Top 23 free museums in London

Make the most of your stay in the city with these top free museums and galleries in London (in no particular order!).

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

There are plenty of free attractions in London to explore, including many of the city’s wonderful museums. It’s no surprise London is one of the world’s capitals of culture.

1. British Museum

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. Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum. Photo: 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 a giant blue whale model.

3. 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.

4. 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. 

5. Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)

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.

6. Tate Modern

Tate Modern. Photo: 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 newly-opened Blavatnik Building.

7. Museum of London

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.

8. Imperial War Museum

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.

9. Horniman Museum and Gardens

Head to the unusual Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill to encounter an eclectic collection of musical instruments, anthropology and natural history, including a gigantic walrus. A true hidden gem!

10. National Maritime Museum

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. 

11. 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.

12. Sir John Soane’s Museum

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

13. Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheatre

Did you know London has a Roman amphitheatre? Marvel at 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.

14. 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.

15. National Portrait Gallery

Head to the National Portrait Gallery to see the largest collection of portraits in the world. The museum’s focus is on the relationship between the artist and the subject portrayed in the picture, which gives an original insight into different times in history and society.

16. Tate Britain

See 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.  

17. 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 the inner desire to take flight and the scientific endeavours to make it real.

18. Wellcome Collection

Discover what it means to be human through the Wellcome Collection’s jam-packed displays of science, medicine and psychology artefacts.

19. British Library

Delve into some of the world’s most important literary treasures at the British Library, the UK's national library. Discover a rare example of Magna Carta, study Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketchbook and take a look at Shakespeare’s First Folio.

20. 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.

21. 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.

22. 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.

23. Serpentine Galleries

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.

In London over the festive period? In between museum visits, refuel with festive treats from London's best Christmas markets and look up to spot some of the city's prettiest Christmas lights. Afterwards, relax with a well-deserved Christmas cocktail, or walk around London and try and spot some of its most dazzling Christmas trees.

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