Half term is fast approaching, along with another heavenly bank holiday for us all to enjoy. What better time to explore some of the fun and culture London has to offer?
But, as we all know, London is already expensive enough without us having to pay a fortune for entry fees. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of fantastic museums and galleries in London which are – you guessed it – totally free! So whether you’re trying to get the kids out of the house or want to soak up some culture, check out our list to find a destination for your next adventure.
The British Museum
If you haven’t already stepped under the iconic dome, don’t put it off any longer. Despite the name, The British Museum isn’t just about British history. It’s jam-packed with fascinating artefacts and exhibits covering everything from Ancient Egypt to art, sculptures and history from all over the world. And the cherry on top – it’s absolutely free for everyone! It’s open every day from 10:00 to 17:30, with late closing at 20:30 on Fridays, so make sure you stop by. Find out more about what there is to discover at The British Museum.
A great one for the kids, the Science Museum has tons to do. No matter what your age, you’re sure to learn something new. Get interactive with exhibits, discover the making of the modern world and get up close and personal with key historical inventions. It’s open every day from 10:00 to 18:00, but with so much to see, you’ll want to get there early. Find out more about what there is to do and see at the Science Museum and start planning your day out.
Natural History Museum
Speaking of the kids, they’ll be in awe of the amazing exhibits at the Natural History Museum. From dinosaur fossils to life in the deepest corners of the ocean, learn more about the natural world and our place in it at this stunning historic museum. And of course, you can’t miss out on seeing Hope the blue whale in the iconic foyer. Open daily from 10:00 to 17:30, or 14:00 to 17:30 on Sundays, find a day to explore the Natural History Museum sooner rather than later.
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum is another architecturally beautiful museum in London to discover. The leading museum of art and design, the walls are lined with iconic fashion, photography, sculpture, art and even stunning wallpaper.
There are always plenty of great exhibits to explore for an extra fee, but there’s plenty of free wonders to feast your eyes on. Check the free events page to see if there’s something new and exciting to see. Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum every day between 10:00 and 17:45, or for a later viewing head over on Fridays until 22:00.
Imperial War Museum
Or how about something for the history buffs? The Imperial War Museum was founded during the First World War, and houses an amazing collection of war-related items. From uniforms to weapons, photographs, letters and planes, the museum explores the reality of war and how it affects those who live through them.
Even the most dedicated war enthusiast will find something new that’s both inspiring and harrowing. Open every day from 10:00 to 18:00, start planning your day exploring the Imperial War Museum now.
Royal Air Force Museum
Or why not fly high by exploring the Royal Air Force Museum? You and the kids can take to the skies to explore the fascinating history of the RAF and their brave pilots. You’ll hear inspiring stories of men and women who protected London during the Blitz and beyond. You can even test out your flying skills in flight simulators while the kids enjoy the plane themed play zone. Situated by Colindale underground station, visit any day of the week between 10:00 and 18:00 for free.
Museum of London
If you’re not sure what you fancy, the Museum of London is a safe bet to amaze and astound you. Jam-packed with London facts, stories and unusual objects, the Museum of London brings you the vivid, rich history of London.
Explore a recreation of 19th century London, sift through the contents of the Thames and enjoy the Mudlarks Gallery, a free interactive learning space for kids. Open daily from 10:00 to 18:00, if you haven’t explored the Museum of London yet, you should make room for it in your diary immediately.
Art-lovers will want to head over to Blackfriars and cross the river to explore the Tate Modern. Filled with contemporary modern art from all over the world, the bold and sometimes controversial collections explore everything from sculpture to media installations. Start wandering around the Tate Modern Sunday to Thursday between 10:00 – 18:00, or 10:00 – 22:00 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Once you’ve seen the new, soak up the old classics with a mosey around the Tate Britain. Housing a vast array of awe-inspiring British art dating as far back at the 15th century, you’re bound to be dazzled by works of art. Feast your eyes on works by the Pre-Raphaelite greats, J. M. W. Turner, William Blake, Francis Bacon and many other legendary artists who have shaped our culture. Tate Britain is open every day from 10:00 to 18:00, so head over to see famous works of art up close.
National Portrait Gallery
Head over to bustling Trafalgar Square to feast your eyes on the National Portrait Gallery. This iconic, central gallery is home to the largest collection of portraits in the world. See inspiring portraits of the famous men and women who have helped shape our history, from Shakespeare to Ed Sheeran. Browse the extensive collection at the National Portrait Gallery any day between 10:00 and 18:00, or drop by on a Friday evening before 22:00.
Or, for something a little edgier, head to Aldgate to take a look around Whitechapel Gallery. Always on the cutting edge of the art scene, Whitechapel Gallery has housed such big names as Picasso, Rothko, Pollock and Kahlo, along with more recent names like Sarah Lucas and Sophie Calle. Explore vibrant, experimental and bold contemporary art for free Tuesday to Sunday between 11:00 and 18:00.
The Wallace Collection
Located in a classic London townhouse, the Wallace Collection houses a stunning collection of art from Old Masters. From French 18th century oil paintings to astounding Renaissance artworks and sculptures, armour, weapons and unique homeware, there are plenty of decadent and rare treasures to discover in this eccentric collection. Open daily between 10:00 and 17:00, don’t put off exploring the Wallace Collection any longer.
Weird and Wonderful
And now for something a little different… Check out the Wellcome Collection to explore the history of medicine, health and human anatomy. Discover anatomical curiosities, artwork, medicinal figures, glass eyes, death masks and much more. Closed on Mondays but open every other day between 10:00 and 18:00 (or until 21:00 on Thursdays), this is the perfect free day out for the incurably inquisitive.
If you’re south of the river, the Horniman Museum is a must-see. Made up of the eccentric philanthropist and Victorian tea trader Frederick John Horniman’s personal collection, the museum is stuffed with fantastic examples of anthropology and natural history – stuffed being the operative word considering the many taxidermy creatures you’ll discover. Explore the amazing range of oddities and musical instruments from around the world, as well as the butterfly house, aquarium and the lovely garden which is home to several (live) llamas.
Grant Museum of Zoology
In a similar but slightly creepier vein, the Grant Museum of Zoology is well worth a visit. Located in Bloomsbury, this small, hidden gem boasts thousands of zoological specimens you won’t be able to take your eyes off. From snake skeletons to Dodo bones and pickled moles (yep, you read that right), there’s plenty of bizarre finds to discover in this small museum. Drop by Monday to Saturday between 13:00 and 17:00.
V&A Museum of Childhood
For something a little more child-friendly, the V&A Museum of Childhood is a treat for both kids and adults. Take a peek at the amazing collection of childhood objects, toys, games, clothes and more, dating back from the 1600s. From Victorian doll houses to space hoppers and He-Man action figures, it’s a retro, vintage treat for both young and young-at-heart visitors. Stop by any day between 10:00 and 17:45.
The British Library
Book-lovers will adore walking the halls of The British Library. Situated next to King’s Cross station, it houses a world of literary treasures which you can see for free. As well as plenty of free events and exhibitions going on all the time, the permanent, free Treasures of the British Library exhibit is well worth a visit. View such infamous documents as the Magna Carta, Gutenberg’s Bible, an entry from Jane Austen’s diary, Leonardo da Vinci’s notes and handwritten Beatles lyrics. Find out more about opening times here.
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology is another free hidden gem hosted by UCL. Although the museum itself is small, it’s packed wall to wall with one of the greatest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese artefacts in the world. Find stunning statues, portraits, clothing, jewellery, pottery, and of course mummies and skeletons. Open Tuesday to Saturday between 13:00 and 17:00, don’t miss out on this rare find.
Sir John Soane’s Museum
And finally, discover a treasure trove of art, sculptures, books and more at Sir John Soane’s Museum. An enormous collection of curiosities was amassed by the British architect Sir John Soane. Now, his many belongings are now displayed in his historic Holburn home, which has been left largely untouched since his death almost two centuries ago.
You’ll find stunning arts and antiquities from all over the world, from an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus to an elephant’s tooth, ceramics and mummified cats. Take a look at Sir John Soane’s fantastic collection Wednesday to Sunday between 10:00 and 17:30.
Which one of these extraordinary free museums in London are you looking forward to visiting? Have we left any of the list? Let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to check out our days out and experiences vouchers to find more inspiration and ways to save on a day out in London!