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Best 10 museum exhibitions in London 2021

From blockbuster shows at iconic museums to exhibits in quirkier spaces, catch the best museum exhibitions in London on now.
A shaman, dressed in traditional clothing, holds his hands up to the sky in a black and white photograph.
Chaman Yanomami en rituel avant la montée vers le Pico da Neblina, État d’Amazonas, Brésil, 2014 © Sebastião Salgado. Image courtesy of Science Museum

As well as vast permanent collections, museums in London have new and exciting exhibitions to enjoy across the city.

London museum exhibitions on now

1. Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street at the Design Museum

From the humble trainers of yesteryear to sought-after retro designs and high-fashion treads, Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street proves there’s more to our casual footwear than simple soles. The Design Museum’s latest exhibition combines design and fashion, with a special focus on iconic styles and the growing resale market. Until 24 Oct

2. Nero: Man Behind Myth at the British Museum

Marked in history as a tyrant who executed his own mother and wife, Nero has a trouble legacy, but is it actually true? Find out at Nero: Man Behind Myth at the British Museum, the first UK exhibition on the fifth Roman emperor that brings together new research, historical artefacts and stories from his 14-year rule. Until 24 Oct

3. Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits at National Maritime Museum

Portrait of a young queen Elizabeth II wearing her crown and looking to the side of the frame.
Elizabeth II by Dorothy Wilding, hand coloured by Beatrice Johnson, 1952. Credit: National Portrait Gallery, London. Image courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich.

Enjoy a look at key figures in the British monarchy, as more than 150 portraits go on display at the National Maritime Museum. Run in conjunction with the National Gallery, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits covers 500 years of history, and showcases works by major artists and photographers such as Cecil Beaton and Annie Leibovitz. Until 31 Oct

For even more royal portraits, check out Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I, at neighbouring Queen’s House.

4. Paddington: The Story of a Bear at British Library

Be prepared to venture through Deepest Darkest Peru (well, the British Library) as everyone’s favourite marmalade-sandwich-eating bear is honoured with Paddington: The Story of a Bear. See original illustrations, the author’s notes and photographs, plus follow marmalade splats for more Paddington-themed treasures. Until 31 Oct

5. Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser at the Victoria and Albert Museum

A pencil sketch of Alice, the March Hare and the Mad Hatter sitting at a table with a teapot, cups and saucers.
Alice at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Illustration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by John Tenniel, 1865 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Tumble down the rabbit hole like never before during The V&A’s immersive exhibition on the history of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Expect plenty of theatrics, as Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser charts the story’s 157-year history, from illustrations in the first published edition to references in modern culture. Until 31 Dec

6. Royal Style in the Making at Kensington Palace

Don’t miss the chance to see Princess Diana’s iconic wedding dress, which is on display for the first time as part of the Royal Style in the Making exhibition at Kensington Palace. This temporary exhibition looks into the partnerships between fashion designers and the Royal Family through items rarely seen in public. Until 2 Jan. Book now

7. Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature at the Natural History Museum

Where do wonders of the natural world end and mythical beings begin? The Natural History Museum’s exhibition Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature looks into how animals use almost magical behaviours and techniques to attract mates or to confuse predators in order to make a hasty escape. Until 3 Jan 

8. Monkey Business at Horniman Museum and Gardens

There's plenty of monkeying around at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, as its latest exhibition Monkey Business looks into the life and evolution of primates. Study models, photography, film and taxidermy, and learn how human activity is putting some of our closest living relatives at risk of extinction. Until 3 Jan

9. Hokusai: The Great Picture Book of Everything at British Museum

Hokusai's image showing a choppy dark blue swa and a "great wave" with foam.
Under the Wave off Kanagawa (‘The Great Wave’) From the series Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (1831) by Katsushika Hokusai (1760– 1849). Colour woodblock print. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
From iconic The Great Wave to depictions of everyday life, Katsushika Hokusai is one of Japan’s most illustrious artists. The British Museum examines the man and his work, bringing together more than 100 drawings created for The Great Picture Book of Everything encyclopaedia that was never published. Until 30 Jan

10. Amazônia at the Science Museum

Gain an insight into the life of indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest, and the issues they face, through leading photographer Sebastian Salgado’s images in Amazônia at the Science Museum. Marvel at aerial views and study images of everyday life captured at the heart of the rainforest. Until Mar

Long-running museum exhibitions

Our Future Planet at Science Museum

A person wearing a mask looks at the displays in the Out Future Planet exhibition, with a board showing the exhibition name in the foreground.
Our Future Planet © Science Museum Group.
Get a glimpse into the scientific breakthroughs that are helping to combat climate change at the Science Museum’s free exhibition Our Future Planet. Whether protecting ancient forests or processes trapping carbon dioxide, find out how scientists are attempting to make the planet greener. Until Sep 2022

Hidden London at London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum’s unique Hidden London exhibition takes you beneath London's streets, into abandoned Tube stations. Learn how these now disused spaces were once functioning stations, and discover how they played a crucial role in wartime efforts during the Second World War. You'll uncover posters, photos and even a recreated ticket hall! Until autumn 2023

Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution at the Victoria and Albert Musuem

Marvel at the work of Carl Fabergé who defined style and elegance with his opulent designs, at new exhibition Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution at The V&A. Ogle iconic eggs, spot jewel-encrusted cigar and cigarette cases and discover more stylish items, as you learn more about the maker and the man. 20 Nov-8 May

Discover more cultural highlights with the capital's top art exhibitionsAnd don't forget to download the Visit London app for more exhibitions and things to do in London on the go.