Christmas in London

Ferne Arfin  30 October 2019

London’s top museums at Christmas

London sparkles and scintillates at Christmas. If you visit for the holiday attractions, don’t be so dazzled by the twinkly lights that you overlook other winter pleasures. Make some time to enjoy the special winter exhibitions in the best museums and galleries just round the corner from all the razzle dazzle.

When night falls by three in the afternoon after it has been grey and drizzly all day, it can often be hard to find the positives in a London December. But, set your expectations to a different timbre and you might be surprised. There is something irresistible about spending a lazy few hours in a museum and then emerging in a darkness streaked with holiday glitter, Christmas lights reflected in rain slicked streets and the buzz of seasonal excitement in the air. And if, this year, all the Brexit acrimony stirred up by Britain’s December 12 snap election takes some of the sheen off the holidays, a few hours in a quiet museum where no one is arguing politics, may be just the thing to put you back in a Christmas mood.

If, like a lot of people, you visit London only once a year, to shop, see the holiday decorations or take in a Panto, you probably end up cold, damp, tired and overdosed on festivity. Why not, instead, plan a few “time out” breaks in Central London’s museums. Several of the city’s best museums and galleries are within easy walking distance – or not more than a couple of bus stops from the best Christmas displays, Pantos and family shows. They are mostly free or have special, inexpensive exhibitions scheduled for the holiday season.

Here’s what’s on at the top London museums and galleries closest to all the holiday action this year

  • The Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington   Fans of 1960s fashion will enjoy the museum’s much praised Mary Quant exhibition, sponsored by the King’s Road. a shopping destination as iconic as the designer herself. See 400 items, some from Quant’s personal collection and never seen before. Whether you’re old enough to remember that hair, those eyelashes, those brightly colored tights from the first time around or you’re curious about what a wild child your granny was, you’ll no doubt enjoy this show, on until 16 February. The V&A shop is also a good place to pick up a few extra Christmas pressies.

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  • The National Gallery  Right in the heart of London’s West End on Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery is Featuring Gauguin Portraits until January 26. Step out of a drizzly winter day into the sizzling colors of Gauguin’s South Pacific. At £22, it’s a pricey exhibition but worth it as this is the world’s first Gauguin exhibition devoted exclusively to his portraits. You can save a few pounds by booking online. Also at the National Gallery,  Leonardo: Experience a Masterpiece is a total immersion experience that promises to allow you to enter the artist’s mind to view his painting “The Virgin of the Rocks” in a new way. The exhibition, on from November 9 to January 12, extends over several galleries and multiple effects before ending in with the painting itself in an imagined chapel. Tickets are £18 for weekdays, £20 on Saturday and Sunday, or a little less if purchased in advance, online.
  • The National Portrait Gallery  Just around the corner from the National Gallery, you can ponder all sorts of historic and contemporary portraits for free or take in some special exhibitions. The Pre-Raphaelite Sisters explores the contributions of the unsung women of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. 170 years after the first  Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood exhibition, this show looks at the contribution of 12 key women, described in the exhibition subtitle as, Models, artists, makers, partners and poets . Tickets for the show, on until January 26, are available online. And once again,   The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize Exhibition features photographic portraits from around the world, by professionals and amateurs, all prize winners. Tickets are £5 or £6 with a donation.
  • The London Transport Museum in Covent Garden will definitely be the place to take a breather with over- tired and over-excited children. Santa’s on hand from the end of November to January 5. Kids can try to spot him in a vintage vehicle or earn a badge for finding his hideaway den, complete with holiday lights and comfy cushions to chill out. There’s an adult admission charge of £16.50, good for unlimited entry for a year, but the good news is kids go free.
  • The Wallace Collection, just a few blocks north of Oxford Street, is a wonderful free museum that few visitors ever discover. It’s collection includes the “The Laughing Cavalier” by Frans Hals and Fragonard’s “The Swing”, and all sorts of exotic and European art, furniture and objects collected in the 18th and early 19th century by a private collector. The unusual winter exhibition, from December 4, just in time for a break from Oxford Street shopping, is Forgotten Masters: Indian Paintings for the East India Company. It’s a group of exquisite and little known paintings commissioned from Indian artists for officials of the East India Company. If you miss it at Christmas, the exhibition is on into April.

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  1. […] the Brits may be stiff competition. Visiting London at year-end, too? See this excellent article on the city’s museums all dressed up for Christmas (via The View From […]

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