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Victoria and Albert Museum

With a permanent collection that tops 4 million pieces, the Victoria and Albert Museum is the largest decorative arts museum in the world. It's also one of London's most interesting and diverse museums. Founded in 1852 and opened at its current location in 1857, this amazing museum boasts 3,000 years worth of artifacts from the world's richest cultures. The collection currently numbers about 4.5 million pieces, which include everything from paintings and photographs to jewelry, ceramics, and textiles.

The museum's British Galleries are especially impressive and house the most comprehensive collection of British design and art anywhere, spanning four centuries, from 1500 to 1900. Visitors can also explore the 4,000 year history of glass, browse through myriad examples of post-classical European  sculpture, view a photography collection that began back in 1852, and wander through rooms full of childhood treasures, including dolls, toy cars, games, and costumes.

And that's only the tip of the iceberg. The V&A also has an impressive collection of East Asian decorative arts, a fashion and jewelry exhibit that ranges from the 17th century until today, an impressive metalwork display, and more than 14,000 pieces of furniture from Britain, Continental Europe and America that date from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Some Highlights

The museum's collection is so diverse it is difficult to pinpoint the highlights. One of the visitor's favorites are the cast courts, a collection of casts of famous European monuments and sculptures. At the end of the 19th century, when most people weren't fortunate enough to travel around the continent, casts were a popular way of showing famous foreign monuments to the people. Among others, there are casts of Trajan's column in Rome, the Portico de la Gloria from the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain as well as a plaster replica of Michelangelo's David sculpture.

Another favorite is the 'Tiger of Tipu', an 18th century wooden mechanical construction depicting a British soldier attacked by a tiger. The construction, which was built for the Indian Sultan Tipu, even produces growling and screaming sounds.

To truly see the museum, you'll need much more than just one day and no matter how many times you return, you'll never pay a pound. Admission to the Victoria and Albert Museum is free and has been since 2001, but donations are welcomed.
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