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Victoria and Albert Museum|
Cromwell Rd, SW7
Tel: 020 7938 8500
Nearest Tube: South Kensington
This museum, better known as the V&A, was built after the Great Exhibition of 1851 and is named after Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. The museum specialises in the decorative arts, and the displays are divided into two galleries one for Art and Design, the other for Materials and Techniques.
There are an amazing 4 million-odd pieces in the collection and most of them are on display in galleries that total over 7 miles long. This means that it is pretty much impossible to see everything in one visit, so your best plan is to decide what you want to see, find out where it is, and head for it.
Some of the most famous exhibits include the massive 16th century Great Bed of Ware which measures 8ft by 8ft and which was mentioned in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night; Salvidor Dali's sofa in the shape of Mae West's lips; and the 12 inch platform shoes that Naomi Campbell fell off on a Paris catwalk. And one of the most popular exhibitions is a wonderful display of several paintings by Raphael, known as the Raphael Cartoons.
The displays of art and design are set out according to nationality, and include Europe, India, China, and Japan. And there is an excellent and informative costume exhibition. You can also see jewellery, musical instruments, silverware, ironwork, arms and armour, furniture - you name it, it's there.
In addition the V&A houses Britain's national sculpture collection which includes the largest collection of Renaissance sculpture outside of Italy. As well as original pieces there are plastercast replicas of numerous Classical and Renaissance sculptures, including Michelangelo's David.
All in all there is something for everyone, which makes this museum one of the most popular in London. It is open daily, but times do vary. An adult ticket is around £5, but there are lots of concessions available, and if you arrive after 4.30pm entry is free.
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