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Top 10 Free London Museums & Galleries

Without doubt, one of the best things about visiting London is that so many of its world-class museums and galleries are free of charge. In fact, so many places have no admission fee, it’s hard to pick which ones to visit.

If you’re only in London for a short visit, these are the top ten must-see free museums and galleries.

View the top 10 on a map.

1. British Museum

British Museum, LondonThe most popular attraction in the UK is home to the world’s biggest collection of antiquities. Spend some time planning what you want to see as there’s far too much to see in one trip.

See our tips for getting the most out of your visit.

Highlights: Egyptian and Roman sculpture, Egyptian mummies, the Elgin Marbles, Sutton Hoo treasure, the Rosetta Stone, Lindow man, the Portland vase and the Waddesdon bequest.
Address: Great Russell St, WC1
Transport:
Tottenham Court Rd/Russell Square/Holborn tube (zone 1)
britishmuseum.org

2. Tate Modern

Tate ModernHoused in a former power station, the Tate Modern is the UK’s premier modern art gallery displaying the national collection of international modern and contemporary art. It includes displays on Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism and post-war European and American painting and sculpture.

Highlights: Major works by Dalí, Picasso, Warhol, Matisse, and Rothko to more contemporary art works from the 1980’s onwards.
Address: Bankside, SE1
Transport: Southwark tube (zone 1)
tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern




3. National Gallery

National Gallery LondonThe National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is one of the world’s greatest collection of 13th to early 20th century Western European paintings. If you’re short of time, take the free 60 minute guided tour leaving at 11.30am and 2.30pm every day. Meet at the Sainsbury Wing Information Centre.

Highlights: van Eyck’s ‘Arnolfini Portrait’, Da Vinci’s ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’, Velázquez’s ‘Rokeby Venus’, Turner’s ‘Fighting Temeraire’ , Botticelli’s ‘Venus & Mars’, Titian’s ‘Bacchaus & Ariadne’, Renoir’s ‘The Umbrellas’ and Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers‘.
Address:
Trafalgar Square, WC2
Transport: Charing Cross or Leicester Square tube (zone 1)
nationalgallery.org.uk

4. Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A)

Victoria and Albert MuseumOne of the world’s finest collection of decorative art with outstanding examples of ceramics, glass, sculpture, furniture, paintings, photography, metalwork, jewellery, textiles and fashion.


Highlights: The British Galleries – the story of British design from the 1500-1900, the Great Bed of Ware (mentioned in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night), the Ceramic collection, Morris & Gamble rooms, Raphael Cartoons, the Costume and Jewellery galleries, English & European miniatures.
Address: Cromwell Rd, SW7
Transport: South Kensington tube (zone 1)
vam.ac.uk

5. Natural History Museum

Natural History MuseumHoused in an impressive Victorian building, the Natural History Museum is home to 70 million specimens held within five main collections: animals, plants, minerals and fossils. Famous for its dinosaurs as well as items of  historical interest, such as specimens collected by Darwin.

Highlights: The Darwin Centre, the Earth Galleries and the Dinosaurs exhibition.
Address: Cromwell Rd, SW7
Transport: South Kensington tube (zone 1)
nhm.ac.uk

6. Science Museum

Science Museum LondonBoth educational and entertaining, the Science museum has over 17,000 objects on display covering the history of western science, technology and medicine since 1700. The museum is open late once a month for their popular adult-only events.

Highlights: Stephenson’s Rocket, a V2 missile, the Apollo 10 command module.
Address: Exhibition Rd, SW7
Transport: South Kensington tube (zone 1)
sciencemuseum.org.uk

7. National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait GalleryA comprehensive collection of portraits, miniatures, sculptures and photographs of notable UK men and women from Tudor times through to the present day — from Henry VII to Julian Opie’s paintings of Blur. Worthwhile if you’re interested in the people behind the history of Britain.

Highlights: The Chandos portrait of Shakespeare, Hans Holbein’s cartoon of Henry VIII and works by Reynolds, Van Dyck, Sargeant and Gainsborough.
Address: St Martin’s Place, WC2
Transport: Leicester Square tube (zone 1)
npg.org.uk

8. Tate Britain

Tate BritainThe Tate Britain is the national gallery of British art from 1500 to the present day. Free tours several times a day explore the collection’s highlights. There’s an admission fee for temporary exhibitions.

Highlights: Hogarth, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Constable, Stubbs through to the Young British Artists (YBA’s) of the 1990’s. The Clore gallery extension houses most of the works JMW Turner left to the nation.
Address: Millbank,  SW1
Transport: Pimlico tube (zone 1)
tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain

9. Museum of London

Museum of LondonThe Museum of London tells the history of London from prehistoric times to the modern day. Not your average local history museum – the story is told in an entertaining way with models, films and multimedia displays. The gift shop is one of the best places for London-related books and souvenirs.

Highlights: The Lord Mayor’s coach, Pearly Kings and Queen costumes, Fanshawe dress, Selfridges Art Deco lift.
Address: 150 London Wall, London, EC2Y 5HN
Transport: St Paul’s/Barbican (zone 1)
museumoflondon.org.uk

10. Imperial War Museum

Imperial War MuseumThe Imperial War Museum holds a varied collection connected with military operations and people’s experiences of war involving Britain or the Commonwealth since August 1914. Objects on display include  tanks, jeeps and aircraft as well as costumes, memorabilia and advertising.

Highlights: Tanks, aircraft & personal letters.
Address: Lambeth Rd, London, SE1
Transport: Waterloo or Elephant & Castle tube (zone 1) (Lambeth North tube station is closed until February 2017)
iwm.org.uk

See also




Photo Credits: British Museum – Moria, National Gallery – thejas, Tate Modern – Jim Bowen, Natural History Museum – neiljs, Tate Britain – Jimmy Harris, Victoria & Albert Museum – Frankie Roberto, National Portrait Gallery – Herry Lawford, Newton Statue, British Library – Monkeywing, Imperial War Museum – Jim Bahn.

Last updated: 14 August 2015