Hitting The Sights At The Right Time: London Attractions And Their ‘Magic Hours’

Among the many reasons to visit London is the enticing prospect of being able to check out its world-class museums, art galleries and major historical venues. There is a downside to this, however – you can be guaranteed that a good many other visitors coming to London when you do will have exactly the same idea.

And what does this mean? Only that when you choose to take in the Tower of London or the Tate Modern you may discover you’re joined by the world and his wife. So to how to avoid this scenario? Easy said than done, right? Well, no; not if you know how.

Favourable times of the year

To start with, if you can, don’t plan to visit the capital’s big-hitter venues during the school holidays. Granted, should you be wanting to come with the kids in tow this may be a difficult proposition, but if you’re looking to visit as a couple on a short-break, say, it’ll likely be far more manageable. Even if you can’t avoid joining the masses in the city when the kids have broken up, don’t fear; all’s not lost.

Tower of London

Another thing to consider is the season you choose for your visit. We’re now moving into the busiest time of year – the ‘peak season’ if you will – April to October. Generally speaking, you’re bound to encounter fewer crowds at the major attractions in the so-called ‘off season’ for tourists; in other words, the colder times of year. In fact, the Christmas holidays – despite them being a kid-friendly time of year – don’t see reams and reams of people at the biggest London venues (many of which you’ll find easy to reach should you base your stay somewhere central in the city, such as one of the Shaftesbury hotels, like the Shaftesbury Premier London Paddington)

The magic visiting hours

The following days and times then to visit London’s biggest and most popular attractions are:

  • British Museum – weekdays: 10-11am/ weekend: late opening on Friday evenings
  • Imperial War Museum – weekdays: 10-11am on Mondays or after 5pm every day/ weekend: shortly before closing on Sundays
  • National Gallery – weekdays: Wednesdays; not least because the comprehensive collection of Room A’s only open that day/ weekend: 10-11am; thereafter the place’ll be thronging with crowds
  • National Portrait Gallery – weekdays: Monday mornings are best/ weekend: as with next-door-neighbour the National Gallery, 10-11am is the quietest time
  • Natural History Museum – weekdays: in the afternoons (apart from Fridays); mornings are often favourites for school groups/ weekend: 10-11am or late afternoon-early evening; that is, 5pm to closing time
  • Tate Modern & Tate Britain – weekdays: Fridays are best for both; otherwise 10-11am any weekday/ weekend: Sundays are best, but note the Tate Modern remains open late on Saturday, something few are aware of
  • Tower of London – weekdays: just after opening on Tuesdays/ weekend: just after opening on Saturdays or Sundays
  • Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) – weekdays: in the mornings/ weekend: just after opening on either Saturdays or Sundays.
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