The Tate Modern was the U.K.'s most-visited attraction in 2018, drawing 1.4 million people to its galleries in one year alone. The vast museum, which is centrally located on Southbank in London, welcomes visitors of all ages and backgrounds, even those who aren't that into modern art. Because the museum is free (and features one of the city's best outdoor viewing decks), it's worth an inclusion in any London itinerary.
History and Background
The Tate Modern, part of the Tate group of British art museums, is located on London's Southbank, overlooking the Thames. The original part of the museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, is housed in the former Bankside Power Station and first opened to the public in May of 2000. The museum was expanded with a ten-story addition, known as the Switch House or the Blavatnik Building, opened in June 2016, offering additional galleries, dining spaces, gift shops and members-only areas. Over 40 million people have visited the museum since it opened in 2000.
The Tate Modern collects and displays modern and contemporary from 1900 until present day. The museum boasts a vast permanent collection and features numerous rotating temporary exhibitions throughout the year, including exhibitions in its expansive Turbine Hall, which often houses interactive displays by contemporary artists. The museum also features special events, including film screenings, curator talks and lectures.
What to See and Do
Following the extension in 2016, there's a lot to see in The Tate Modern and it's best to approach the museum depending on your preferences. Check the website for current special exhibitions, which typically require a timed ticket booked in advance, but the permanent collection, housed over several floors, is also worth exploring (and it's free). Many famous artworks hang in the galleries, from Roy Lichtenstein's "Whaam!" to Pablo Picasso's "The Three Dancers," and the rooms are laid out by period and theme. In the Blavatnik Building, the rotating "ARTIST ROOMS" gallery displays the works of one contemporary artist for several months (past artists have included Jenny Holzer, Bruce Nauman, and Joseph Beuys).
Those who aren't as interested in art can still enjoy the Tate Modern, particularly the 360-degree public viewing deck on the10th floor of the Blavatnik Building, which boasts amazing views of the Thames and London. The museum also has several cafes and restaurants, including fine dining eatery Level 9 Restaurant and the more casual Kitchen and Bar Restaurant. Level 9 Restaurant serves dishes inspired by the artists and works in the Tate, which makes for a memorable dining experience for art lovers.
How to Visit
The Tate Modern is located between Wateroo and London Bridge stations along the south bank of the Thames. There are several nearby Tube stations, including Waterloo, Southark, London Bridge and Bank, and visitors can also opt to take the Thames Clipper boat to Bankside Pier. The Tate-To-Tate Clipper runs between the Tate Britain at Millbank and the Tate Modern every 30 minutes. There is no parking near the Tate Modern, so it's best to arrive via public transportation or taxi. If you want to walk, the museum is connected to the north bank of the Thames, where you'll find St. Paul's Cathedral, by the pedestrian-only Millennium Bridge.
Admission to the Tate Modern (and all other Tate museums) is free for visitors. Special exhibitions and events will require a separate paid ticket and it's always recommended to book in advance online, especially for popular exhibits. Tate members can access all exhibits for free with a membership card.
The museum is open every day of the year, except for December 24–26. Look for "Tate Lates" events on the last Friday of the month, where the museum stays open past its regular hours with talks, music and workshops, as well as pop-up bars and food stands.
Tips for Visiting
Leave large bags and luggage at home or in your the hotel when visiting the Tate Modern. The museum, which operates a search policy on all bags when entering the building, doesn't allow large bags, wheeled suitcases or boxes inside the museum. If you don't have a choice but to bring along your luggage, store big items at the left luggage facility in nearby Waterloo station.
The Tate Modern is accessible to visitors with disabilities and all entrances are accessible for those in a wheelchair or scooter (or with a stroller). The museum also has wheelchairs available to borrow for free. Visitors with a disability can also receive concessionary admission to special exhibitions.
Free activities are available for families every day and the museum regularly offers events for young visitors, which are often held on holidays. Check the Tate Modern website for upcoming kid-friendly events and workshops.
While it might not make sense for every visitor to purchase a Tate membership, finding a friend in London with a membership card can be a great way to experience the museum. Not only are exhibits free to members, but there are two members-only rooms in the museum, one in each building. The members room in the original side of the museum has an outdoor patio overlooking the Thames that is the perfect place for a cup of tea during a visit to the Tate Modern.
When you are finished exploring the Tate Modern, head a few blocks east to Borough Market for lunch or a snack. The outdoor market is a good pick over one of the tourist-filled chain restaurants along Southbank.