Tate Britain’s provocative sibling brings together some of contemporary art’s most talked-about pieces in its Bankside home. This former powerhouse is a fitting industrial vitrine for fully-charged artwork, from the Young British Artists’ bisected animals and unmade beds to Carl Andre’s pile of old bricks. See stars from Dada to Pop movements, ogle London’s panorama from the top floors and tour the geometric extension – a work of art in itself.
The gallery’s sloped main entryway hosts large-scale, often interactive artworks. Louise Bourgeois let her spiders loose here, Ai Wei Wei swamped it with seeds, Carsten Höller gave it a slide and Olafur Eliasson filled it with sunlight. Cracked floors, mock police procedurals, playgrounds: there’s never a dull moment in this arresting space.
Figureheads of way-paving movements – the Dadaists, Surrealists, Pop artists, plus Monet repping for the Impressionists – sit among their inheritors. Tick off Picasso’s Weeping Woman, Dali’s Metamorphosis of Narcissus and Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych. Mark Rothko gets a room to himself, and Matisse, Bacon and Hockney all hang here.
The Tate’s most striking sight isn’t painted or performed. From the tenth floor of the new Blavatnik Tower, London’s laid out like a map. The panorama shows the best of both banks, and the ninth-floor restaurant overlooks landmarks too. Stop for a meal (don’t peek into the pricey flats opposite), or blag entry to the members’ bar.
For a pound (or free download and print), the Tate’s family map makes sense of the often nonsensical. It plots a path through family-friendly eateries, viewing platforms, best-loved pieces, and playspaces. And it’s full of tips: download a sonic trail, grab a vintage suitcase filled with art-related objets and get touchy-feely with Rudolf Stingel’s graffiti wall. Or try the interactive Drawing Bar and monthly artist-led workshops.
Next door to the Tate, Gail’s practices edible artistry. Come early for comforting cinnamon buns. Lunch on salads and fat sausage rolls, or take tea with dark-chocolate-and-cherry scones. Masterpieces all – and don't forget a cheese straw.
Bankside eatery Hixter does lunch breaks impeccably. This is no-nonsense Brit fare, with bottomless brunches and roasts, and decadent starters (pâté-filled Yorkshires, beef croquettes). Vegans, there's a menu for you too.
This pared-down eatery’s stacked-high brunches – topped with a full English, eggs Benedict and such – will fuel you for the Tate. The Dutch chef plays with exotic flavours. We like the Hummingbird with cream, pineapple, pomegranate and coconut.
10am–6pm, Sunday to Thursday.
The gallery closes at 10pm, Friday and Saturday.
Southwark and Blackfriars are the closest Tube stations (although the walk from Waterloo is charming). Buses 45, 63, 100, 344, RV1 and 381 stop close by.
Entry is free. Some exhibitions are charged (from around £5–15 a person).
Weekdays and mornings are the quietest times to visit. For charged exhibitions book online in advance; Tate Members can happily skip the ticket queues. Plot a route in advance: certain areas (such as popular installations in the Turbine Hall) may be busy. Evening events often featuring DJs and drinks, Tate Lates are less busy but still lively.