Many of London’s major museums and galleries have announced their reopening dates, with the National Gallery leading the charge opening on 8 July…
Lead image: Tate Britain © Tate
National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
The National Gallery is London’s first major gallery to reopen, flinging open the doors on 8 July with a raft of strict new health and safety measures in place.
There are new one-way art routes, two-metre social distancing rules, additional cleaning, hand sanitiser stations at regular intervals, and visitors are encouraged to wear face coverings. Plus, visitors must book in advance, even to see the main collection, which remains free, in order to control numbers and help reduce contact.
The gallery’s lead exhibition, Titian: Love, Desire, Death, has resumed after the gallery was forced to close three days into its run and will now be on show in the Main Floor Galleries until 17 January 2021 (tickets are £12).
You can also see Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age in the Ground Floor Galleries until 20 September 2020.
Somerset House, the Strand
Somerset House will re-open part of the site to visitors on 16 July 2020, including the critically acclaimed free exhibition, Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi, which has now been extended throughout the summer. Capacity will be limited, however, so you must book a timed ticket slot in advance.
The popular museum shop also returns, both on-site and online, and the on-site cafe, Hej, will also reopen daily from 12pm-6pm, although for takeaway only.
Somerset House’s digital programme, I Should Be Doing Something Else Right Now, which launched in April, will continue online throughout the summer. The ‘Mushrooms’ virtual tour will also remain accessible to all online
The magnificent neo-classical courtyard, The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, will also reopen daily from 10am-7pm with additional seating and tables. The fountains will reopen at a later date and the phenomenally popular Summer Series of live music and the Film4 Summer Screen pop-up cinema, will sadly not take place this year.
Tate, various locations
Tate plans to reopen all four of its galleries – the Tate Britain and Tate Modern in London, as well as Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives – on 27 July 2020.
As a result of the closure, some of Tate’s upcoming exhibition programme has been modified. Tate Modern will reopen with Andy Warhol and Kara Walker’s Hyundai Commission Fons Americanus, while Tate Britain will reopen with Aubrey Beardsley and Steve McQueen’s Year 3 installation.
Some exhibitions have been rescheduled to 2021, while talks, workshops, performances and film screenings will be replaced with a new programme of online events for the duration of this year.
To manage numbers and ensure everyone can keep a safe distance from each other, all visitors to Tate, including members, will need to book a timed ticket online in advance at tate.org.uk.
Design Museum, Kensington
The Design Museum reopens on 31 July 2020 with an exciting new exhibition, Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers, which was originally due to open on 1 April.
The exhibition, which explores the hypnotic world of electronic music, will feature the museum premiere of The Chemical Brothers’ sensory spectacle by creative studio Smith & Lyall, featuring
mesmerising visuals for the Grammy Award-winning track Got to Keep On.
Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers marks the first phase of the Design Museum’s post-lockdown reopening with new COVID-secure measures in place, including reduced capacity, mandatory face masks, social distancing, enhanced cleaning and extended opening hours. Entry to the exhibition will be by advance ticket only (released at 9am Friday 10 July).
While there you can also see the Fountain of Hygiene, winner of a global competition launched in March by creative studio Bompas & Parr to rethink our approach to hand sanitising (open 31 July until 30 August in the Weston Mezzanine).
Other exhibitions at Design Museum have been postponed or cancelled. Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street has been postponed until 2021 and the Prada: Front and Back exhibition, programmed to open in September 2020, has sadly been cancelled due to Covid-19. Beazley Designs of the Year will open as planned in October 2020.
Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
The iconic Old Royal Naval College, part of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site, reopens on 13 July 2020, offering public access to its buildings and expansive grounds.
The magnificent Painted Hall, King William Undercroft and interpretation gallery will reopen with limited tickets each day, so advanced booking is recommended. The grounds will be open daily from 7am-7pm, while The Painted Hall, King William Undercroft, Visitor Centre Shop and Ticket Desk will be open from 10am-5pm.
The Chapel will be open from 10am-2pm for private prayer, but the Victorian Skittle Alley will remain closed until further notice.
Some summer events will still take place in the grounds, including Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, re-imagined to bring exciting outdoor arts to Greenwich and east London from 28 August to 12 September, and The Luna Cinema, which will return with its open-air
cinema in August.
A free virtual tour narrated by Tara Fitzgerald (Game of Thrones; Belgravia) is also available.
Cutty Sark & Royal Museums Greenwich
Royal Museums Greenwich is reopening Cutty Sark, the world’s last-surviving tea clipper, on 20 July 2020, with plans to reopen the National Maritime Museum, Queen’s House and Royal Observatory Greenwich in a phased approach over the summer.
Launched in 1869 from Dumbarton, Scotland, Cutty Sark made her name as the fastest ship of her era during her time in the wool trade, reaching the record-breaking speed of 17 ½ knots (20 mph/32kmph) between London and Sydney.
Some restrictions will initially be in place to ensure the safety of visitors and staff, including pre-booked time slots to cap visitor numbers, a one-way system, protective screens in the ticket hall and gift shop, sanitiser stations and the closure of some interactives. Tickets must be booked in advance at rmg.co.uk.
Initially cafés will not be open, but toilet facilities will be available to visitors with enhanced cleaning in place.
Royal Observatory Greenwich
Royal Museums Greenwich has announces that the Royal Observatory Greenwich north side will reopen on 3 August 2020. Royal Museums Greenwich also aims to reopen the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House over the summer.
Visitors can find out how the observatory became the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the first state-funded scientific institution of its day. Stand on the historic Prime Meridian of the world, where East meets West, see John Harrison’s ground-breaking timekeepers up close, and explore the home and work of the Astronomers Royal.
Safety measures include hand sanitisers available throughout the site, signage to ensure guests are observing social distancing, face masks encouraged while on site and a maximum of four people per group.
Initially the cafe will not be open, but toilet facilities will be available to visitors, with enhanced cleaning regimes in place. Protective screens will be at retail points and some interactives may not be accessible. Audio guides will also be unavailable as part of the enhanced safety measures.
Opening hours will initially be 10.30am-4pm and tickets must be bought in advance to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
Horniman Museum & Gardens, Forest Hill
The Horniman will reopen its doors from 30 July 2020 offering up an extended run of the Permian Monsters exhibition (till 3 January 2021), alongside the popular galleries of natural history, world cultures and musical instruments.
The main café will reopen at the same time, and additional facilities such as toilets, Café Kiosks in the Gardens and the Sunday Market have been open for some time. The Horniman Gardens have remained open throughout the museum’s 134-day closure.
Some attractions will remain closed initially, including the Aquarium and Butterfly House, and some interactive exhibits have been removed or covered up.
Social distancing and other safety measures will be in place throughout the Museum, including hand sanitisation stations, an enhanced cleaning regime, updated signage and a one-way visitor route.
Visitors, including members, will need to pre-book for a free, timed entry slot at horniman.ac.uk (available from Monday 20 July).
Whitechapel Gallery will reopen to the public on 14 July 2020 with the spring exhibition programme extended through the summer.
The gallery will reopen with a second chance to see the major exhibition Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium (extended until 30 August), and Carlos Bunga’s commission Something Necessary and Useful (extended until 6 September 2020).
In the Eye of Bambi, ”la Caixa” Collection of Contemporary Art, selected by Verónica Gerber Bicecci, has been extended until 9 August, The Return of the Spirit in Painting is now on until 27 September, and Rachel Pimm: Plates is on until 9 August.
Artists Film International will continue to be presented online, but will also return to the Zilkha Auditorium on weekends only. The Whitechapel Gallery’s late night festival Nocturnal Creatures will resume in 2021.
New health and safety measures include timed entry slots (booked in advance at whitechapelgallery.org), a one-way system around the gallery, social distancing markers, PPE equipment for front-of-house staff (with customers encouraged to wear face masks), hand sanitiser around the building and regular additional cleaning.
All live events at the gallery have sadly been cancelled and there will be no group bookings. The Koenig Bookshop will be open with limited capacity and Townsend restaurant will be adapted to accommodate social distancing and the introduction of a range of deli products.
Royal Collection, various locations
Royal Collection Trust is reopening the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, The Queen’s Galleries (in London and Edinburgh) and Royal Collection Trust shops on 23 July 2020, as well as Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
New COVID-secure safety measures include timed tickets to manage visitor numbers (booked in advance at rct.uk), social distancing markers, one-way routes in some areas, staff to manage the flow of visitors, hand sanitiser stations, enhanced cleaning, perspex screens at all till points and payment by card only. The Royal Collection Trust has acquired Visit Britain’s We’re Good to Go mark.
At The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, the George IV: Art & Spectacle exhibition has been extended until 1 November 2020. This will be followed by the new exhibition, Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace, running from 11 December until February 2022. Japan: Courts and Culture, originally due to open in June 2020, is now expected to open in spring 2022.
The Palaces, Galleries and shops will open five days a week for the foreseeable future, remaining closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The Royal Collection and Palaces can also be enjoyed digitally via rct.uk
Japan House London, Kensington
Japan House London, the contemporary home for Japanese culture in the UK, will reopen its Ground Floor on 9 July 2020, although the exact reopening date for AKIRA restaurant is yet to be announced.
Guests will be able to enjoy art installations, displays of quality craftsmanship, uniquely Japanese refreshments like the iced matcha latte, and even travel advice.
Inspired by Japanese social etiquette (called omotenashi), all staff will be wearing face coverings designed by acclaimed Tokyo textile designer Takahashi Hiroko, whose kimono designs are on display at the V&A as well as Japan House. The designer face coverings will also be sold exclusively in The Shop.
You can also get creative at home and download a free worksheet and template to make your own face covering at home, and join an exclusive ‘step-by-step’ face covering workshop with Takahashi Hiroko herself on 27 July.
During lockdown, Japan House London launched its first virtual exhibition of the work of illustrator and storyteller Anno Mitsumasa and hosted exclusive events in partnership with the V&A and National Geographic.
The cultural destination has received Visit Britain’s We’re Good To Go accreditation, with new COVID-secure measures including a one-way visitor route, hand sanitiser on entry and exit and two-metre social distancing. There will be no public access to toilet facilities, unfortunately.
Tickets must be booked in advance at japanhouselondon.uk
The V&A, Natural History Museum & The Science Museum, South Kensington
The three museums on Exhibition Road – The V&A, The Science Museum and The Natural History Museum – are staggering their opening dates and times to reduce footfall on Exhibition Road and ease visitor flow at nearby underground stations.
The Natural History Museum will reopen on 5 August, initially reopening Wednesdays to Sundays only from 11am-6pm. To help manage the number of people in the museum at any one time, capacity will be reduced and you’ll need to book a free timed ticket in advance online at nhm.ac.uk (members will have priority booking 48 hours before it opens to the public and fast-track entry).
The vast majority of the museum’s galleries will be open alongside its five-acre gardens and food and drink will be available to buy onsite (transactions will be contactless where possible, but cash will be accepted).
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is planned to open with brand new winning images in October, when the ice rink will also open. The major new exhibition, Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature, will open in winter.
The Science Museum will reopen on Wednesday 19 August 2020 with free, timed tickets available to book online now to manage visitor flow. Opening times will remain 10am-6pm daily, and The Energy Café and main shop will be open.
The Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery and Exploring Space to Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries will be open, while the temporary exhibition Driverless: Who is in control? has been extended to January 2021.
Touring exhibition Brass, Steel and Fire and a special commemoration of the Hubble Space Telescope’s 30th anniversary will open in the autumn, while the UK’s first significant exhibition exploring carbon capture technologies will now open on 31 March 2021. The Science Museum’s newly refurbished IMAX: The Ronson Theatre is scheduled to open in December 2020.
The V&A will reopen on 6 August 2020. Initially opening Thursday to Sunday each week, the V&A will reopen in phases. From 6 August, visitors will able to enjoy all of the ground floor collection galleries including the Medieval & Renaissance Gallery, the Cast Courts, The Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art and the much-loved Fashion Gallery, as well as the Europe 1600–1815 galleries on lower ground floor.
The first and second floor collection galleries will reopen on 27 August (August Bank Holiday weekend), including the The William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery, Theatre & Performance Galleries, and the Photography Centre as well as the Paintings, Tapestries and Silver Galleries.
The critically acclaimed exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, which closed just two weeks into its run, will reopen on 27 August and run until 25 October (timed tickets are now available online), alongside the museum’s Filthy Lucre installation.
Forthcoming exhibitions will open as follows: Bags: Inside Out from 21 November; Renaissance Watercolours (now free) from November 2020; Epic Iran from 13 February 2021; Design: 1900–Now from February 2021; and Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser from 27 March 2021.
The museum’s stunning Raphael Court will reopen on 14 November following a major redevelopment.
The Tower of London, the City
The Tower of London will reopen on 10 July, marking the event with a special lowering of the drawbridge to officially welcome back visitors.
Safety measures include plenty of hand sanitiser dispensers and a new one way route. While the Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) can’t yet restart their famous tours, they will be on hand to answer any questions about the palace and life at the Tower during lockdown.
The Crown Jewels exhibition will reopen, with social distancing measures actually making it easier to see the remarkable treasures close-up, without the crowds. The Tower’s ravens are also present.
Booking online is essential.
Tower Bridge, the City
Right next door to the Tower of London, Tower Bridge reopens on 4 July 2020 with walk-up visitors welcome until 19 July. From 20 July, tickets must be booked in advance.
Social distancing measures mean that visitors can discover the rich history of London’s defining landmark – and step onto the iconic glass floor – without the usual queues.
The one-way route begins in the North Tower, where you’ll discover how the bridge was built and the story of the famous divers. Next to explore is the West Walkway, looking out at views of London, before stepping onto the Glass Floor where you can look down onto the Thames.
After walking down the South Tower, visitors can follow the blue line commemorating the workers of Tower Bridge before checking out the Victorian Engine Rooms.
Residents of Southwark, Tower Hamlets and City of London can visit Tower Bridge for only £1 by purchasing a community ticket (standard tickets from £10.60 for adults and £5.30 for children).
Opening hours will be extended from Monday 20 July to support staggered visitor flow between 10.30am and 7pm.