The Victoria and Albert Museum – or the V&A, as it is commonly called – not only houses one of the biggest art and design collections in the city, but the world, and a trip to London is not complete without a stroll through its red brick facade and looming pillars built in a classical style.
One of the world’s leading museums in art, design and performance, it owns the world’s largest collection of post-classical sculptures outside of Italy itself, and its permanent collection has more than two million objects and artefacts spanning millennia of human history.
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The history of the V&A is as glittering in scope and intrigue as the objects it houses. It can trace its origins back to the Great Exhibition of 1851, a Victorian World Fair organized by Prince Albert and Henry Cole, who went on to become the first director of the V&A – and also credited to be the first person to popularize sending Christmas cards .
Starting as they meant to go on, the Great Exhibition was attended by the likes of Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, the Bronte sisters, Lewis Carroll, and Alfred Tennyson, amongst others. Officially opened by Queen Victoria in 1857 as a permanent museum, the V&A’s relationship with the royal family endures today.
As of 2018, Kate Middleton is the first royal patron of the museum and its relationship with British culture has been maintained throughout the years, too. In 1973, the V&A invited British rock band Gryphon to perform, being the first museum in the country to host a rock concert.
How much is it, and when is it open?
Free! Genuinely. As with other national British museums, entry to the general permanent exhibitions is free of charge, and for the first time since the pandemic hit in 2020, the museum is back to being open seven days a week, with masks encouraged, but by no means mandatory.
Some exhibitions will cost, however. Ranging from £14 to £20 depending on the exhibition; their new exhibition, Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear, run in conjunction with Gucci, is £20 a ticket. Children under 11 can go free, and students and disabled individuals are charged slightly less at £17.
How to get there
The nearest station to the V&A is South Kensington London Underground station, serviced by the Circle, District and Piccadilly lines, just a five-minute walk away. Local buses run nearby too, with routes in and out of central London.
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