THE Best London Museums - A Top 10

A list of the 'best' London museums will always be subjective - according to the compiler's individual taste and interests. Here we've attempted to be objective, picking what we consider to be the London's top 10 museums, based on annual visitor numbers and international importance of the collections. We've cheated a little by listing the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery together, but as they're both fabulous and located next door to each other, why choose just one?

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The museums in this list offer world-famous artefacts, plenty of contrasts, and are all child-friendly - families will find children's trails and quizzes, interactive features and even activity backpacks to borrow.

What's more, except for special exhibitions, entry to all these great London museums is completely free. This means that you can more easily justify several shorter visits rather than trying to 'do' a museum in one mammoth session.

All in all, if you only have time to visit one or two museums in London, you won't go wrong if you choose from this list.

Return to London's museums grouped by theme

The Top 10 of London's museums

1. British Museum

A truly world-class museum and nothing less than a chronicle of world civilisation. The Assyrian, Egyptian and Greek collections are the most famous, but there is also an important British and European collection, superb galleries devoted to Asia, Africa, Islamic Art and the Americas, plus surprises such as the fascinating Wellcome Gallery of Living and Dying.

2. Tate Modern

Modern art displayed in the extraordinary spaces of a former power station by the Thames. Even if you're not a big fan of the art, a visit to the Tate is not to be missed simply for the experience of walking down into the former turbine hall.

3. Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A)

A huge and wonderful museum with something for everyone, whether your interests are contemporary fashion and celebrity, medieval religious artefacts, or the history of photography. A fantastic place to get lost in and make your own discoveries.

4. Science Museum

Astonishing science in a spectacular museum! From the history of science to the future of energy, from steam engines to space travel, plus interactive displays and hands-on exhibits for all ages, flight simulators and a 3D IMAX cinema.

5. Natural History Museum

The most important natural history collections in the world, impressively displayed in a gorgeous 19th century building. The dinosaurs are everyone's first port of call, but the massive blue whale, minerals and gemstones, and the new Darwin Centre Cocoon experience are big draws too.

The Victoria & Albert Museum (3.), Science Museum (4.) and Natural History Museum (5.) are adjacent to one another in South Kensington's 'museum quarter'. Immerse yourself in the collections of one of these great institutions, or pick a gallery or two from each (you'd need a photographic memory and roller skates to get around all three in a day!).

6. Imperial War Museum

A major collection tracing how war shapes lives, focusing on the First and Second World Wars, the Holocaust and conflict since 1945, plus excellent displays of weapons and military vehicles.

7. Museum of London

A fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable journey though London's history and cultural heritage - from prehistoric times to the present day - with numerous exhibits that will help to illuminate everything else you see in the city. A dynamic, modern museum that is always rewarding to visit.

8. British Library

One of the world's largest libraries with extraordinary holdings including illuminated manuscripts and sacred texts from around the world, and many major treasures such as Shakespeare's First Folio, Leonardo da Vinci's notebook and Mozart's handwritten catalogue - all on display in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery.

9. National Gallery & National Portrait Gallery

Two of Europe's great galleries displaying Britain's collection of Western European paintings from the 13th to 19th century (including numerous masterpieces by Rembrandt, Titian, Vermeer, the Impressionists...), and portraits of famous Britons from the Tudors to celebrities of the present day.

10. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

This World Heritage Site houses fantastic and internationally important collections relating to seafaring, navigation, astronomy and time measurement, and incorporates a planetarium and the Prime Meridian of the world - where time begins!