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Best 10 museum exhibitions in London 2021

From blockbuster shows at iconic museums to exhibits in quirkier spaces, catch the best museum exhibitions in London on now.
Two women wearing trainers, sitting on the pavement against a brick wall.
Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street at the Design Museum. Credit: Michaela Efford. Image courtesy of the Design Museum.

Many museums in London have new and exciting exhibitions to enjoy across the city.

Museums are due to reopen on 17 May at the earliest, following the proposed easing of coronavirus restrictions. Check back nearer the time for confirmation and be aware that some venues listed may still be closed after that date. You may also need to book tickets in advance, even if entrance is free.

New London exhibitions at museums

1. Chintz: Cotton in Bloom at the Fashion and Textile Museum

Who doesn’t love a bit of chintz? The Fashion and Textile Museum turns the spotlight on the bold and bright patterned fabric that shot to prominence in Europe during the 18th century at Chintz: Cotton in Bloom. Discover how the trend spread across the world though more than 150 examples. 18 May-11 Sep

2. Constance Spry and the Fashion for Flowers at the Garden Museum

Celebrate the career of floristry royalty at the Garden Museum this summer, with Constance Spry and the Fashion of Flowers. Featuring more than 100 items taken from Spry’s personal archives, this exhibition rearranges the work of the flower decorator who led the floral designs for the Queen’s coronation. 17 May-26 Sep

3. Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street at the Design Museum

From the humble trainers of yesteryear to sought-after retro designs and high-fashion treads, Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street proves there’s more to our casual footwear than simple soles. The Design Museum’s latest exhibition combines design and fashion, with a special focus on iconic styles and the growing resale market. 18 May-24 Oct

4. Nero: Man Behind Myth at the British Museum

Marked in history as a tyrant who executed his own mother and wife, Nero has a trouble legacy, but is it actually true? Find out at Nero: Man Behind Myth at the British Museum, the first UK exhibition on the fifth Roman emperor that brings together new research, historical artefacts and stories from his 14-year rule. 27 May-24 Oct

5. Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits at National Maritime Museum

Enjoy a look at key figures in the British monarchy, as more than 150 portraits go on display at the National Maritime Museum. Run in conjunction with the National Gallery, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits covers 500 years of history, and showcases works by major artists and photographers such as Cecil Beaton and Annie Leibovitz. 28 May-31 Oct

For even more royal portraits, check out Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I, at neighbouring Queen’s House. 17 May-Sep

6. Our Future Planet at Science Museum

Get a glimpse into the scientific breakthroughs that are helping to combat climate change at the Science Museum’s free exhibition Our Future Planet. Whether protecting ancient forests or processes trapping carbon dioxide, find out how scientists are attempting to make the planet greener. 19 May-2022

Returning museum exhibitions in London

7. Refugees: Forced to Flee at the Imperial War Museum

Put yourself in the shoes of families fleeing from war over the past century as you view recordings, photographs, pieces of art and documents telling stories of thousands forced to make tough decisions due to conflict in Refugees: Forced to Flee at the Imperial War Museum. 19 May-13 Jun

You can also spot the museum's new installation Ai Weiwei History of Bombs, which explores international migration and the human capacity for destruction. 19 May-5 Sep

8. Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Tumble down the rabbit hole like never before during The V&A’s immersive exhibition on the history of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Expect plenty of theatrics, as Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser charts the story’s 157-year history, from illustrations in the first published edition to references in modern culture. 22 May-31 Dec

Alternatively, see another returning exhibition, Bags: Inside Out (19 May-16 Jan), which showcases iconic bags through the ages; or see new exhibition Epic Iran that spans 5,000 years of Iranian culture, art and design (29 May-12 Sep).

9. Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature at the Natural History Museum

Where do wonders of the natural world end and mythical beings begin? The Natural History Museum’s exhibition Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature looks into how animals use almost magical behaviours and techniques to attract mates or to confuse predators in order to make a hasty escape. 17 May-3 Jan 

While there, discover sensational images of the natural world by professional and amateur photographers in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. 17 May-1 Aug

10. Hidden London at London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum’s unique Hidden London exhibition takes you beneath London's streets, into abandoned Tube stations. Learn how these now disused spaces were once functioning stations, and discover how they played a crucial role in wartime efforts during the Second World War. You'll uncover posters, photos and even a recreated ticket hall! 17 May-autumn 2023

Discover more cultural highlights with the capital's top art exhibitionsAnd don't forget to download the Visit London app for more exhibitions and things to do in London on the go.

If you're not yet able to visit London, check out virtual exhibitions and museum tours from home.