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Top Free London Museums & Galleries

Last checked: 3 June 2024
One of the best things about visiting London is that many of its world-class museums and galleries are free to visit. For everyone.

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

Pre-booking is no longer required for any of the main London museums, apart from the Science Museum. Please check their website for details.

View London’s top free museums and galleries on a map.




1. British Museum

The famous British Museum is home to the world’s biggest collection of antiquities. It’s worth spending some time planning what you want to see. There’s far too much to see in one trip.
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)
Open: Monday–Sunday 10am–5pm (10:00–17:00), Fridays 10am–8.30pm (10:00–20:30). Last entry is 1 hour before closing.
britishmuseum.org

2. Tate Modern

Housed 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)
Open: Monday–Sunday 10am–6pm (10:00–18:00)
tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern

3. National Gallery

The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is one of the world’s greatest collection of 13th to early 20th century Western European paintings. NB The Sainsbury Wing is currently closed.

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)
Open: Monday–Sunday 10am–6pm (Fridays until 9pm)
nationalgallery.org.uk

4. Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A)

One 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)
Open: Monday–Sunday 10am–5:45pm (10:00–17:45). Friday 10am–10pm (10:00–22:00)
vam.ac.uk

Top Tip: Make the most of your visit. London’s museums and galleries offer free tours

5. Natural History Museum

Housed 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 including specimens collected by Charles Darwin.

Highlights: The Darwin Centre, the Earth Galleries and the Dinosaurs exhibition.
Address: Cromwell Rd, SW7
Transport: South Kensington tube (zone 1)
Open: Monday–Sunday 10am–5.50pm (last entry 5.30pm)
nhm.ac.uk

6. Science Museum

Both 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)
Open: Daily 10am–6pm (10:00–18:00)
sciencemuseum.org.uk

7. National Portrait Gallery

Recently reopened after a major refurfishment, the National Portrait Gallery is a 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)
Open: Monday–Sunday 10.30am–6pm (10:00–18:00) (Friday & Saturday until 9pm)
npg.org.uk

8. Tate Britain

The 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)
Open: Monday–Sunday 10am–6pm (10:00–18:00)
tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain

9. Museum of London

The Museum of London is now closed and will open before open at a new site in 2026

The 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. Their 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)
Open: Monday–Sunday 10am–5pm.
museumoflondon.org.uk

10. The Design Museum

Although their special exhibitions have an admission fee, their permanent collection ‘Designer Maker User’ is free to visit. This features over 1000 items of twentieth and twenty-first century design.

Address: 224-238 Kensington High St, London, W8 6AG
Transport: High St Kensington (zone 1)
Open: Sunday–Friday 10am–6pm (10:00–18:00), Saturday 10am–9pm (10:00-21:00)
designmuseum.org

11. Imperial War Museum

The 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: Lambeth North or Elephant & Castle tube (zone 1)
Open: Monday–Sunday 10am–6pm.
iwm.org.uk

12. Treasures of the British Library

The British Library is the nation’s library where by law, three copies of anything published is sent. A permanent exhibition, Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library Gallery, shows the best of the collection. Some of their temporary exhibitions are also free. A must for any bibliophile.

Highlights: the Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, the Beatles handwritten lyrics.
Address: 96 Euston Rd, London, NW1
Transport: King’s Cross St Pancras or Euston tube (zone 1)
Open:
Monday–Thursday 9.30am-8pm (09:30–20:00)
Friday 9.30am–6pm (09:30–18:00)
Saturday 9:30am–5pm (09:30–17:00)
Sunday 11am–5pm (11:00–17:00).
bl.uk