The Victoria & Albert Museum is the world’s leading museum of art and design. It was originally established in 1852 as a place to house the objects that were on display from the great exhibition held in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. It’s since grown into an expansive collection including fashion, metalwork, furniture, ceramics amongst others.
MUMMY’S GIN FUND SAYS:
The best possible advice would be to try and get your head around the map before you go.
You’ll notice there’s a small hand icon that pops up frequently which refers to an interactive area within a gallery. These can range from trying on costumes on in the Theatre and Performance galleries to brass rubbing in the Medieval and Renaissance rooms.
Best toilets with least queuing time are along 33 corridor. Avoid using the main entrance toilets. They may have a lovely contemporary piece of artwork on the wall but it’s not worth the wait. They are small, pokey and uncomfortable.
Once in the museum head to the Sackler Centre (level 0, Henry Cole Wing – nearest entrance is from Exhibition Road via Blavatnik Hall) to ask about kid’s activities. They have the trails and backpacks there.
Theatre and Performance (level 3) is a must for anybody. They have two costumes on display from the theatre production ‘The Lion King’, as well as Kylie Minogue’s dressing room and try-on theatrical costumes.
Also on level 3 is the Jewellery gallery. There’s a design your own ring interactive and tiaras on display. A little tip: the tiaras are in a central case which if you position yourself correctly you can see yourself reflected wearing it.
A stroll through the British Galleries (level 2 & 4) you’ll be able to try on ruffs, gauntlets, petticoats and hoops. Furthermore, explore the well preserved and conserved interiors from the Norfolk House Music Room (level 2), it’s a great backdrop for photos!
Although most objects, even the ones on open display are not for touching there are a few touch objects, these are labeled throughout.
Photography is generally permitted with a few exceptions. There’s none allowed within a few select exhibitions and no flash photography in the Jewelry gallery.
Be careful at South Kensington tube station if you have a buggy. There is no step-free access and at least two sets of stairs to reach street level. People are usually helpful but it can be rather stressful at busy times.
Use the ‘What’s On’ feature on their website. Select the date you are visiting on their calendar and find out what’s happening to get the most of your visit.
And finally, be aware of how busy the café can get. During the summer months and half term there can be queues to get into the café and seating can be problematic. On days such as these it usually starts to get busy from 11.30 and begins to settle around 14.00.
Address: V&A South Kensington, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
Opening hours: Daily from 10.00-17.45 and 10.00-22.00 on Fridays.
About: Things that are on everyday for kids are a selection of trails and backpacks.
The bespoke backpacks are fantastic. They take you around various galleries and you learn about different objects. For example, the Time Traveller backpack takes you around the Medieval and Renaissance rooms where you try on medieval style hats as shown in old tapestries, mirror write with a quill like Leonardo da Vinci and try making a fake wax seal with a makeshift signet ring.
The latest addition is a sensory backpack aimed at autistic children and adults which can be requested from the Sackler Centre desk.
Every Sunday there is a free drop in design activity, which varies from week to week.
Special events are listed on their website. Their ‘Make it’ workshops are a great experience for both parents and children – advanced booking essential! (small fee applicable)
Every Saturday there are pop up performances within the museum. Their performances change regularly.
In the school holidays the Imagination Station is available with a set craft activity to complete. Ask at the main Information Desk or check the website for their time and location.
To coincide with the opening of their new Exhibition Road Quarter in Summer 2017 the V&A launched a new on site game that can be accessed via their free WiFi from a smartphone or tablet anytime within the museum. Become one of eight characters from the V&A’s history and uncover secrets in a treasure hunt around the museum. The game can be found here with no need to download, just streamed from the website. Children can visit the Sackler Centre and receive stickers as a reward for completion of the trail.
Lastly, the V&A has a number of ever-changing artists in residence who host free, drop-in open studios which show an interesting insight into such areas as ceramics and digital art.
Playground: None as such, but the John Madejski Garden in the centre is good for sitting around and there is a water feature with water jets where children are permitted to wade and paddle.
Cafe: There are three cafés. The main one inside on the ground level is the original Victorian cafe boasting decor from Morris, Poynter and Gamble. It serves a vast selection of food hot and cold with the availability of children’s portions (self service).
The second café is located within the garden and focuses mainly on cold snacks and sandwiches. The garden and main cafe open daily from 10.00 – 17.15 on Friday they open late until 21:30.
Saturday & Sunday.
Highchairs are available. Prices are what you’d expect for the area (about £4.50 for a sandwich).
You are free to take packed lunch, although eating is prohibited in the galleries. There is a lunchroom in the Sackler Centre. If you ask any member of staff they’ll point you in the right direction.
The garden is also a great place for a homemade picnic.
Toilets: There are are lots of toilets. Baby change facilities are in most disabled toilets. The disabled facilities at the main entrance are located in the lift lobby which is often hidden from view.
Pram / wheelchair / mobility friendly: Yes, but complicated at times. You are able to access the whole museum but due to the V&A’s ‘unique’ design, finding the right lift can be a mission.
Some floors are split in half, and you’ll find floor 2 directly below floor 4 and Level 1 is commonly known as ground level. My best advice is to print out the maps beforehand from their website. They ask for £1 donation on site.
There’s a buggy area at the main entrance. To the right as you enter, next to the cloakroom. Prams are left at the owner’s risk.
A Cloakroom is available but there is a small charge.
Parking:The nearest parking bays are in Prince Consort Road and Queen’s Gate. (Prices roughly £4 per hour)
Exhibition Road that runs alongside the museum is a restricted zone and no visitor parking is permitted.
Train: Victoria: 1.4 miles, 29 mins walk
Gloucester Road: 0.6 miles, 12 min walk
Phone: 0207 942 2000
Email: [email protected]
Review by Kristen Johnson