The clock tower housing London’s Big Ben, Palace of Westminster.
THIS TRIP IS NOT CURRENTLY SCHEDULED
Over the years, Amy has developed and operated trips to a variety of destinations including this one, but not all trips are offered every year. If you are interested in joining a scheduled departure of this trip in the future, please send us an email and let us know. Click to send us an email or use the form at the bottom of this page.
We can organize and operate this trip as a private group departure with a minimum group size of 8 persons.
Start organizing your private London art adventure here.
Best time to travel: April-May for springtime weather
Best gateway city: London!
London is endowed with an extraordinary collection of museums. The city’s role as a center for worldwide trade contributed to this astonishingly rich cultural heritage, as did Britain’s rule of a far-flung empire which at one time included one fourth of the world. Immerse yourself in this treasury of art! Begin with the history and architecture of London reveling in the monuments that are a feast for the eyes—the Houses of Parliament, the iconic tower that houses Big Ben, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Walk in the footsteps of artists, including Canaletto, Monet, Van Gogh, Turner, and Whistler all of whom recorded the visual pleasures of London in their paintings. Delve into the extraordinary richness of London’s museums including the National Gallery (renowned for its Renaissance art—especially the works of Raphael and Rubens), the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum (which house the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon in Athens and the Rosetta Stone from Egypt). Continue your museum exploration with visits to the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, the Royal Academy of the Arts (founded in 1768 by artists Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and Benjamin West), the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern. Enjoy a carefully choreographed menu of museum experiences with time to discuss, deliberate and devour the rich testimony to the creativity of humans. Refuel at small private collections including Sir John Soane’s Museum and the Courtauld Gallery. Experience the joy of art in situ at St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and the church at St Martins in the Fields. Free evenings invite you to add your own theater experiences or concerts.
London ranked third in Trip Advisor’s list of the top 24 destinations in the world for 2013. Come see what the buzz is all about!
Day 1: London’s Masterpieces through an Artist’s Eye
Overnight in London
Step into the mythical landscapes of London. Walk in the footsteps of artists like Canaletto, Monet, Van Gogh, Turner and Whistler who captured London on their canvases. Today we visit Westminster Abbey (founded in 1065), the Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower (which houses the great bell known as Big Ben). We’ll travel along the Thames to “The City”—the oldest part of London. Here, St. Paul’s Cathedral stands on the same spot where the first church dedicated to St. Paul was erected 1,400 years ago. The current cathedral, built between 1675-1710 by Sir Christopher Wren, is at the heart of London. Explore its vast main floor and the Whispering Gallery in the dome. If you wish, climb to the Golden Gallery at the very top of the dome for a panoramic view of London! Continue to the Tower of London, home to the Queen’s Crown Jewels and the White Tower (built by William the Conqueror). Contemplate the fate of the “princes in the Tower” (the two young sons of King Edward IV) recounted by Shakespeare in the play The Life and Death of King Richard III. Across the Thames, the reconstructed Shakespeare’s Globe Theater invites you to step into the year 1599 and explore the “life of Shakespeare, the London where he lived, and the theatre for which he wrote.” Reflect on and digest today’s feast for the eyes over a welcome dinner this evening.
Canaletto’s The Thames from Somerset House Terrace towards the City, Royal Collection.
Day 2: Art Treasures at Trafalgar Square
Overnight in London
Focus today on the art gems nestled around Trafalgar Square. Begin at the National Gallery which houses Britain’s national art collection founded in 1824. Savor masterpieces by Raphael and Rubens, among many others, in galleries devoted to art from the 13th to 19th centuries. The collections are particularly strong in Dutch, early Renaissance Italian, and 17th century Spanish painting. Explore ArtStart, the new interactive touch-screen guide to the collection. Next door, the National Portrait Gallery has a rooftop cafe—a perfect place to refuel over lunch with a view of London. Then enjoy the portraits of the people prominent in English history. You’ll find works by Sir Joshua Reynolds and see depictions of Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, Richard III, Henry VI, William Shakespeare, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, Joan Collins, and more! At the neighboring Church at St Martin in the Fields you can make a brass rubbing following in a centuries-old tradition for visitors to English churches. Nearby is Covent Garden, a great spot to contemplate Eliza Doolittle and consider which play in the theater district has caught your eye. Evening on your own tonight.
Day 3: The British Museum in London’s “West End”
Overnight in London
The British Museum, established in 1753, is the oldest public museum in the world. Created to house the collections of Sir Hans Sloan (1660-1753), the museum now has 94 galleries with 2.5 miles of exhibitions and collections that range from ancient Egypt to Assyria to modern Japan. In 2011, the British Museum won the prestigious Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year for its project entitled, A History of the World in 100 objects. See the objects online and listen to the program and get more information on the BBC website. Begin with a group tour which will give you an overview of the building and the collections. You can then continue exploring in-depth with the group, with a multimedia tour, or on your own. Consider touring the special exhibition as well. Take the time to absorb this treasure house which includes the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon (Athena’s temple on the Acropolis in Athens), and the Rosetta Stone from Egypt used by Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832) as a primer for deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. Engage in an impromptu discussion about art and its relationship to geography, setting, and contemporary culture as well as the role of collectors and museums in preserving, exhibiting and interpreting the creations of people from throughout the world.
The Norman Foster designed “Great Court” at the British Museum.
Day 4: Royalty and Art in “St James”
Overnight in London
Today tour the art collected by the Royal family. The recent expansion of the Queen’s Gallery was “the most significant addition to Buckingham Palace in 150 years.” Opened by Her Majesty The Queen as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations, the Queen’s Gallery hosts changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection. Enjoy an exclusive introductory talk with a Royal Collection Trust expert or curator, and then tour the collection. This afternoon, visit the Royal Academy of Arts, founded by King George III in 1768. The 34 founding members of the Academy included Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and Benjamin West. The Royal Academy is an independent, privately-funded institution led by artists and architects. Current members include Norman Foster and David Hockney. At the Royal Academy, tour the impressive collection which includes major works by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Turner, Constable, Leighton, Sargent and Hockney. Here, in addition, you’ll find Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child! Refuel and refresh at Fortnum and Mason founded in 1707 by one of Queen Anne’s footmen (and a grocery store since 1788), or splurge at the Ritz Hotel opened in 1906 and named for Cesar Ritz.
Day 5: The Private Collections
Overnight in London
Slip into two of the lesser known museums of London. Begin at Sir John Soane’s home and museum. Soane lived from 1753-1837 and his house (featuring multiple levels, trompe l’oeil ceilings, and domes) is encrusted with his abundant collection that includes classical sculpture and Hogarth’s celebrated series, The Rake’s Progress. At Soane’s museum you step directly into the world of an 18th century London collector. Known as the “best house-museum in the world,” the Soane Museum just won a major award for its project, Opening Up The Soane (OUTS). Savor this special experience. Continue today’s art feast at the Courtauld Gallery housed on the banks of the Thames in Somerset House, a spectacular 18th century building and the former home of the Royal Academy of Art. The Courtauld Gallery has been called “one of the finest small museums in the world.” The collection ranges from the early Renaissance to the 20th century and is particularly renowned for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Feast your eyes on masterworks by Michelangelo, Rubens, Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Matisse and Dufy from the collections of Samuel Courtauld and Count Antoine Seilern.
Day 6: Victoria and Albert Museum in London’s “South Kensington”
Overnight in London
Marvel at the riches of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the “world’s greatest museum of art and design.” Enjoy a private group tour of the museum and then revel in having the time to savor your favorites from the collection. Peruse the furniture gallery spanning 600 years and featuring outstanding pieces by Thomas Chippendale, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Charles and Ray Eames. Wander through the museum’s British Galleries which house “the most comprehensive collection of British design and art on view anywhere in the world.” Also on view are the seven paintings executed by Raphael between 1483-1520 which depict his full-scale designs for tapestries made for the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. There are hundreds of hands-on exhibitions throughout the galleries to enjoy as well as the state-of-the-art Sackler Center for arts education. Refuel at lunch together in the Cafe at the V&A. The cafe occupies the three rooms that formed the first museum restaurant in the world created as a “showpiece of modern design, craftsmanship, and manufacturing.” Enjoy an afternoon on your own in London. Choose to linger at the V&A or visit the nearby Saatchi Gallery for the latest in contemporary 21st century art. Stroll past a spectacular Art Deco building—the Institut Francais! London abounds in choices for your free afternoon.
The Pre-Raphaelite painting Love Among the Runis by Edward Burne-Jones at the Tate Britain.
Day 7: Tate to Tate–the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern Museums
Overnight in London
Treasures of the past and the present await at the two Tate Museums. Begin the morning at the Tate Britain which houses masterworks from the 16th century to the present. Enjoy the newly renovated museum, the spectacular new exhibition 500 Years of British Art, and a special exhibition on Henry Moore. Artworks by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Constable, Hogarth, Turner, William Blake, James McNeill Whistler, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Angelica Kauffman, Tony Cragg, David Hockney, and Dame Barbara Hepworth provide a rich feast for the eyes and an immersion in centuries of creativity in Britain. After lunch, travel by boat down the Thames to the Tate Modern museum adjacent to the Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and across the Millennium Bridge from St Paul’s Cathedral. Tour the Tate Modern as a group, and then return to the galleries on your own with insights from the museum’s award winning multimedia guide which provides a “great introduction to modern and contemporary art with artist interviews, interactive games and art-inspired music.” You can watch videos of the artists at work, hear what major artists have to say about their own work, and listen to the music that inspired them. Also on view at the Tate Modern is a special exhibition on Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. Our art feast in London culminates with a farewell dinner tonight.
Day 8: Departure Day
Transfer on your own to the airport for your onward connections.
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Houses of Parliament (Photo credit).