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Bucket list experience:

Exterior view of the academy during the daytime
Last updated: 06 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Sarah Barrell

Host of the renowned Summer Exhibition, the Royal Academy has been promoting art and artists since the 1700s.

Its prestigious art school has turned out the likes of William Blake and has championed careers of such now-starry names as Norman Foster, David Hockney, Anish Kapoor and Zaha Hadid.

The original 17th-century mansion on Piccadilly is now linked with the Academy’s grand 19th-century former university building on Burlington Gardens, both abuzz during the annual Summer Exhibition.

Along with this egalitarian celebration of art (it’s the world’s largest open-entry exhibition, for professionals and amateurs alike), the Academy regularly hosts the world’s best-attended art shows.

Its permanent collection is one of Britain’s oldest. The 30,000-strong collection takes in such British greats as Reynolds, Turner and Constable, and masterpieces including Michelangelo’s Taddei Tondo.

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Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Piccadilly Circus and Green Park Underground stations are within half a mile of the Burlington House entrance, Oxford Circus and Bond Street stations are within half a mile of the Burlington Gardens entrances.

It’s free to enter the Royal Academy and some of its peripheral exhibits, but the programmed exhibitions – the main event – have specific entrance fees. All tickets must be booked in advance.

Make a day of it and refuel in style at either the stately Senate Room restaurant or Courtyard Café, both headed up by Spanish chef, José Pizarro.

When to do it

The Royal Academy of Arts is open all year round, Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Monday.

Go early mornings at the weekend, or early in the week to enjoy the galleries with less footfall.

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Ham Yard Hotel

London, United Kingdom (UK)[0.4 miles]

Set in the heart of the buzzing West End, this super-chic hotel is as popular with Londoners as visitors, giving it a vibrant, authentic vibe.

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London, United Kingdom (UK)[0.6 miles]

Undeniably the most glamorous and timeless of all London’s five-stars. This glorious Art Deco landmark and Mayfair institution is beloved by royalty, rock stars and fashionistas.

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The Soho Hotel

London, United Kingdom (UK)[0.7 miles]

Glamorous, sexy, and slick design hotel, with a buzzing bar, private cinema, and celebrity clientele.

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Mimi’s Hotel Soho

London, United Kingdom (UK)[0.7 miles]

A vibrant, affordable Soho base, with a lively bar that’s ideal for first-timers to the capital, who want to be in the heart of everything.

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience


Greater London, United Kingdom (UK)

World-class culture, fashion, music, food and history – and a mind-boggling array of bucket list experiences – packed into one extraordinary, incomparable destination. 

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

National Gallery

London, United Kingdom (UK)[0.8 miles]

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Best for ages: 18+ | Free

Buckingham Palace

London, United Kingdom (UK)[0.9 miles]

The world’s most famous royal palace and home of the British monarchy since Queen Victoria, is a fairly bland affair. Go in summer months to see the State Rooms and gardens, and stay to see the Changing of the Guard with enjoyable, entertaining fanfare.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

Trooping the Colour

London, United Kingdom (UK)[1 miles]

World-famous, incomparable military parade dating back to the 17th century, involving thousands of soldiers, horses and musicians in full regalia, occurs each June to mark the Queen’s official birthday.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free | 2.5 hours

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Exterior view of the grand building surrounding a large square

Somerset House

London, United Kingdom (UK)[1.6 miles]

Famous for its picturesque alfresco ice rink in winter and the Edmund J Safra fountains in the summer, this elegant neoclassical building is also home to an art gallery and upscale restaurant.

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Exterior view of front facade with people walking in front

SEA LIFE London Aquarium

London, United Kingdom (UK)[1.7 miles]

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Madame Tussauds

London, United Kingdom (UK)[1.8 miles]

Meet the queen, get a selfie with Stormzy and take the controls of the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca at the world’s leading and original wax museum.

Best for ages: 8+ | £30