Visitor's Guide To Tate Britain Art Gallery in London
This page will provide you with the details that will help you to organise a trip to the Tate Britain: how to get to the Tate Britain, contact details (address, telephone number and official website), photos of the art gallery, what's on there, ticketing and advice on how to get the most from the gallery.
Do not confuse the Tate Britain with the nearby Tate Modern museum. The two are separate buildings but interlinked (see below for details on a boat that will take you between the two galleries that sit on different sides of the River Thames), but they offer different experiences. The Tate Modern is a large building specialising in modern art. The Tate Britain gives more of an overview to art from different periods (see below for more details). To find out more about what to expect from the Tate Modern, see our Guide to the Tate Modern in London.
Tate Britain overview: what makes the gallery so special
The Tate Gallery (otherwise known at the Tate Britain) offers a showcase of both historic and contemporary British art, from 1500 to the present day. It acts as the more classic counterpart to its younger sibling, the Tate Modern, that sits at the other side of the River Thames and specialises in international modern art.
It is the home to the Turner Prize - a yearly art prize that awards up and coming, new British artists. It has a reputation for courting controversy and pushing artistic boundaries. For example, past exhibits have included Damien Hirst's shark in formaldehyde and Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' (her own bed exhibited exactly as it would be found in her bedroom - complete with tights, teddy bears and empty vodka bottles). The prize features four artists under the age of fifty. They are selected by a jury with the nominees announced in May. The show of their work opens in September and the winner is announced in December (find out more on the Official Tate Gallery Turner Prize page).
The permanent collection offers the opportunity to see whole exhibition rooms dedicated to one artist. For example, there is a whole room of Tracey Emin's work and a whole room of work by Sam Taylor-Wood.
The gallery is popular for its retrospectives that it often offers as temporary exhibitions. Past retrospectives have included Lucian Freud and Juan Muñoz.The Tate Gallery is part of a group of galleries around the UK, including the Tate Modern (link to page), Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives. It was the first of the galleries to open. It opened in 1897. The gallery was founded by Sir Henry Tate - an English sugar merchant and philanthropist. He was one half of what is now Tate and Lyle sugar company. The Tate Gallery building stands on what was once the site of Millbank Prison. The building was designed by architect Sidney RJ Smith.
Permanent Exhibitions: The permanent exhibitions at the Tate Britain are free to visit. Amongst these collections, you will find artists including Whistler, Hepworth, Francis Bacon and David Hockney. You can walk amongst the rooms and find art split into different eras - in one space you might be enjoying historic art and in the room next door you will find contemporary work from the likes of Damien Hirst.
Temporary Exhibitions: You will also find exhibitions that change on a regular basis (sometimes these are free to visit and sometimes you will need to buy a ticket - see the official website for more details). Past exhibitions have included everything from Watercolours to the Romantics to retrospectives on particular artists. To find out what will be happening during your visit, it is best to check out the Exhibitions page on the Official Tate Britain website.
Tate Late: The gallery covers a wide period on British art (1500 - present-day). However, in recent years they have aimed to attract a younger audience to the gallery. Examples of their efforts include a dedicated room in the gallery called 'Art Now', showcasing art by up and coming new artists all year round. It also opens late on monthly Friday evenings with a night called Late at Tate Britain, when there is half-price admission, a bar and live music (to find out more check out the Official Tate Gallery Tate Late page).
If you are feeling slightly overwhelmed when you arrive at the gallery, you can go and pick up a map from the information desk. Tell the staff at the information desks know about any particular artists or styles of art that you are interested in, and they will give you some advice on where to head to.
Every day: 10:00 - 18:00
First Friday of the month
Close time: 21:30
Tate Britain closes later on the first Friday of every month. This is for an event called 'Tate Late' - see above for more details.
How to get exhibition tickets
For the permanent exhibitions at the Tate Britain (see above for more details) you will not need to buy tickets - entrance to the exhibitions is free. However, if you plan on checking out one of the temporary exhibitions a ticket will be necessary. Here are your options if you would like to book tickets for the Tate Britain:
Box Office: You can buy tickets at the gallery. The box office has the same Operating hours as the gallery (see above).
Website: On the official website (see link below) there is section for booking tickets online.
Website: Official ticket purchase page on the Tate Britain website.
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7887 8888
Email: [email protected]
Website: Official Tate Britain Website
Tube: Pimlico (Blue Line / Victoria Line)
When you exit Pimlico Station you will find yourself on Lupus Street. You will see the large Vauxhall Bridge Road in front of you. Head towards Vauxhall Bridge Road and cross it. Turn right down Vauxhall Bridge Road and look out for John Islip Street on your left. Walk down John Islip Street for less than five minutes and you will see the Tate Britain on your right. The whole walk will take you no more than ten minutes.
Tate Britain Café:
In you are on the look-out for something more laid back and affordable, you can check out the café called Tate Britain Café. Here you can sit in sleek surroundings (there are small black tables and a self-service area) and enjoy teas, coffees, pastries, cakes, salads, soups and sandwiches. For details on the menus and opening times, see the Official Tate website Tate Britain Cafe page.
Parking in the area
The Tate Britain does not have its own car park. However, you will find parking spaces in the streets surrounding the Tate Britain. Unfortunately, this parking is only free at the weekend and after certain hours during the week. It is also important to remember that this parking can be limited, so it can often be a more convenient choice to use public transport. To find out more about the parking at the Tate, see the Official Tate Britain transport page.
Weekends and weekdays after: 18:30
If you are finished at the Tate Britain, but you have not yet quenched your appetite for art, it is worth noting that you can check out the Tate Modern on the same day as the Tate Britain. The Tate Modern sits on the Southbank, on the other side of the Thames. As its name suggests, it houses a more modern selection of art. There is a boat that ferries customers from the Tate Britain to the Tate Modern. It runs every forty minutes between the galleries. To find out more about ticket prices and timetable, see the Official Tate Website Tate Boat page
The Tate Britain is a place to head to if you would like to see some world-class art. Its location close to the banks of the River Thames makes it a picturesque place to head to for a day out. And if you are a true art lover, you will relish the opportunity to see two art galleries in one day (and have a trip on the River Thames thrown in for good measure!). Before your trip to the Tate, take a look at what exhibitions will be on show there during your visit - you may just find one that takes your fancy.