitions at Tate Modern that you can enjoy, ranging from specific displays from one or two artists to themed exhibitions.

These are not free, unlike the permanent galleries, and you can book tickets online in advance (which is recommended as they often sell out).

Check out this page here to see the current exhibitions – this is definitely a must-do for art lovers in particular. If you just want to see the museum and look at art, but don’t have a strong interest in it, you’ll be just fine viewing the expansive permanent galleries.

Tips for Visiting

Entrance to Tate Modern is free, though there is a donation box when you first walk in, suggesting a £5 donation (this is completely optional – most people don’t).

There is an area for families to play near the lockers, if you’ve brought some toddlers who need to climb on various things (and not the museum exhibits!)

There are also handy dandy maps spread throughout the museum, giving you directions and letting you know what is on which level, as well as maps you can purchase for a small fee.

Tate Modern Places to Eat

There are three main areas that anyone (including non-members) can eat at the Tate.

The first and most casual is the Natalie Bell Building Espresso Bar – this cute little coffee shop area has mostly drinks, with a few snacks available, and is great for a quick stop-off if you don’t want something more seated or formal.

Then there’s the Corner – a late-night cafe and bar area (open all day, but also until late) that is more upscale and has a food menu. This is a great place to go with friends.

Finally, the Restaurant – it’s got sweeping views over London and is a real restaurant with sit-down service. A great place for a date in London!

Tate Modern Gift Shop

The gift shop in the Tate Modern is perhaps one of the best places to shop for art lovers in London. It’s huge – featuring everything from books to prints to shirts to toys.

Views from Tate Modern

Tate Modern is well-known for its views across London. While Level 10 has the best views, it is currently closed.

The next best place to enjoy views of London from Tate Modern is from either the Restaurant or from a viewing platform outside of the Natalie Bell Espresso Bar.

Opening Hours

Tate Modern is open every day between 10am and 6pm, but there are a few days it’s closed over Christmas.

It’s one of the best free things to do in London with consistent opening hours.

There are also Tate Modern Lates with DJs, special events, and late night opening hours (held occasionally).

How to Get to Tate Modern

The easiest way to get to Tate Modern if you’re within central London is by tube or bus.

The closest tube station is Southwark Station, and there are regular buses that run right past the area.

You can also get to it by river boat, but most people will be coming via land so this is only a viable option if you’re a visitor who is already looking at using the Thames Clippers boats (get off at Bankside Pier).

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