Attraction Reviews,  Things to Do

Tate Modern Review: Essential for Art Fans Visiting London?

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If you’re a fan of modern and contemporary art, The Tate Modern, which houses one of the world’s most important art collections dating back to 1900, is a must-visit London museum. From iconic modern print works to immersive otherworldly exhibits, there’s something for every art lover here.

I used to live 15 minutes down the road from the Tate Modern, and have spent many afternoons visiting the free collections. Below you’ll find my Tate Modern review, covering the basics of visiting this museum, as well as my top tips for getting the most out of your visit!

Note: There is more than one Tate museum in London. The other is located at Millbank and is called the Tate Britain; if you’re visiting the Tate (either one!), make sure you give the cab driver the right address.

Basics of Visiting the Tate Modern

Housed in a former power station built in the mid-20th Century along the River Thames in the heart of Central London, the Tate Modern is eye-catching and might just draw you in. Here are the essentials you need to know to plan your visit.

Location & Transport

The Tate Modern is in the Bankside area of the London Borough of Southwark. It is housed in a striking former power station (the Bankside Powder Station) which has a unique industrial charm – very different from that of the typical historic London building. It’s very apt considering the type of art it houses, but not everyone would enjoy this type of architecture.

Tip: any Tate Modern review worth its salt should mention the neighboring London attractions. (London is a huge sprawling city, so commuting between attractions can waste a lot of time if you don’t plan your itinerary strategically.) The Tate is actually next to Shakespeare’s Globe, about 10 minute’s walk from Borough Market (on the same side of the river, where I used to live, and my top recommendation if you only have time for one other activity in South London), Southwark Cathedral, as well as across the river from St Paul’s Cathedral. I suggest combining a few of these attractions to make the most of your time in South London!

Getting There

As with most London attractions, there are several ways to reach Tate Modern:

  • By Railway and Tube – There is both a railway station and London Tube station nearby – Blackfriars station (Circle/District lines). You can also take the Jubilee line to Southwark or London Bridge, and the central line stops at St. Paul’s across the Thames.
  • By Bus – You can reach the Tate Modern with the following buses: 40, 63, 100, 344, and 381 – they all stop around the Tate.
  • By Boat – No review of the Tate Modern would be complete without mentioning the most fun way to get there– by boat! There is even a Tate-to-Tate boat service, so you can take a boat between the two museums.

Note: I do not recommend driving to the Tate as driving in Central London is a pain and the museum doesn’t have general parking space. If you require accessible parking, however, the museum does offer twelve accessible parking lots, which must be booked at least 24 hours in advance.

Hours, Admission & Tickets

The Tate Modern is open every day of the week, from 10am to 6pm; that the last entry is at 5:30pm, and the galleries start closing at 5:50pm. There is no need to book if you’re visiting the general collection, but I do recommend doing so if you want to see a special exhibition (ticketed).

Permanent Exhibits & Special Galleries

Tate Modern Review - Infinity Mirror Rooms

One thing that makes the Tate Modern a great museum is that it has a lovely balance of permanent exhibits with famous works and well-known artists and a delightful rotation of special galleries and exhibits. (As you might guess from the name the Tate Modern focuses on modern art, while the Tate Britain focuses on more classical art.)

In terms of the permanent collection, pieces and artists you might recognize include Jackson Pollock’s Yellow Islands, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych, and War by Paula Rego. Special exhibits and galleries change with some frequency; LOMM founder Valerie attended the iconic Infinity Mirror Rooms by Yayoi Kasuma (pictured) in September 2022 and as of publishing there are also galleries for Yoko Ono’s work and one focused on the Expressionists Kandinsky, Münter, and The Blue Rider.

Food Options & Facilities

There are four options if you’re looking to get a bite at the Tate: 

  • The Corner: A lovely, new-ish cafe bar that serves light bites during the day as well as a few heartier options in the evening. It opens late, till 11pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays. (It can be a bit hard to find: you can enter via the gallery from the education room or from the street.)
  • The Restaurant: Serves modern European food on the 6th floor. Service can be a bit hit-or-miss though so come here for the great views of St. Paul’s and the London skyline, not for a dining experience. Generally only open till 3pm. 
  • Level 10: Recently re-opened after three years with a new cafe, this is worth visiting if just for the controversial court case against the Tate (by the owners of the luxury flats next door, who objected to the fact that visitors to the platform could see right into their homes. Personally, I can see why people aren’t too pleased by strangers peeking at them every day. How about you – what’s your take?) I’m glad the platform has reopened now though as it offers some of the best views in South London! (The other balconies in the Tate aren’t quite as panoramic.)
  • Espresso Bar: Located in the Natalie Bell building on the third floor.

Gift Shop & Souvenirs

The Tate Modern is great for the shopaholic: there is not one, but four shops! Each has a well-curated collection of art prints, books, and other knick-knacks that art lovers would enjoy but with different “specialties.”

For example, the Turbine Hall Shop on Level 0 is the place to go if you’re looking for a gift for kids while the Tate Edit on Level 1 is where I go for more unusual merchandise (guest editors are sometimes invited to select exclusive pieces for the shop.) As a bibliophile, I often head to the Terrace Shop on Level 1 of the Blavatnik Building, as you’ll find the largest collection of art books there. 

My Experience at the Tate Modern

One thing I enjoy about the Tate is how diverse and international the collection is: my first time here in the early 2000s, I saw a piece by a fellow Singaporean at the museum. (This was a time when people in the UK were still asking me “Is Singapore in China?” so you can see how progressive the Tate was!) 

There are also pieces by some of the greatest artists of all time, such as Monet and Picasso (one of my favorites, thanks to his diverse style.) Keep in mind that the collections are organized by theme, and not chronologically, so they may sometimes feel a bit haphazardly arranged.

On a different note, I personally find navigating the Tate confusing. There is more than one building, getting between the floors can be disorientating (there are different lift lobbies and the lifts don’t go to all the levels), and signage for special exhibits can be poor. Moreover, the free exhibits are scattered all around, so it can sometimes feel like the Museum doesn’t have much work to show. 

However, there are actually over 70,000 works housed in this museum so persevere. Allocate some time to figuring out how to get around, have a wander, and hopefully you’ll see something you like!

So, is the Tate Modern worth it?

Well, it’s free to visit the permanent collections, so the cost to you would really be in terms of time. (And then, if you’re really set on seeing a specific exhibit, that cost is up to you!)

If you’re a contemporary art lover, I definitely recommend allocating a few hours for it on your London itinerary. Even if you’re not particularly passionate about art, given the Tate’s proximity to other London attractions, I would suggest stopping by when in the area and spending at least an hour or so visiting the most famous pieces!

I hope this Tate Modern review was helpful. If you still have questions, let me know in the comments! 

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Zhen fell in love with London when she first visited at the age of 4. After that, she was lucky to have the opportunity to live in UK for 11 years, 7 of which were spent in London. (She particularly adores the areas around Kensington, Southwark and Baker Street!) As someone who loves both food and travel – don’t we all? – you can find her sharing her Asian food recipes over at greedygirlgourmet.com.

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