15 Tips for Visiting the Victoria & Albert Museum

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Whether you’re got a keen eye for design, a penchant for fashion, or a long-lasting desire to see any number of beautiful things given to the royal family over the years from far flung countries, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London is for you!

It can be a little difficult to describe this museum to visitors, as unlike the Science Museum and Natural History Museum which have very clear topics, the V&A is more about a collection of beautiful, historic, and wonderfully designed things.

You’ll find everything from Chinese ceramics to evening dresses worn by the rich and famous to paintings to ornately decorated clocks.

The Victoria & Albert Museum is a must-visit for many London visitors, but if you’re not familiar with it, check out my guide to the Victoria & Albert Museum to make the most of your visit and decide if it’s the right choice for your day in London.

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The Absolute Must-Knows (from a Londoner)

1. Arrive at opening time for lower crowds

As with any of the major London museums, the best time to arrive is right around opening time to explore the museum with fewer crowds.

It gets busier as the day goes on, so get there bright and early at opening at 10:00am.

The museum closes at 5:45pm, except for on Fridays.

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2. Take a private tour so you don’t miss the must-dos

It can be overwhelming to navigate through the V&A because there is just so much to see that you’ll never fit it all in, so if you’re a savvy traveler who wants to make the most of your time, this private tour is a great option.

You’ll have an experienced guide with you who has all of the information you’d ever want to know on the most important pieces in the museum and you won’t have to worry that you’ve missed something important or noteworthy because they’re in charge of making sure you see the museum in the most efficient and interesting way possible.

>> Click here to check prices and availability for my favorite private tour of the V&A

3. Book ahead for popular exhibitions

The V&A has some of the best exhibitions in London – often featuring fashion accessories and dresses, but always having to do with something topical, beautiful, and important in the worlds of performance, art, and design.

You do need to pay for these exhibitions, and they often sell out, so make sure to book in advance.

4. Remember that it’s completely free

It’s completely free to visit the main galleries and permanent exhibitions within the V&A, and you don’t need to book ahead to do this, so despite the rotating exhibitions needing tickets, no one else needs to worry about booking or paying.

Stroll on it and enjoy your time!

5. Have lunch outdoors in the summer at the Garden Café

If you remember any one thing from this V&A museum review, it’s to check out the Garden Cafe!

It’s best in the summer months when the weather is nice, but there is a wide range of food on offer and you can enjoy it while soaking in the sun in the inner courtyard of the museum.

Even if you don’t want something to eat, don’t miss your chance to spend some time relaxing in this oasis – you’ll really quickly forget that you’re in the middle of Central London, and sometimes that’s a good thing.

6. Leave larger items in the cloakroom

At the V&A, there is a dedicated cloakroom for items larger than purses or small backpacks, and in fact they even have space for carry-on style luggage if you have to bring that with you before your plane leaves (or if you arrive right after it lands).

There is a small charge per item, but you cannot carry these larger items (including child scooters, adult folding bikes, and large umbrellas) around with you, so make sure to make sure of the cloakroom.

7. Walk from South Kensington Station

The best way to get to the V&A, which is located on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, is to walk 5 minutes from the South Kensington tube station.

It’s also a 10 minute walk from Gloucester Road tube station if this is easier for your schedule, and there are plenty of buses that go through the South Kensington area.

8. Use the V&A Digital Map to enjoy their curated trails

If you don’t want to pay for a tour, but do want a guided experience in the museum, try the self-guided trails that are offered on the V&A website.

They’ve put together all of their best pieces in different kinds of trail maps so you can follow along and give yourself your own V&A tour.

9. Explore as a family with the Family Trail

The V&A is the one museum in London that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for kids.

If you’ve got kids with you, you’ll really be better off at the Natural History Museum or Science Museum or somewhere else cool like the London Transport Museum.

The gorgeous paintings, sculptures, and designer furniture in the V&A may be a little underwhelming to the younger set, but if you do have kids in tow, check out the Family Trail at the V&A which is available online, as this can help keep them interested as you explore.

10. Stay late on a Friday night

On Friday nights, the museum is open late – until 10pm!

This makes it one of the coolest things to do in London at night and a really fun way to spend an evening in London.

11. Make sure to see its most famous collection pieces

Some of the most popular and awe-inspiring pieces in the museum include:

  • Cast of Michaelangelo’s “David”
  • Sacred stained glass collection
  • St. George altarpiece
  • Bed of Ware
  • Augsburg clock

12. Have lunch at the Main Café any time of the year

The Main Cafe (yes, that’s the name!) has a wonderful variety of food options for lunch and snacks, and is open year-round and daily (unlike the Garden Cafe which isn’t open during the weekdays during the colder months).

I always recommend eating at the café when visiting a museum in London – it’s fast, it’s easy, and they have genuinely nice food options so you don’t need to go out and to a restaurant or visit a café off-site.

13. Use the Exhibition Road entrance for accessibility

There are two entrances to the museum, but if you need an entrance that’s accessible for wheelchairs, make sure to use the Exhibition Road entrance instead of the main Grand Entrance.

14. Buy a unique souvenir from the V&A Main Shop

There are so many souvenir options at the V&A shop, ranging from books to clothing to replica casts of some of the best pieces in the museum.

Whether you want to remember your own trip to London or you want to bring something home to an art or design lover, this is one of my favorite museum shops.

15. See the other Kensington museums on the same day

The Science Museum and Natural History Museum are quite literally right around the corner from the V&A Museum, so if you have either of those on your agenda, make sure to see them on the same day so you don’t spend a ton of time criss-crossing the city.

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