Victoria and Albert Museum

Get Cultural at the V&A Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum is a veritable Victorian treasure trove and is the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance with works of incredible beauty on display.

Highlights

  • Stroll along the Fashion Gallery which offers regular special exhibitions related to the world of fashion; including displays relating to the history of fashion from the middle ages to the present day.
  • Chuckle at the infamous Tippoo’s Tiger – you can’t visit the V&A without seeing this bizarre mechanical barrel organ in the form of a flailing armed soldier being mauled to the death by a tiger.
  • Marvel at the Jewellery Gallery showcasing 3,500 pieces of jewellery encompassing over 3,000 years of design.

What to see and do

Tickets to the Victoria and Albert Museum give you access to the following areas:

The Porter Gallery

You might wish to start your V&A visit by heading to the Porter Gallery which is located next to the Grand Entrance. This area is the home of temporary contemporary art and design displays. As you approach via the lobby, look upwards and admire the stunning Chihuly blown glass chandelier in delightful shades of blue and green.

The Cast Courts

The Cast Courts feature casts and plaster reproductions of some of the world’ most famous sculptures, unlike most other museums which feature original masterpieces. As you enter the first room, you will see the enormous facsimile of Michelangelo’s David. 

The ethos of the Cast Courts is to allow all visitors the chance to witness great works of art without having to travel. The Cast Courts are also a fascinating opportunity to learn about the history of art and sculpture.

The Japanese Collection

The Japanese Collection, which comprises around 50,000 objects, has grown over a very long period and is a reflection of the huge interest in Japanese culture seen since the middle of the nineteenth-century onwards and dates right back to the origins of the museum. 

The Toshiba Gallery showcases many of the great highlights of the Japanese Collection, including ceramics, armour, kimonos, and metalwork.

The John Madejski Garden

With its lovely fountained pool in the centre, the John Madejski Garden is the perfect place to have a refreshing sit-down, enjoy a spot of lunch or simply use as a handy meeting place while admiring the surroundings.

Did you know: (5 interesting facts!)

  1. The V&A was initially called the South Kensington Museum. Queen Victoria gave it her name in 1899. However, she would have preferred to call it ‘The Albert Museum’ after her beloved husband.
  1. The Victoria and Albert Museum was the first museum in the word to include an on-site public restaurant.
  1. One of the oldest pieces of furniture in the collection is a desk (or writing box) that was made in 1525 and belonged to Henry VIII.
  1. Queen Victoria was reportedly shocked by the full-frontal nudity of the cast of Michelangelo’s ‘David’. A large fig-leaf was fabricated and placed on the figure whenever important personages visited. The fig leaf is not presently in use.
  1. During World War II, a section of the V&A was used as an RAF canteen. Some of the galleries were converted into temporary classrooms for Gibraltarian evacuees.

History

1851 – This was the year of the Great Exhibition in which Sir Henry Cole, who was involved as a director, began a new museum originally called the Museum of Manufacture. It housed many items from the Great Exhibition.

1857 – Queen Victoria opened the South Kensington Museum at the current site.

1858 – Late night openings began which were made possible with gas lighting.

1899 – The foundation stone of the Aston Webb building was laid by Queen Victoria who gave the museum its present name.

1909 – Edward VII and Queen Mary opened the Aston Webb building.

1973 – The V&A became the first museum in the UK to host a rock concert on its grounds.

1988 – A notorious and highly successful advertising campaign by Saatchi and Saatchi described the museum as ‘an ace caff with quite a nice museum attached’.

2018 – The Duchess of Cambridge became the first royal patron of the V & A.

Facilities and accessibility

Free wifi is available across the V & A. 

There is free on-site parking for visitors with mobility issues. The museum is also wheelchair accessible, and wheelchairs are available at the Reception Desk. 

Many exhibits have an audio transcription, and an induction loop is also available. There is a Quiet Room for visitors with autism, and it is also used as a prayer room and space for breastfeeding mothers.

Refreshments are available at the Garden Cafe and the Courtyard Cafe.