Tate Britain

A museum dedicated to the celebration of great British artists.

TravelCurious Tip

Follow the BP Walk Through British Art for an eye-opening chronological tour, taking you from works old to new through a variety of artists, themes and movements.

Refined tastes

Sir Henry Tate was a sugar refinery owner and self-made millionaire, known for his generosity and as a great promoter of health and education. In 1889 he donated his collection of contemporary paintings to the government with the stipulation that a suitable venue be made available for displaying the art; he donated a further £80,000 for the construction of such a place. Thus the National Gallery for British Art, or the Tate Gallery, was born.

While the Tate Gallery originally housed modern art from Britain and Europe, after the opening of Tate Modern in 1994 the old Gallery shifted its focus to solely British historical and contemporary art, becoming the Tate Britain we see today.

Best of British

The building itself is a striking piece of neoclassical architecture, with an imposing portico entrance, domed ceiling and beautiful atrium. The museum offers an unparalleled view of British art from 1545 to the present as well as spotlights on specific artists, including acclaimed temporary exhibitions such as the recent Barbara Hepworth retrospective.

The works of the great landscape artist J.M.W. Turner are housed in the Clore Gallery, where visitors can study his magnificent oil paintings and unfinished sketches up close; the mystical visionary paintings of William Blake also have their own space in the Blake Room, which comprises one of the most important collections of Blake in the world. Visceral works by Francis Bacon, sunny David Hockney and the enigmatic 17th century Cholmondeley Ladies all vie for your attention. Tate Britain offers the very best of British art - and it’s entirely free.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in London
Westminster Abbey
One of London's oldest and most magnificent churches, with a long-standing connection to the royal family.
The Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster is the political heart of the United Kingdom and the meeting place for the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
St Ermin's Hotel
The St. Ermin's hotel is a converted grade-II listed Victorian mansion block and legendary landmark in British spy history in the city of Westminster.
MI5 Security Service Headquarters
The headquarters of the United Kingdom's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency.
Caxton Bar
The Caxton Bar in the St. Ermine's Hotel has been the stage for some of the most significant acts of espionage to take place in London over the last 100 years. Also frequented by Ian Fleming who wrote Bond books while drinking here.
Secret Intelligence Service MI6
The British foreign intelligence service.

Related Tours

Australian Legacy in London: Private Tour in a London Taxi

Experience the rich historical ties between London and Australia on an exclusive private tour, riding in style in an iconic London Taxi. Delve into the stories that connect these two lands, from convict ships to war memorials.

On your private tour, you will: 

  • See the Australia House and hear the historical significance of this iconic building which serves as Australia's diplomatic heart in London, embodying a century-old connection between the two nations;
  • Find out about the planning and execution of the First Fleet's voyage to Australia under the leadership of Captain Arthur Phillip on 13 May 1787 and the crucial role of Lord Sydney;
  • Pass by St Mary-le-Bow Church, frequented by Sir Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of Australia, and uncover the intriguing tale of the Bow Bells;
  • Discover Aldwych Theatre, the iconic venue hosting the first Australian musical, showcasing cultural exchange and artistic synergy and its key role during WWI;
  • Drive along The Cenotaph, standing as a solemn tribute to the sacrifice of Australian soldiers who fought alongside their British allies in both World Wars;
  • See the Tate Britain at the former site of Millbank Prison, which housed many convicts bound for Australia during the transportation era;
  • Stop at Caxton Hall where in 1916 the ANA held the first annual Corroboree on January 26, known as Foundation Day at that time;
  • Visit the Australian War Memorial in Hyde Park, a solemn reminder of the contributions and sacrifices made by Australians in conflicts throughout history, ensuring their legacy is honored far from home. 

Begin this adventure with a convenient pick-up from central London in an iconic London Taxi. Sit back and relax as you’re transported to your first stop, the iconic Australia House. Here, you’ll delve into the historical significance of this grand building, which has stood as a symbol of Australian heritage in the UK for over a century.

Next, visit St Mary-le-Bow Church, an important landmark where Sir Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of Australia, used to attend and learn about his voyage in 1787 with the First Fleet. Discover the tales of this journey and its role in the founding of Sydney, sponsored by Lord Sydney himself. You’ll also learn about the annual Australia Day celebrations held here, commemorating this event.

Continue your exploration at the Aldwych Theatre, where the YMCA built the Aldwych Hut in 1917, serving as a social centre for Australian soldiers during WWI. Your guide will share intriguing stories about the lives of these soldiers and the theatre’s historical significance. Your tour takes you to Whitehall, where Australian and New Zealand soldiers marched in 1916, a poignant prelude to the site where the Cenotaph now stands. Hear the moving accounts of their journey to Westminster Abbey for a solemn service followed by celebratory gatherings.

An external visit to Tate Britain reveals its surprising past as the site of Millbank Prison, from where many prisoners were transported to Australia. You’ll see a plaque commemorating this significant chapter in history and learn about the lives of those who made the arduous journey. At Caxton Hall, uncover the rich history of this venue, which hosted key events for the Suffragette Movement and, in 1916, the first annual Corroboree by the ANA on what was then known as Foundation Day.

A final stop at the Australian War Memorial offers a moment of reflection, honouring the bravery and sacrifices of Australian soldiers. Gain deeper insights of the impact of war on both nations.

Conclude your tour with a return to your hotel, enriched with the stories and landmarks that highlight the bond between London and Australia. This experience is not just a tour but a journey through time, connecting two nations through their shared history.  

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