Victoria and Albert Museum Tour: A Guided Crash Course

Explore world-renowned art and design
From US$516 privately
Book a Tour
Tour Details
3 hours
Product Type
Victoria and Albert Museum
Photos & Highlights
  • Discover one of the most diverse fine art collections in the world
  • Led by a local historian, our tour covers the history of British art and design from the Tudor monarchs to Queen Victoria
Select a date
Tour Description
The Victoria and Albert Museum possesses one of the world's greatest collections of decorative art and design, with a collection running the gamut from preparatory materials for the Sistine Chapel to exquisite Islamic art, like the Ardabil Carpet. Our Victoria and Albert Museum Tour, led by a local historian, explores not only the history of the V&A, delving into its origins in the 1851 Great Exhibition, but provides a comprehensive look at a few of the most important galleries in this expansive museum.

Victoria and Albert Museum Tour

After receiving a brief overview of the museum's history outside the building, our tour will continue inside the museum with a visit to the famous Raphael Cartoons (1515-16), which were created by Raphael as preparatory drawings for tapestries intended to hang in the Sistine Chapel (nota bene: for those also headed to Italy, we offer a Vatican Museum Tour), but which today are considered works of art in their own right. Raphael's drawings depict scenes from the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul; we will analyze each in some depth with a discussion of the history of the cartoons, the Renaissance ideals in art, and the relationship between painting and tapestry weaving. We will continue by discussing the history of art and sculpture in the sculpture galleries with works by the Baroque sculptor Bernini, the neoclassical artist Canova, and the late-nineteenth century sculptor Rodin before moving on to the Cast Courts, which contain casts of artworks and objects from around Europe. The collection includes casts of Michelangelo's sixteenth-century 'David', the first-century Trajan's Column, and the spectacular sixteenth-century tomb of St. Sebaldus. Here, we will discuss the Victorian interest in collecting casts.

A Global Collection

From the Cast Court, we'll move to the British Galleries, which chart the changes in British art and design from the Tudor monarchs in the 1500s to Queen Victoria in 1901, in order to consider in greater depth how different styles arose over the centuries and how the social, cultural, and historical contexts influenced these changes. We will focus on a diverse array of objects such as the sixteenth-century 'Great Bed of Ware', the writing box belonging to Henry VIII, the eighteenth-century Rococo music room from Norfolk House, and the Arts and Crafts style as represented by William Morris in the late nineteenth century.

The Islamic Gallery

We will then compare this emphasis on style and design in Western European production with a visit to the Islamic Gallery, where we will focus on the sixteenth-century 'Ardabil carpet' in relation to the function and design of the art object in the Islamic world as well as the tension that developed between art production and science. Here, we will also explore the effects of trade and cultural exchange on design.

Take Aways

Then, depending on time and interest, we can explore the extensive fashion collection (on which we also offer a Victoria and Albert Museum Fashion Tour), visit the exquisite jewelry galleries, or alternatively discuss the form and function of glass over the centuries.


What's in the V&A museum?
The Museum’s collections span over 2000 years of human creativity, in virtually every medium and drawn from across Europe, the Middle East, India, China, Japan and many other parts of the world.

Is it true that we can see a replica of the Trajan’s Column? 
Yes, the tallest object in the collections is a plaster cast of Trajan’s Column, reproduced from the marble original in Rome. It is displayed in two separate towers which if put together would reach 35.6 m high.

Do we need to pay a ticket to get in?
No, unless you want to see one of the temporary exhibitions, the museum is free. However, donations are greatly appreciated.
Where You'll Start
(4.86) 47 Reviews

Reviews can only be left by Context customers after they have completed a tour. For more information about our reviews, please see our FAQ.

Tim was wonderful! We could not have navigated the V&A or learned as much as we did without Tim. The Context team was delightful to work with. Highly recommend!
Francesca is the best tour guide I have ever used. She has an outstanding knowledge of all aspects of the museums we toured from her studies, internship, historical knowledge of England and her current museum position. I highly recommend her.
Great tour-thanks, Tim