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Top 26 free museums in London

Discover some great value culture with a visit to these top free museums and galleries in London.

Enjoy the best of London's culture completely free; from the many world-class free exhibitions London has to offer, to stunning art galleries and historic houses. Entry to the permanent collections of these museums and galleries is free; while charges may apply for special exhibitions.

With so many free attractions in London to explore, including many of the city’s wonderful museums and galleries, it’s no surprise London is one of the world’s capitals of culture! Find plenty of ideas below, ranked in no particular order.

Most museums have reopened following the easing of coronavirus restrictions, but note that some venues listed may still be closed. You may also need to book tickets in advance, even though entry is free.

1. British Museum

A corridor at the British Museums, with two sculptures gating it.
Wander the galleries of the British Museum. Credits: Jonathan Reid/visitlondon.com.

Retrace the history of humankind through the British Museum’s amazing collection of artefacts from all over the world. Access to the permanent collection – including highlights such as the Rosetta Stone and Parthenon sculptures – is free.

2. National Gallery

Discover more than 2,000 paintings from the Middle Ages to the 20th century at the National Gallery. See works by western European masters of painting such as Da Vinci, Botticelli, Caravaggio and Van Gogh.

3. Museum of London

A lady and a man wearing face coverings while looking at a painting at the Museum of London.
Museum of London is full of interesting artefacts. Credits: Richard Stroud.

The history of the city is at your feet at the Museum of London. Enjoy the interactive displays and follow the evolution of London from prehistoric times, through the Middle Ages and the Victorian era, up to the present day.

4. Royal Academy of Arts

World-class art institution Royal Academy of Arts introduced free displays for the first time in 2018, taking in works from its varied archives. Spot paintings by Michelangelo, Constable and Gainsborough, study Greek and Roman statues, and gaze at exquisite sculptures.

5. Natural History Museum

A whale skeleton exhibit hanging at the Natural History Museum. Credits: visitlondon.com/Jon Reid.
Visit the Natural History Museum which is full of natural wonders. Credits: visitlondon.com/Jon Reid.

Wander through the spectacular halls of the Natural History Museum, as you discover fascinating exhibits from the natural world. Marvel at dinosaur skeletons or gawp at Hope, a giant blue whale skeleton.

6. Science Museum

Experience the wonders of science first-hand with the Science Museum’s interactive displays. Showcasing more than 15,000 objects, the permanent collection includes must-see exhibits such as Amy Johnson's Gipsy Moth plane. 

7. IWM London

A tall white building with a green dome and five pillars. Surrounded by trees.
Lose yourself among the exhibits of the Imperial War Museum. Credits: Markus Leo/Unsplash.

Discover the troubled history of modern war at the Imperial War Museum. Interesting displays guide you through the stories of modern conflicts, from the First World War to the present day.

8. National Maritime Museum

A ship in a bottle exhibit against the blue skies at the National Maritime Museum.
Discover all things maritime at the National Maritime Museum. Credits: visitlondon.com.

Set in historic Maritime Greenwich, the National Maritime Museum showcases Britain’s naval history, from sea battles to exploratory expeditions. See ancient maps and ship models, and don’t miss the iconic uniform Nelson wore the day of the Battle of Trafalgar. 

9. Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum hosts one of the greatest collections of art and design objects in the world (more than 2.3 million items, to be precise). Discover its beautiful galleries and retrace the history of creativity through fashion, furniture, sculpture, photography, jewellery and more.

10. Tate Modern

The magnificent chimney of the Tate Modern building against a blue sky.
Tate Modern features world-class modern art. Credits: visitlondon.com/Jon Reid.

See how a power station has been transformed into London’s centre for modern and contemporary art at Tate Modern. Find world-class paintings, photographs and performance art, embrace the stunning view of the river from the gallery’s cafe, and explore the famous Turbine Hall, which has hosted large-scale installations.

11. Tate Britain

Find some of the best of British art from 1500 to today at Tate Britain, including the world’s largest collection of works by JMW Turner. Follow the Walk Through British Art rooms and see stunning paintings by Gainsborough, Whistler and Bacon.  

12. Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheatre

The Guildhall Art Gallery building in the sunshine against the blue sky.
Guildhall Art Gallery is home to famous masterpieces. Shutterstock/Guildhall Art Gallery.

Did you know London has a Roman amphitheatre? Be wowed by this ancient relic, which was found by archaeologists working on the site of the Guildhall Art Gallery in 1988. Entry to both the gallery and the amphitheatre is free.

13. Wellcome Collection

Discover what it means to be human through the Wellcome Collection’s jam-packed displays of science, medicine, life and art objects. Become immersed in a host of Insta-worthy and quirky exhibits, including those that play on the senses.

14. Queen's House

White Tulip Stairs at the Queen's House with black fencing.
Tulip Stairs at the Queen's House. Credits: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
Step inside Inigo Jones' elegant masterpiece, Queen's House, and you'll discover rare works of Greenwich from Canaletto, Lowry and Turner, plus the unique Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. Don't miss the stunning Tulip Stairs for that Insta-perfect shot.

15. Sir John Soane's Museum

Explore Sir John Soane's Museum, the former home to the architect of the Bank of England. His historic house contains a wide collection of paintings, architectural drawings and antiquities, plus the original sarcophagus of Seti I.    

16. Horniman Museum and Gardens

A few skeletons in a glass exhibit at The Horniman Museum. Credits: London & Partners.
Find all sorts of curiosities at The Horniman Museum. Credits: London & Partners.

Head to the quirky Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill to encounter an eclectic collection of musical instruments, anthropology and natural history. Here, you'll find a gigantic overstuffed taxidermy walrus and a rather ugly merman, two of the weirdest things to see in London.

17. London Mithraeum

Delve into the ancient Roman Temple of Mithrus, which was originally built in AD 240 but only rediscovered in 1954 after centuries under the City of London's streets. Trace the story of the London Mithraeum through artefacts found during excavations and interactive displays.

18. British Library

Black sign of the British Library with a sculpture in the background.
Explore history at the British Library. Credits: Sam Lane.

Delve into some of the world’s most important literary treasures at the British Library, the UK's national library. Marvel at the historic manuscripts, discover a rare example of Magna Carta and take a look at Shakespeare’s First Folio.

19. National Army Museum

Find out about Britain's army at the National Army Museum. Relive the history of the armed forces, from the British Civil Wars to the modern day, through thousands of inspiring objects in five galleries.

20. Royal Air Force Museum

Three children sitting outside, playing together on the grass.
There's so much to explore at the Royal Air Force Museum. Credits: Royal Air Force Museum.

Retrace the history of aviation at this fascinating London museum. With a huge amount of aircraft memorabilia under one roof, the Royal Air Force Museum gives a spectacular account of man's desire to take flight and the scientific advances to make it real.

21. The Wallace Collection

Be amazed by The Wallace Collection's precious collection of 18th-century French paintings, together with works by Titian, Canaletto and Rembrandt. The superb building, situated just off Oxford Street, is a treasure in itself.

22. Museum of London Docklands

Three kids holding up sailor figures, smiling.
Take the kids to the Museum of London Docklands. Credits: Museum of London Docklands.

Learn all about London’s history as a port with the Museum of London Docklands’ exhibits. The interactive displays recreate life at the height of London’s 19-century naval supremacy.

23. V&A Museum of Childhood

Visiting the V&A Museum of Childhood is like being a kid again, for one day. Discover a wide collection of childhood objects from the 1600s to the present day: toys, games, dolls and more. Closed for refurbishment until 2022

24. Bank of England Museum

Money, money, money... Learn about the history of British currency at the Bank of England Museum, which is open Mondays to Fridays. Pick up a gold bar, delve back in time at the Stock Office and discover how banknotes have evolved over time. 

25. Whitechapel Gallery

Head to the Whitechapel Gallery for cutting-edge contemporary art by emerging and renowned artists. In addition to the exciting programme of exhibitions, the gallery hosts talks, events and workshops.

26. Serpentine Galleries

A tall building with a balcony and high windows.
See pioneering exhibitions at the Serpentine Galleries. Credits: The Blowup On Unsplash.

In the middle of Hyde Park, the Serpentine Galleries (Serpentine Gallery and Serpentine Sackler Gallery) are two exhibition spaces devoted to displaying international contemporary art. Every summer, a new Serpentine Pavilion is set up in the Serpentine Gallery’s garden, showcasing the talent of a specific artist or architect.

For more inspiration, take a look at our guide to London's best museums, top galleries and the latest London exhibitions, ranging from art exhibitions to museum exhibitions. You'll also find more cultural events with this what's on guide and pick of things to do this weekend

If you're looking for "museums near me", download the Visit London app for more ideas on the go – just remember to stay safe, be responsible and follow social distancing guidelines while out and about.

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