London

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

Of the many museums in London, there were three that I found myself returning to again and again. The first two I’ve already written about – the British Museum and the Natural History Museum – and today I’m finally getting around to sharing about the third, the Victoria and Albert Museum.

To be honest, I almost didn’t visit this museum at all. I’d heard the Victoria and Albert Museum was focused on fashion and decorative arts, two things I know very little about, and at least in the case of fashion, also care very little about. Case in point – I once had someone in London ask me if my scarf was an Alexander McQueen and the only reason I knew he was asking if I was wearing something designer was because he’d used the word an instead of from. I literally know nothing about fashion. (By the way, my scarf was definitely not an Alexander McQueen, unless Alexander McQueen sells scarves on the sale rack at Target…then maybe.)

But I was wrong about the Victoria and Albert Museum. While the V&A does house the world’s largest collection of decorative arts and design, there is a lot more to see here than just medieval corsets and ancient fancy teacups. If it weren’t for my friend Emma who convinced me to visit my first time, I might never have known how many cool, non-fashion related things there are to see inside this museum.

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM

The Victoria and Albert Museum is located in London’s “museum quarter” in South Kensington. Both the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are only steps away, making it easy to visit all three museums in the same day if you’re limited on time. You’ll need a lot more than a day to see everything in any of these museums, though, as they all (especially the NHM and V&A) have way too much on display to see it all in an afternoon. (This is why I return so many times to my favorite museums. Well, that and the fact that they are free!)

If you enter the Victoria and Albert Museum via the main entrance on Cromwell Road, you’ll get to see something special before you even enter any of the galleries. Hanging from the ceiling in the lobby is a gorgeous blown glass chandelier sculpted by none other than Dale Chihuly. (Okay, so I know one designer. We actually went to see his exhibition at the Halcyon Gallery one year.)

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

PAUL AND JILL RUDDOCK GALLERIES

Just to the right of the main lobby is one of the prettiest spaces in the Victoria and Albert Museum. I love the light and open space in the Paul and Jill Ruddock Galleries almost as much as I love the renaissance sculptures displayed in them. Sculpture has always been my favorite art to see inside museums, mostly because I don’t need a background in art history to understand and appreciate sculpture, but also because sculptures are just more fun to photograph. My favorite room of the Paul and Jill Ruddock Galleries was the first off the lobby (pictured above) featuring Giambologna’s Samson Slaying A Philistine at its center.

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

THE CAST COURTS

Okay, so the real David by Michelangelo might not be displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, but if you can’t make it to Florence to see the real one, what’s the next best thing? A life-size replica. (You guys can blame Cory if you’re offended by that photo showcasing the, umm…veins in David’s hands? I asked him if it was funny or inappropriate and he said funny, so I went with it!)

Famous naked men aside, the Cast Courts in the Victoria and Albert Museum are not to be missed. Located on the first floor behind the Paul and Jill Ruddock Galleries, the Cast Courts completely take over two large galleries. You can wander through both galleries getting up close and personal with the plaster casts of famous (mostly Italian Renaissance) sculptures and monuments, but to get a good look at everything as a whole, make sure you head up to the second floor balcony which overlooks the Cast Courts from above.

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

DOROTHY AND MICHAEL HINTZE GALLERIES

Focusing on sculpture in Britain, the Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries showcase sculptures ranging from mythological creatures to portrait and funeral busts. (Still can’t get over the weirdness that was the “death mask” trend. Gives me the heebie jeebies.) These galleries have windows looking out onto the courtyard garden which you should definitely step out onto after looking through the galleries.

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

NATIONAL ART LIBRARY

The National Art Library in the Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the world’s largest reference libraries for the fine and decorative arts. Anyone can enter after presenting an ID, but all bags need to be left in the cloakroom. Books can be requested and referenced within the library, but not taken from the premises. If you plan to visit the library to study rather than just to see or photograph it (it’s a seriously gorgeous library!), I recommend checking out the V&A’s library rules here first.

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

PHOTOGRAPHY GALLERIES

Every time I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum, it seemed there was always a new photography exhibition to see. Some were ticketed, others were free, but my favorite was one called The History of Photography. An expansion on the V&A’s permanent, smaller exhibit on the same subject, The History of Photography reminded me why I took up my photography hobby in the first place. Seeing others’ pictures always inspires me to improve my own.

I just recently heard that the V&A has plans to introduce a new Photography Centre in 2018 which will double the size of their current exhibition space. This is great news since I always found the photography galleries at the V&A to be disappointingly small, especially considering that the museum has a collection of 500,000+ images, most of which never make it out of storage. It’ll be very exciting to see what they are able to display with a much larger space!

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

ROOMS & HALLS IN THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM

With so many things to see inside them, sometimes it’s easy to forget that many of these museums we are blessed with in London are works of art themselves. The Victoria and Albert Museum is a perfect example of this. A mixture of Victorian and Edwardian in design, the architecture both inside and outside of the V&A is exquisite. Wandering in and out of rooms and down long hallways, I think I took just as many photographs of the museum itself as the things in it every time I visited. I mean, you know you’re in a fancy place when the museum cafe could rival many of the cathedrals you’ve visited.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is open daily from 10am to 5:45pm, except for Fridays when it stays open until 10pm. Admission is free, but donations are accepted in boxes throughout the museum if you want to show your support. Some temporary exhibitions charge a fee for entrance. To see a list of the V&A’s current exhibitions, visit their site here.

Victoria and Albert Museum: Website
Address: Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

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Exploring The Victoria And Albert Museum In London

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  • Chadwick

    Like you, I’d avoided the V&A because… well, how many corsets and Ming vases do you need to see before you’re bored?
    Then, last year there was a photography exhibition there, and… wow! You wander among the sculptures (and yes, you don’t need an art degree to pick a favourite) in an incredible building. I like to pick a random gallery and just see what’s there. Usually, you’re not overwhelmed with endless corsets and Ming vases; the exhibits are carefully chosen and you can just amble through, stopping only if something catches your eye. It’s not stuffy or do-goody.
    But the building itself is possibly the real star. It is beautiful. Extravagant and restrained at the same time. Absolutely worth a visit for the architecture alone.
    BTW, the Pink Floyd exhibition on at the moment is fantastic if you’re a fan. Allow 3 hours – there’s a lot in there. (3 hours isn’t enough to read every caption and look at every display, but it’s enough to see a bit of everything).

    • I really appreciate that you left such a thoughtful comment. Thank you!

      I just googled the Pink Floyd exhibition you mentioned and man, do I wish I could see it. We moved to Singapore a year ago, so I’m going to have to miss that one. I still find it hard to pay to enter Singapore’s museums after having most of the best ones offered free in London. Really wish the rest of the world would catch on to that!

  • Lisa Michele Burns

    This museum looks so beautiful! Like you, I never went because I assumed it was far too fashionable for my Aussie style. The tearooms especially look so orante, I love looking at the buildings in museums rather than the actual museum items :)
    Also I love the shot of the couple sitting on the bench…not so much ‘that’ David shot haha.

    • Haha! I’m going to print that one on an extra large canvas to give to you for your birthday! You’re welcome! :)

  • That cafe is absolutely amazing. The whole museum is. Like you said, the architecture alone is a work of art.

    • Isn’t it? I’ve never seen a fancier museum cafe before! I’d feel like I should be wearing my ballgown to lunch there! :)

      • Right? I could definitely see that being a ballgown type of place! Also, I think it would be fun to own a ballgown, though I’m not usually the ballgown-wearing type.