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Best 25 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.
Four men, dressed in black, stand at black podiums on a black stage, set against a bright red background featuring four larger figures.
Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers at the Design Museum. Image credit: Peter Boettcher. Image courtesy of the Design Museum.

Many museums in London have new and exciting exhibitions to enjoy across the city.

Museums are due to reopen on 17 May at the earliest, following the proposed easing of coronavirus restrictions. Check back nearer the time for confirmation and be aware that some venues listed may still be closed after that date. You may also need to book tickets in advance, even if entrance is free.

If you’re not able to visit the capital, you can still enjoy culture from your couch with our pick of virtual London museum exhibitions, all for free!

Virtual exhibitions to enjoy at home

If you’re not able to visit London, you can still soak up the city’s culture with these free exhibitions to enjoy from your home. Just sit back, log on and explore exhibits from some of London’s top museums.

2. Making the Bridge Sing at Tower Bridge

Enjoy an artist’s take on the true story of a former cook at Tower Bridge, with the online exhibition Making the Bridge Sing. Mixing fantasy with fact, Di Mainstone has created a series of drawings and a film exploring the notion of the bridge singing and nature taking over the London icon.

3. Industrial Islington at London Canal Museum

The Regent’s Canal may nowadays be a hub for pleasure boats, but it’s had a long history of industry as well as recreation. Discover how the canal has touched the lives of those living and working along the its banks in Islington with the London Canal Museum’s online exhibition Industrial Islington.

4. Natural History Museum's digital exhibitions

Access 14 virtual exhibitions from the Natural History Museum, which span butterflies to dinosaurs and most things in between. You can also take virtual tours of key spaces, say hello to Hope the whale and even let Sir David Attenborough guide you through Hintze Hall – all from the comfort of your sofa!

5. Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library

From J.K. Rowling’s early sketches and illustrator Jim Kay’s creations, to lessons in Muggle Magic, Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition puts the famous wizard and his craft under the spotlight with a Google Arts & Culture online exhibition previously held at the British Library.

6. Voices from the Deep at The Postal Museum

Discover objects uncovered from a shipwreck with Voices from the Deep, as part of The Postal Museum’s Make a Connection virtual series. Hear accounts from letters sent home by troops in India and discover objects that were being transported by the SS Gairsoppa before it was sunk in 1941 by a German U-boat.

7. Queer+ Croydon at Museum of Croydon

Trace the past and present history of the LGBT+ community in Croydon with the Museum of Croydon, as artist Mark Goldby shares his in-depth research in a series of themed exhibits every two weeks. Queer+ Croydon features artefacts, personal stories and treasured items that relate to how the visibility of the community has changed over time.

New London exhibitions

Ready to venture out for your cultural fix? Visit London's top museums as they reopen their doors with some unmissable exhibitions.

8. Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum

Be amazed by the wonders of the natural world with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The Natural History Museum hosts a display of 100 images from professional and amateur photographers, which give a fascinating insight into the world's wildlife and their habitats across the globe. 16 Oct-6 Jun

9. Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace at The Queen’s Gallery

Step inside the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace and view some of the most important paintings in the Royal Collection at Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace. Gaze in wonder at some of the Queen's favourite paintings, from the likes of Titian and Guercino to Guido Reni, Vermeer and Rembrandt. 4 Dec-31 Jan

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

Embark on a magical adventure with Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature at the Natural History Museum, and learn about the world's amazing creatures and how we can help protect them for the future generations.

11. Bags: Inside Out at the V&A

From designer bags to vanity cases and military backpacks, learn all about the ultimate accessory with Bags: Inside Out at the V&A. This fashion-filled exhibition explores our fascination with this object, from the "it bags" which have taken the world by storm to historical pieces owned by royalty. From 12 Dec

12. Arctic: culture and climate at The British Museum

Discover the unique innovation and resourcefulness of the Indigenous peoples living in the Arctic at The British Museum. Learn how the native people survived and continue to survive in icy conditions, view ancient and modern artefacts, from a sculpture made out of mammoth ivory to a modern refitted snow mobile. -

13. Raphael Cartoons at the V&A

See one of the greatest treasures of the Renaissance, the Raphael Cartoons. View all seven of the full-scale designs painted by Raphael in the V&A’s Raphael Court, which reopens following a nine-month refurbishment to mark the 500th anniversary of his death. From 14 Nov

14. Derek Jarman: My Garden’s Boundaries are the Horizon at the Garden Museum

Gain some gardening inspiration at Lambeth’s Garden Museum, as new exhibition Derek Jarman: My Garden’s Boundaries are the Horizon delves into the film director’s artistic works and the coastal garden created next to his windswept home, Prospect Cottage in Dungeness. Until 13 Dec

15. Hidden London at London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum’s 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 Jan 

If you're keen to visit some of London's hidden stations, join one of the regular Hidden London tours.

16. Permian Monsters: Life Before the Dinosaurs at Horniman Museum & Gardens

You can go face to face with fearsome fossils and prehistoric creatures, as Permian Monsters: Life Before the Dinosaurs brings awe-inspiring animatronics, skeletons and full-scale models to Forest Hill’s Horniman Museum & Gardens. Until 3 Jan

17. Driverless: Who is in control? at the Science Museum

From self-driving cars to smart underwater vehicles like the Autosub Long Range "Boaty McBoatface", explore how increasingly sophisticated and autonomous machines have become and what living in an artificial intelligence-driven world could look like with Driverless: Who is in control? at the Science Museum. Until 5 Jan

19. Out of the Blue: Fifty Years of Designers Guild at Fashion and Textile Museum

Chart the history of influential Chelsea design company, Designers Guild, at the Fashion and Textile Museum. Out of the Blue: Fifty Years of the Designer Guild examines how founder Tricia Guild created a new ideology, and showcases how she has inspired others to combine colour, pattern and texture in contemporary interiors. Until 21 Feb

20. Nightingale in 200 Objects, People and Places at Florence Nightingale Museum

Celebrate the bicentenary of the “Lady of the Lamp’s” birth with a special reopened exhibition at Florence Nightingale Museum. Take a journey through the pioneer’s life and work with 200 of her most treasured objects put under the spotlight in Nightingale in 200 Objects, People and Places: Leader, Icon and Pioneer. Until 7 Mar

21. The Krios of Sierra Leone at the Museum of London Docklands

Explore the largely untold story of the Krio people at the Museum of London DocklandsThe Krios of Sierra Leone exhibition. Learn about the history, heritage and culture of the Krio community through a mix of contemporary objects from Krio Londoners and 19th-century objects from British colonial rule in Sierra Leone. Until 14 Mar

22. Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word at British Library

Examine treasures dating back to the 10th century, as you learn about Jewish culture and traditions with Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word at the British Library. This exhibition goes beyond the Bible to look at how knowledge has been shared between Jewish people and other communities in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and China. Until 11 Apr

23. Refugees: Forced to Flee at the Imperial War Museum

Put yourself in the shoes of families fleeing from war over the past century as you view recordings, photographs, pieces of art and documents telling stories of thousands forced to make tough decisions due to conflict in Refugees: Forced to Flee at the Imperial War Museum. Until 24 May

In the meantime, see the museum's new installation Ai Weiwei on History of Bombs, which explores international migration and the human capacity for destruction.

24. JR: Chronicles at The Saatchi Gallery

View some of the most iconic projects by French artist JR in the JR: Chronicles exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery. Discover his early photographic projects including works from his international travels to Bethlehem, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and see his recent projects, including The Secret of the Great Pyramid made of 2000 pieces of paper. 13 Nov-9 Feb

25. Victoria: A Royal Childhood at Kensington Palace

Learn more about Queen Victoria in Kensington Palace's special exhibition marking 200 years since the monarch’s birth. Victoria: A Royal Childhood looks at a young Princess Victoria through treasured childhood items, such as a scrapbook given to her by her governess Baroness Lehzen, and charts her rise to an independently minded queen. Ongoing

Find plenty more things to do when you’re bored at home with our Virtually London guide.

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.