Discover the best art galleries with SWR

The best places in the south west for art lovers

18 February 2022

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Spread your wings this spring

Are you a fully-fledged art aficionado? Then you’re sure to understand the creative skill and patience that goes into every work or piece. If visiting galleries and unleashing your creative side in workshop activities sounds just the ticket, then this is the guide for you.

South Western Railway have put together a comprehensive list of some of the best galleries, museums, and painting workshops in both London and the South West, all of which are easy to get to by train.

Best galleries for art lovers in London

London is an art-lover’s paradise – and you never need travel far before you spot the work of some creative genius or other. So, let’s take a look at some of the best galleries the UK’s capital has to offer:

The National Gallery

As one of the most popular attractions in London, The National Art Gallery is a firm favourite for many locals and tourists alike. Housing Britain’s national collection of European paintings, this stunning gallery features work from well-known artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Picasso, and Raphael, to name a few.

Interior of the National Gallery

The impressive domed building that holds The National Gallery can be found in Trafalgar Square and is easy to reach using London’s public transport links. Simply hop on a seven-minute tube ride via the Bakerloo line from London Waterloo to Charing Cross Station.

The National Portrait Gallery

If you’ve got an eye for portraiture, then visiting the world-famous National Portrait Gallery is a must. Home to a superb collection of portraits featuring some notable historical figures, including Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth I, this gallery is an art-lover’s dream. The National Portrait Gallery is scheduled to close in 2023, so there really is no time like the present!

Interior of the National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is just an eight-minute tube journey on the Northern line from London Waterloo.

Tate Britain

Holding an impressive collection of art – perhaps most notably from the world-renowned J.M.W Turner – Tate Britain is one of the largest museums in the UK. The spectacular displays show how art has developed in Great Britain from Tudor times to the present day will leave you feeling proud to be British!

Interior of the Tate Britain

Tate Britain is just an 11-minute walk from Vauxhall station.

Tate Modern

More of a modern art fan? Then the Tate Modern is certainly worth a visit! Described as the jewel in the crown of London’s modern art galleries, this venue has earned its reputation as the most popular in the entire world. Featuring work from some of the best artists around today, this is a gallery that can be explored time and time again.

Interior of the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern

Getting here is easy, as Tate Modern is only an 11-minute stroll from London Waterloo.

Hayward Gallery

Renowned for its Brutalist architecture, this contemporary art gallery brings something a little different to the art scene. The thought-provoking and fascinating work on display, from a wide range of adventurous and influential artists from around the world is sure to leave you feeling inspired!

Exterior of the Hayward Gallery

The Hayward Gallery is a six-minute walk from London Waterloo.

Best art galleries for art lovers in the south west

While London is considered the country’s cultural capital, the south west has plenty of fascinating galleries all of its own. If you fancy something a little different from the Big Smoke, then why not hop on a train and check these out?

Southampton City Art Gallery

With over 5,000 works on show, from the Renaissance to the present day, Southampton City Art Gallery promises hours of entertainment. Soak up the tranquil atmosphere of the gallery as you examine thousands of beautiful paintings, sculptures drawings, photographs and films, before stopping for a bite to eat and a warming drink at one of the nearby cafés.

Interior of the Southampton City Art Gallery

Southampton City Art Gallery is just an eight-minute walk from Southampton Central.

Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum

Heading to Bournemouth on your next adventure? With four galleries, Russell Cotes Art Gallery & Museum is bursting with fascinating pieces of art. Set in an impressive Victorian manor, you can explore the mansion’s majestic rooms as you admire each work adorning the walls. And the beautiful views don’t end there! Outside, you’ll find breathtaking panoramic vistas of Bournemouth’s coastline.

Interior of the Russell-Cotes Museum and Art Gallery

To get here, catch the train to Bournemouth Station, before hopping on the number 13 bus for a quick 9-minute journey.

Royal Albert Memorial Museum

Combine your passion for art with your love of museums and take a trip to Royal Albert Memorial Museum, which holds diverse collections ranging from antiques and fine art, to natural history and world cultures. Be sure to check out the museum’s large zoology collection, which includes invertebrates and mammals from around the world. As one of the largest and most visited museums in the South West, it’s well worth a visit!

Sea Forest exhibition at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery

The museum is just a two-minute walk from Exeter Central.

Best places in the south west to paint

Have all those galleries left you feeling inspired? We’ve found some of the best places in the South West where you can unleash your creative side with a spot of painting:

Richmond Park

Known to have inspired the likes of English Romantic painter JMW Turner, the incredible scenery and woodlands at Richmond Park will soon get your creative juices flowing. Stretching over 2,500 acres and home to hundreds of deer, there’s plenty to get your right-brain motivated.

'England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday', JMW Turner, 1819 - Tate Britain
'England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday', JMW Turner, 1819 | Image: Tate Britain

To get here, catch the 371 or 65 bus from Richmond, getting off at the Petersham entrance.

Jurassic Coast

If you’re inspired by magnificent open spaces and beautiful scenery, then the Jurassic Coast is a perfect place to start. Why not begin by observing and sketching along the coastal path, or set up an easel in a secluded spot for the perfect masterpiece?

'St Oswald's Bay', Caz Scott
'St Oswald's Bay', Caz Scott

The Jurassic Coast begins in Exmouth, East Devon, and stretches for 95 miles to Old Harry Rocks, in Dorset. Since it’s so vast, there are plenty of nearby stations to take your pick from, including Weymouth, Bournemouth, and Exeter.

Regent’s Park

Leave the hustle and bustle in the streets of London behind, and step into the tranquil abyss that is Regent’s Park. The beauty of the park offers more than enough reason to visit, so it’s the perfect spot for setting up an easel and painting to your heart’s content. Why not bring along a friend or partner, and combine your afternoon of painting with a relaxing stroll?

'May, in the Regent's Park', CA Collins, 1851 - Tate Britain
'May, in the Regent's Park', CA Collins, 1851 | Image: Tate Britain

To get here, catch a train to London Waterloo, before hopping on a 16-minute tube via the Jubilee line to Regent’s Park station.

With so many galleries and museums just waiting to be explored in London and the South West, why not start planning your trip today? Explore our flexible range of ticket types to find the right one for your journey. Make the most of cheap train tickets to your chosen gallery by going off-peak, and those with a Railcard could save even more.