A guide to south-east London’s most popular museums and art galleries

Feb 25, 2022 | Things to Do

From the capital’s vibrant South Bank to Thamesmead and Greenwich in the east, and extending south to Sydenham at its furthest point, south east London is known as the city’s happening new area, well-known for its thriving arts and music scene. 

The cultural scene in south-east London attracts visitors and tourists from all over the world and there is never a lack do things to do here as some of London’s most iconic landmarks are located in the area.

Below is a list of some incredible museums and art galleries in the area, ideal for anyone planning an educational day out.  

The Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Horniman Museum and Gardens are located just over a 10-minute walk away from Forest Hill station in Lambeth. It houses taxidermy and natural history specimens, collections of musical instruments and an aquarium. The museum was opened in 1901, three years after Frederick John Horniman initially commissioned it and is set in a 16-acre landscaped garden. If you’re someone who is interested in musical instruments, art, natural history, anthropology then this place is a must visit for you. The fun part is that visitors are invited to pick up, try on and play with some of the objects.

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery is the oldest public art gallery in England and opened to the public in 1817. It is located in Sir John Soane’s neo-Greek building designed specifically to bring as much light in as possible, is a gem in this quiet corner of London.

National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum is the UK’s leading naval museum. It showcases the history of Britain at sea and includes maritime art, ship models and plans, scientific and navigational instruments, instruments for time-keeping and astronomy. It also incorporates Greenwich Observatory and the Queen’s House. You can explore the museum through a series of interactive games, nautical novelties and a ship simulator, before chilling out in the brasserie, which enjoys picturesque views over Greenwich Park.

The Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum in Lambeth is located just 5-10 minutes’ walk from Lambeth North station. Founded in 1917, the museum chronicles the history of war and encourages visitors to understand the nature of modern warfare and the ‘wartime experience’ by immersing guests in a range interactive exhibits, as well as showcasing an array of military hardware that includes tanks and planes.

Tate Modern

You can’t mention galleries without leaving out one of London’s most famous landmarks. Tate Modern is London’s premier contemporary gallery, with blockbuster exhibitions and world-class permanent collections and attracts tourists from all over the country and beyond.

Cinema Museum

If you’re interested in the history and artefacts of film making then you’ll love the Cinema Museum located in Lambeth. It is a 10 minute walk from both Kennington and Elephant & Castle stations. Founded in 1986 as a charitable organisation, the museum is devoted to keeping the grandeur of cinema’s early days alive, cherishing the art form all the way through from the 1890s to the present day.

The Hayward Gallery

The Hayward Gallery is a world- renowned contemporary art gallery and a landmark of brutalist architecture. The Gallery’s year-round exhibition programme focuses on presenting a wide range of adventurous and influential artists from across the world. It hosts rotating modern art exhibitions and also has a fascinating digital archive.

Black Cultural Archives

Black Cultural Archives located in Brixton is a Black history museum and cultural space founded in 1981 by educationalist and historian Len Garrison and others. BCA’s mission is to collect, conserve and celebrate the history of people of African descent in Britain. Its archive collection is now one of the most comprehensive collections that document the history and cultural heritage of Black Britain. It is open from Wednesday to Saturday every week.

Fashion and Textile Museum

Fashion and Textile Museum located in Bermondsey is dedicated to showcasing contemporary and historical fashion, textile design, jewellery. The Museum conducts wide ranging creative and engaging exhibitions, alongside an exciting selection of educational courses, talks, events and workshops.

Bankside Gallery

Bankside Gallery in Southwark is a public art gallery in opened by QueenElizabeth II in 1980. The gallery is home to the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. The members of these societies follow a 200-year-old tradition of being elected by their peers. The gallery houses changing exhibitions of contemporary watercolours and prints, which are accompanied by special events including artists’ talks and tours. A full education programme covering the theory and practice of art is organised every year.

The Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA London was founded in 1994 as a project based museum.  It is located in the heart of Bellenden road, a 5 minute walk from Peckham Rye Station. It holds varied exhibitions that incorporate sculpture, video, painting, photography and installation. It exists to offer established and upcoming artists the possibility of making non-commercial work, developing the projects over various periods of time.

The Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Horniman Museum and Gardens are located just over a 10-minute walk away from Forest Hill station in Lambeth. It houses taxidermy and natural history specimens, collections of musical instruments and an aquarium. The museum was opened in 1901, three years after Frederick John Horniman initially commissioned it and is set in a 16-acre landscaped garden. If you’re someone who is interested in musical instruments, art, natural history, anthropology then this place is a must visit for you. The fun part is that visitors are invited to pick up, try on and play with some of the objects.

Location

100 London Rd, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ

Opening hours

Museum
Monday to Tuesday: 10am-5:30pm
Wednesday: closed
Thursday to Sunday: 10am-5:30pm

Butterfly House
Monday to Tuesday: 10:30am-4pm
Wednesday: closed
Thursday to Sunday: 10:30am-4pm

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery is the oldest public art gallery in England and opened to the public in 1817. It is located in Sir John Soane’s neo-Greek building designed specifically to bring as much light in as possible, is a gem in this quiet corner of London.

Location

Gallery Road, Dulwich, SE21 7AD

Opening hours

Monday to Tuesday: closed
Wednesday to Sunday: 10am–5pm

National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum is the UK’s leading naval museum. It showcases the history of Britain at sea and includes maritime art, ship models and plans, scientific and navigational instruments, instruments for time-keeping and astronomy. It also incorporates Greenwich Observatory and the Queen’s House. You can explore the museum through a series of interactive games, nautical novelties and a ship simulator, before chilling out in the brasserie, which enjoys picturesque views over Greenwich Park.

Location

Romney Rd, Greenwich, SE10 9NF

Opening hours

Monday to Sunday: 10am-5pm

Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum in Lambeth is located just 5-10 minutes’ walk from Lambeth North station. Founded in 1917, the museum chronicles the history of war and encourages visitors to understand the nature of modern warfare and the ‘wartime experience’ by immersing guests in a range interactive exhibits, as well as showcasing an array of military hardware that includes tanks and planes.

Location

Lambeth Road, SE1 6HZ

Opening hours

Monday to Sunday: 10am-6pm

Tate Modern

You can’t mention galleries without leaving out one of London’s most famous landmarks. Tate Modern is London’s premier contemporary gallery, with blockbuster exhibitions and world-class permanent collections and attracts tourists from all over the country and beyond.

Location

Bankside, SE1 9TG

Opening hours

Monday to Sunday: 10am-6pm

Cinema Museum

If you’re interested in the history and artefacts of film making then you’ll love the Cinema Museum located in Lambeth. It is a 10 minute walk from both Kennington and Elephant & Castle stations. Founded in 1986 as a charitable organisation, the museum is devoted to keeping the grandeur of cinema’s early days alive, cherishing the art form all the way through from the 1890s to the present day.

Location

The Master’s House, 2 Dugard Way, Lambeth, SE11 4TH

Opening hours

Tours must be booked in advance by contacting at 020 7840 2200 or info@cinemamuseum.org.uk

The Hayward Gallery

The Hayward Gallery is a world-renowned contemporary art gallery and a landmark of brutalist architecture. The Gallery’s year-round exhibition programme focuses on presenting a wide range of adventurous and influential artists from across the world. It hosts rotating modern art exhibitions and also has a fascinating digital archive.

Location

Southbank Centre, Southbank, SE1 8XX

Opening hours

Monday to Tuesday: closed
Wednesday: 11am-9pm
Thursday to Saturday: 11am-7pm
Sunday: 10am-6pm

Black Cultural Archives

Black Cultural Archives located in Brixton is a Black history museum and cultural space founded in 1981 by educationalist and historian Len Garrison and others. BCA’s mission is to collect, conserve and celebrate the history of people of African descent in Britain. Its archive collection is now one of the most comprehensive collections that document the history and cultural heritage of Black Britain. It is open from Wednesday to Saturday every week.

Location

1 Windrush Square, Brixton, SW2 1EF

Opening hours

Monday to Wednesday: closed
Thursday to Saturday 11:30am-5pm

Fashion and Textile Museum

Fashion and Textile Museum located in Bermondsey is dedicated to showcasing contemporary and historical fashion, textile design, jewellery. The Museum conducts wide ranging creative and engaging exhibitions, alongside an exciting selection of educational courses, talks, events and workshops.

Location

83 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3XF

Opening hours

Monday: closed
Tuesday to Saturday: 11am-5pm
Sunday: closed

Bankside Gallery

Bankside Gallery in Southwark is a public art gallery in opened by QueenElizabeth II in 1980. The gallery is home to the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. The members of these societies follow a 200-year-old tradition of being elected by their peers. The gallery houses changing exhibitions of contemporary watercolours and prints, which are accompanied by special events including artists’ talks and tours. A full education programme covering the theory and practice of art is organised every year.

Location

Thames Riverside, 48 Hopton Street, SE1 9JH

Opening hours

Monday to Sunday: 11am-6pm

The Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA London was founded in 1994 as a project based museum.  It is located in the heart of Bellenden road, a 5 minute walk from Peckham Rye Station. It holds varied exhibitions that incorporate sculpture, video, painting, photography and installation. It exists to offer established and upcoming artists the possibility of making non-commercial work, developing the projects over various periods of time.

Location

113 Bellenden Road, Peckham Rye, SE15 4QY

Opening hours

Monday to Sunday: 11am-6pm
Depending on exhibition

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