Royal Academy of Arts

Lonely Planet review

Britain’s oldest society devoted to fine arts was founded in 1768 but the organisation moved to Burlington House exactly a century. later The collection contains drawings, paintings, architectural designs, photographs and sculptures by past and present Academicians such as Joshua Reynolds, John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner, David Hockney and Norman Foster.

Highlights are displayed in the John Madejski Fine Rooms on the 1st floor, which are accessible by free guided tours The displays change regularly.

The rooms themselves are a treat; it was in the Reynolds Room on the 1st floor for instance that Charles Darwin first presented his groundbreaking ideas on evolutionary biology to the Linnean Society.

The famous Summer Exhibition, which has showcased contemporary art for sale by unknown as well as established artists for nearly 250 years, is the Academy’s biggest annual event.

Burlington House’s courtyard features a stone-paved piazza with choreographed lights and fountains arranged to display the astrological star chart Joshua Reynolds, the RA first president, on the day he was born. His statue stands in the centre.