Tate Modern ★★☆
Fantastic modern art museum in a massive former power plant, with blockbuster exhibitions and a fab gift shop and bookstore
If you're into contemporary art, this place rocks.
The Tate’s famed international modern art collection occupies a huge renovated former power station on Bankside, just across the pedestrian Millennium Bridge from The City and St. Paul’s.
The collection includes art from the Impressionists to today—from Rodin’s The Kiss and dozens of pieces by Picasso, Matisse, and van Gogh to Dalí, Giacometti, and Modigliani, and later works by Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, Henry Moore, Julian Schnabel, Frank Stella, Anselm Keifer, and a host of other contemporary-era artists.
It also puts on showstopping major special exhibits of the sort the entire global art world talks about.
My father was an artist, so I run into this lot plenty, and I have honestly overheard the following conversation:
"I'm headed to London next week."
"Oh yes, why?"
"To see that exhibition at the Tate."
That was it. The entire purpose of a transatlantic trip was just to go to a temporary show at this one museum.
(Awesome gift store, too.)Tours
It's really down to how much you enjoy modern art.
The midly curious will likely spend at least an hour making their way through the permanent collections.
Fans will spend a solid 2-3 hours.
I honestly once came in here intending to tour the entire museum and instead ended up spending several hours just in the main entrance hall, marveling at a single temproary exhibit (Eliasson's the Weather Project, in the first picture at the top of the page) until the place closed. Had to come back the next day to see the museum proper.
Make sure to budget a good 20–30 minutes (and probably a lot more money than you expected) in the awesome book store and gift shop.
Though admission is already free, don't forget to use your London Pass to get a free audio guide (normally £4.50).