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Free London Museums

 
 
 
 
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British Museum

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British Museum
British Library
British Museum
Imperial War Museum
Museum of London
National Maritime Museum
Queens House
Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum
Sir John Soane's Museum
V&A
V&A
V&A
V&A
V&A
The Royal Observatory
The Royal Observatory
Bank of England Museum
British Museum
Bank of England
Design Museum
Design Museum
 

 

From the big-hitters to the small, specialist sites, London's crammed full of museums, most of which are free to all. Interactive displays, tours and, in particular, events for children and families are de rigeur for most of the larger museums and it's easy to spend a whole day just strolling, perusing and stopping for tea and cake breaks in the museum's cafe.

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British Museum

The spectacular British Museum building is home to a vast collection of world artefacts

Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1B 3DG

Tube: Tottenham Court Road Station , Russell Square Station, Holborn Station

 
 

The British Museum's Great Court with its magnificent glass and steel roof by Sir Norman Foster is an exhibition piece in itself. And, like most of the galleries in the museum, it's free to wander around and look up at in awe. In fact, over seven million objects from all over the world are housed in this impressive museum of human history and culture (many of the artifacts are stored underneath the museum due to lack of space). Founded in 1753, displays ranging from prehistoric to modern times were primarily based on the collections of physician and scientist, Sir Hans Sloane. Notable objects - all of which can be seen without spending a cent - include the Parthenon Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, the Sutton Hoo and Mildenhall treasures, and the Portland Vase. With such a wealth of objects to discover you may want to sign up for one of the free events that regularly take place including talks, films, performances and discussions.

 
 

Events at British Museum

Manga Ongoing Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

23rd May to 26th August 2019 | £19.50 (Adults), £16 (Concs & 16-18 yrs), Free (Under 16 yrs)

 
Manga British Museum 2019-05-232019-08-26 Where:
British Museum, Great Russell Street London, WC1B 3DG
Category: Museums
Albukhary Foundation Gallery Of The Islamic World
OngoingFree Event

18th October 2018 to 18th October 2019 - Various Times | Free

 
Albukhary Foundation Gallery Of The Islamic World British Museum 2018-10-182019-10-18 Where:
British Museum, Great Russell Street London, WC1B 3DG
Category: Museums
Nara: sacred images from early Japan Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

3rd October to 24th November 2019

 
Nara: sacred images from early Japan British Museum 2019-10-032019-11-24 Where:
British Museum, Great Russell Street London, WC1B 3DG
Category: Museums

Fifteen major Buddhist and Shinto sacred images go on display at the British Museum this autumn in a free display titled Nara: sacred images from early Japan. The display features objects from Nara Prefecture that ...more

Troy Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

21st November 2019 to 8th March 2020 | £19.50 (Adults), £16 (Concs & 16-18 yrs), Free (Under 16 yrs)

 
Troy British Museum 2019-11-212020-03-08 Where:
British Museum, Great Russell Street London, WC1B 3DG
Category: Museums
All events at British Museum
 
 
 

Bank of England Museum

The UK's central bank has a long and complicated history dating back to 1694

Bartholomew Lane, City, London, EC2R 8AH

Tube: Bank Station , Cannon Street Station, Mansion House Station, Moorgate Station, Monument Station

 
 

Housed within the Bank of England, this museum traces the history of the bank from its foundation by Royal Charter in 1694 to its role today as the nation's central bank. There are gold bars dating from ancient times to the modern market bar, coins, and a unique collection of banknotes. There are also many items you might not expect to find - pikes and muskets used to defend the bank, Roman pottery and mosaics uncovered when it was rebuilt in 1930, and documents relating to famous customers such as Horatio Nelson, George Washington and the Duchess of Marlborough.

 
 

Events at Bank of England Museum

325 years, 325 objects
OngoingFree Event

22nd July 2019 to 15th May 2020 - 10am-5pm | Free

 
325 years, 325 objects Bank of England Museum 2019-07-222020-05-15 Where:
Bank of England Museum, Bartholomew Lane London, EC2R 8AH
Category: Museums
All events at Bank of England Museum
 
 
 

The British Library

Full of literary treasures and fascinating facts, plus plenty of quiet corners for book-browsing

96 Euston Road, King's Cross, London, NW1 2DB

Tube: King's Cross Station , Euston Station

 
 

With over 150 million items, a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland, artwork by artists such as Antony Gormley and Eduardo Paolozzi, and a host of historically momentous works - including the Magna Carta, the Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare's First Folio and the Lindisfarne Gospels - a guided tour around the British Library is essential if you only have time for one visit. This is, after all, the largest public building constructed in the United Kingdom in the 20th century and, as such, warrants a guided tour around its cavernous spaces. While the library has a lot to offer the casual visitor - exhibition galleries (mostly free) special exhibitions, events, films, musical performances and poetry readings - if it's your first visit it's a good idea to let an experienced guide navigate you through the main treasures that call this place home. These guides also really know their stuff and will open your eyes to this gargantuan repository. Of particular interest is the Diamond Sutra, the world's earliest dated printed book, and the only surviving copy of 'Beowulf'. The King's Library - a three-storey glass tower - forms the centre-piece of the building both architecturally and in terms of its historic acquisitions. With 65,000 printed volumes, The King's Library refers to King George III, whose personal collection is on display here. Some of the tours include access to the reading rooms, access to which is usually limited to those with passes. While it is free to explore this iconic building, paying for a tour is more than worth it if you only have a few hours to take everything in.

 
 

Events at British Library

Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion Ongoing Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

7th June to 8th September 2019 | £7 (Adults), £6 (Seniors), £4 (Students & Children 12-17), Free (Children 11 & Under)

 
Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion British Library 2019-06-072019-09-08 Where:
British Library, 96 Euston Road London, NW1 2DB
Category: Museums
Writing: Making Your Mark Ongoing Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

26th April to 27th August 2019 | £14 (Adults), £12 (Seniors), £7 (Students & Children 12-17), Free (Children 11 & Under)

 
Writing: Making Your Mark British Library 2019-04-262019-08-27 Where:
British Library, 96 Euston Road London, NW1 2DB
Category: Museums
Buddhism Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

25th October 2019 to 25th February 2020 | £14 (Adults), £12 (Seniors), £7 (Students & Children 12-17), Free (Children 11 & Under)

 
Buddhism British Library 2019-10-252020-02-25 Where:
British Library, 96 Euston Road London, NW1 2DB
Category: Museums
All events at The British Library
 
 
 

Imperial War Museum

Providing insightful documentation of conflict, from the First World War to the present day

Lambeth Road, Elephant and Castle, Southwark, London, SE1 6HZ

Tube: Lambeth North Station

 
 

Occupying the former Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane ('Bedlam'), the Imperial War Museum is the national museum of 20th-century conflict. Founded in 1917, it not only contains a fascinating display of the vehicles and weapons of war, but also makes an in-depth study of the social effects of conflict. From the M4 Sherman tank, the V2 rocket and Polaris missile, to the walk-through recreation of a front line trench from the Somme, the Imperial War Museum represents all facets of fighting and its aftermath. Both World Wars are chronicled with thought-provoking displays of painting and poetry from Sassoon to Wilfred Owen, and a reconstructed air raid shelter and Blitzed street from 1940. The sights, sounds and smells have been carefully recreated to really bring the experience to life. Over 15,000 paintings, 120 million feet of cine film and 30,000 posters make this a unique collection.

 
 

Events at IWM London (Imperial War Museums)

Robert Capa: D-Day in 35mm
OngoingFree Event

24th May to 29th September 2019 - 10am-6pm | Free

 
Robert Capa: D-Day in 35mm IWM London (Imperial War Museums) 2019-05-242019-09-29 Where:
IWM London (Imperial War Museums), Lambeth Road, Elephant and Castle London, SE1 6HZ
Category: Museums
All events at Imperial War Museum
 
 
 

Museum of London

This museum tells the story of the London, from prehistoric times to present day

150 Wall, City, London, EC2Y 5HN

Tube: Barbican Station , St. Paul's Station

 
 

Experience the real flavour of London life from the prehistoric to present day at this modern museum boasting over 1.1 million objects - many rescued from archaeological digs or discovered during building works in the City. A chain of chronological galleries guides visitors through the history of this ancient city; 47,000 objects from Roman London pave the way with buckles, brooches and belt-fittings to the medieval period, 17th-century glassware leads onto vivid Victorian street scenes, interiors and shop fronts. From the skulls of those thought to have been massacred by Queen Boudica to boots worn by the Duke of Wellington, Queen Victoria's Parliamentary robes and paraphernalia from the Suffragettes' Movement, the history of London and its inhabitants is brought back to life with startling intensity. Don't miss fragments of the old London Wall located just outside the museum.

 
 

Events at Museum of London

Beasts of London Ongoing Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

5th April 2019 to 5th January 2020 | £8 (Adults), £6.40 (Concessions), £4 (Children 5-16), Free (Children Under 5), £20 (Family tickets)

 
Beasts of London Museum of London 2019-04-052020-01-05 Where:
Museum of London, 150 London Wall London, EC2Y 5HN
Category: Museums
All events at Museum of London
 
 
 
 

National Maritime Museum | Queen's House | Royal Observatory

The world's largest Maritime Museum is situated in the Greenwich World Heritage site

Park Row, London, SE10 9NF

Tube: New Cross Station (East London line closed. Bus service operates)

 
 

  • National Maritime Museum
Located in the heart of historic Greenwich, the National Maritime Museum houses the most important collection of objects relating to the history of Britain at sea. The collection dates back to 1823 when a National Gallery of Naval Art was established, featuring some 300 portraits, paintings and artefacts. The museum occupies a former asylum and hospital school, and enjoys fantastic views of the Thames from its elevated position. With the addition of the covered Neptune Court, the museum now boasts galleries dealing with topics ranging from navigation, naval exploits and Nelson, to exploration, the ecology of the sea and emigration. Visitors can try their hand at signalling and gunnery, explore the expansion of the Empire or just revel at the power, majesty and romance of the sea through poetry, painting and photography. Admission to the Museum is free, but you may want to splash out on tickets to the Cutty Sark or an exhibition.
  • Queen's House
As far as royal residences go this is a modest palace - an appealing, but simple, bright white, classical, Palladian villa flanked by colonnades. Its understated appearance, however, belies its immense historical significance. Built in 1616 by Inigo Jones for Anne of Denmark - the wife of James I - Queen's House was the first neo-classical building seen in England. Originally conceived as a hunting lodge and addition to the Palace of Greenwich, it also acted as a bridge spanning the public road to Deptford, which divided the park in two. Despite revolutionising Jacobean architecture the house, itself, didn't get finished until 1635 when it became home to Charles I and his Queen, Henrietta Maria. The house went on to survive tumultuous times. Queen Anne died before it was completed, shortly after Civil War broke out and Oliver Cromwell stripped the Stuarts of the residence and its many treasures. It is now used by the National Maritime Museum to exhibit paintings of illustrious seafarers and historic Greenwich. The Stuart 'Tulip Staircase', purported as the first spiral staircase in Britain, has been reinstated and takes its name from the beautiful floral patterning on the wrought-iron balustrade. Some faded painted panels remain on the ceiling of the royal bedchamber while the cuboid Great Hall is swathed in impressive computer-enhanced copies of Gentileschi frescos. For the valiant among you, Queen's House is notoriously haunted and photos of shrouded figures ascending the spiral stairs are thought to be legitimate. Admission to the house is free.
  • Royal Observatory
This museum of time and space was built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1675. It marks the site of the Greenwich Meridian - the base point for World Time and the site of Longitude 0. If you time it right, you can watch the timeball drop at 1pm each day. The National Maritime Museum, at this site since 1937, and Royal Observatory have accumulated over 2 million objects about the sea, ships, astronomy and time. Visitors can also see the Astronomer Royal's apartments, the famous Harrison timekeepers (1735-60) with computer simulations, intricate instruments, Wren's Octagon Room and the largest refracting telescope in Britain. In 2007 the 15 million Peter Harrison Planetarium opened, a beautiful cone-shaped addition to the Royal Observatory designed by architects Allies and Morrison. This 120-seat, state-of-the-art facility replaces the small and out of date planetarium in the dome of the South Building. Admission to the Observatory's Astronomy Centre is free, but if you want access to other areas and the Peter Harrison Planetarium there will be small fee.

 
 
 

Natural History Museum

Educational, exciting and larger than life. The Natural History Museum is truly unforgettable

Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 5BD

Tube: South Kensington Station , Gloucester Road Station

 
 

An 8-metre long giant squid, a walrus from Hudson Bay overstuffed by a London taxidermist in the 1880s, the skeleton of a Triceratops, a life-size Blue Whale and a sea cow are just a few of the 70 million items to call this exciting, interactive, life and earth science museum home. The permanent galleries show exhibitions on topics as diverse as: Dinosaurs - the ultimate prehistoric exhibition; Creepy-Crawlies - guaranteed to have you scratching in seconds; Human Biology - the must-see exhibition about the evolution of the species; and The Power Within - an examination of the earthquake experience. The Vault - a permanent exhibition of gems and rare meteorites - contains some famous, historic and priceless jewels. For those wanting to explore further a visit to The Darwin Centre is highly recommended. Book in for one of their free regular lectures and demonstrations and you'll see the how the museum's work is not just about preserving the past but conserving for the future. In warmer months the tranquil wildlife garden (open April to October), offers a further free attraction where you can get closer to nature. All galleries are free, although you may have to pay for some temporary exhibitions.

 
 

Events at Natural History Museum

Museum of the Moon OngoingFree Event Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

17th May to 8th September 2019 | Free

 
Museum of the Moon Natural History Museum 2019-05-172019-09-08 Where:
Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road London, SW7 5BD
Category: Museums
Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018 Ongoing Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

19th October 2018 to 8th September 2019 | £13.50 (Adult), £8 (Child and concession), £28-£38 (Family)

 
Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018 Natural History Museum 2018-10-192019-09-08 Where:
Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road London, SW7 5BD
Category: Museums
All events at Natural History Museum
 
 
 

Science Museum

Full of hands-on exhibits and mind-boggling artefacts, plus a 3D IMAX Cinema

Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD

Tube: South Kensington Station

 
 

Home to one of the world's most magnificent collections of science, industry, technology and medicine, the Science Museum is one of London's most hands-on and interactive museums. Funded by the profits of the Great Exhibition of 1851, it started life in the 19th century as part of Prince Albert's grand scheme to promote industrial technology. Today, it occupies a purpose-built building and contains some 300,000 objects, covering the entire history of Western science, technology and medicine. Displays are designed to encourage interaction with certain areas aimed at specific age groups. In the Launchpad gallery, for example, visitors are invited to learn about forces and motion with exhibits that make physics fun for children aged between 8 and 14 years. There's a whole host of scientific things to discover, from how aircraft are built to morphing your face to see how you'll look in 10 years' time. The monthly Science Museum Lates are also free - offering adults a chance to enjoy the museum free of charge as well as free from marauding kids.

 
 

Events at Science Museum

Summer of Space Ongoing Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

1st May to 1st September 2019

 
Summer of Space Science Museum 2019-05-012019-09-01 Where:
Science Museum, Exhibition Road London, SW7 2DD
Category: Museums
Top Secret
OngoingFree Event

10th July 2019 to 23rd February 2020 - 10am-6pm | Free

 
Top Secret Science Museum 2019-07-102020-02-23 Where:
Science Museum, Exhibition Road London, SW7 2DD
Category: Museums
Driverless: Who is in control? OngoingFree Event Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

12th June 2019 to 1st October 2020 | Free

 
Driverless: Who is in control? Science Museum 2019-06-122020-10-01 Where:
Science Museum, Exhibition Road London, SW7 2DD
Category: Museums
The Art of Innovation: From Enlightenment to Dark Matter Free Event Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

25th September 2019 to 24th January 2020 | Free, ticket required

 
The Art of Innovation: From Enlightenment to Dark Matter Science Museum 2019-09-252020-01-24 Where:
Science Museum, Exhibition Road London, SW7 2DD
Category: Museums
All events at Science Museum
 
 
 

Sir John Soane's Museum

Take a stroll through time at Sir John Soane's extraordinary home

13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, Holborn, London, WC2A 3BP

Tube: Holborn Station , Chancery Lane Station

 
 

An appealingly higgledy-piggledy treasure trove of artefacts, this extraordinary house elegantly located on Lincoln's Inn Fields is well worth an exploratory rummage. Lurking in nooks and crannies within the sprawling rooms and halls of neo-classical architect Sir John Soane's former residence are over 30,000 architectural drawings and antiquities. Works by Turner, Canaletto and Piranesi feature in the painting collection, with William Hogarth's eight canvasses of 'A Rake's Progress' forming the centre-piece. Each of the many spaces in this museum has its own strong identity and appeal. From the domed ceiling of the Breakfast Room and the Gothic library, to the study with its Roman architectural fragments and the two courtyards crammed with ancient stonework, this is a house of diversity and architectural merit. One of the most intriguing rooms is the Picture Gallery. Here, Canaletto's magnificent Riva degli Schiavoni, looking West, takes centre stage. Look out for the alabaster Egyptian Sarcophagus of Seti I dated 1370 BC appropriately located in the basement 'Sepulchral Chamber'.

 
 
 

Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum

Expansive, elegant. Spend a day browsing the V&A's art and design collections

Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2RL

Tube: South Kensington Station

 
 

With over 145 galleries to explore and over 4 million items, the V&A is one of the most influential museums of decorative and applied arts in the world. It was originally founded in 1852, with the aim of enthusing and educating British manufacturers and designers. It is now home to a stunning collection of European, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Islamic artefacts ranging from ceramics, glass, metalwork and sculpture to costume, armour, weaponry and furniture. The gallery also houses the national collection of the art of photography, the oldest photography collection in the world. Visitors can delve into the fascinating dress collection that features samples from historical dress to 21st-century haute-couture or examine the celebrated Arts and Crafts interiors of the Morris and Gamble Rooms. The gallery is often cited as housing the greatest collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture outside Italy, while the British Galleries - which opened to great acclaim in November 2001 - are unique in their exploration of British design from Chippendale to Morris, Adam to Mackintosh. Highlights include the Great Bed of Ward as mentioned in Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night', and James II's wedding suit. The building itself - a mix of Victorian and Edwardian design - also presents a truly formidable display. The Cast Courts (two great halls housing the museum's impressive collection of plaster casts), in particular, form a major focal point of the museum - with their high glass roof, elevated corridors and walkways.

 
 

Events at Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum

Food: Bigger than the Plate Ongoing Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

18th May to 20th October 2019 | £17 (Adults), £13 (Concessions)

 
Food: Bigger than the Plate Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum 2019-05-182019-10-20 Where:
Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum, Cromwell Road London, SW7 2RL
Category: Museums
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams Ongoing Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

2nd February to 1st September 2019 | £24, concs £19, under 11s Free, family £43 & £67, Art Fund adult £12, NUS £9.50

 
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum 2019-02-022019-09-01 Where:
Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum, Cromwell Road London, SW7 2RL
Category: Museums
Mary Quant Ongoing Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

6th April 2019 to 16th February 2020 | £12

 
Mary Quant Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum 2019-04-062020-02-16 Where:
Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum, Cromwell Road London, SW7 2RL
Category: Museums
Tim Walker On Soon Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

21st September 2019 to 8th March 2020 | TBA

 
Tim Walker Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum 2019-09-212020-03-08 Where:
Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum, Cromwell Road London, SW7 2RL
Category: Museums
Cars: Accelerating the Modern World Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

23rd November 2019 to 19th April 2020 | £18

 
Cars: Accelerating the Modern World Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum 2019-11-232020-04-19 Where:
Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum, Cromwell Road London, SW7 2RL
Category: Museums
All events at Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum
 
 
 

Design Museum

This striking museum has a free, permanent exhibition as well as regular free pop-up shows.

224-238 Kensington High Street, Bankside, London, W8 6AG

Tube: High Street Kensington Station

 
 

In 2016 the Design Museum moves from is long-standing home at Shad Thames to a venue three times the size, the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington High Street. The Grade II* listed building has been transformed by a design team led by John Pawson to include the Swarovski Foundation Centre for Learning, 202-seat Bakala Auditorium and a dedicated gallery to display its permanent collection, accessible free of charge. Within the collection - which started in 1982 as the pioneering Boilerhouse Project in the V&A - are designs that have shaped the modern world from fashion to furniture, product and graphic design, digital media, transport and architecture. The collections, both permanent and temporary, trace the history of design developments, from the origins of mass production to contemporary works. The permanent exhibition and regular pop-up shows are free to visit.

 
 

Events at Design Museum

Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition Ongoing Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

26th April to 17th September 2019 | £16 (Adult), £8 (Child 6-15 years), £12 (Student/concession), £24 (Family 1 adult + 3 children), £36 (Family 2 adults + 3 children), Free (Children under 6)

 
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition Design Museum 2019-04-262019-09-17 Where:
Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street London, W8 6AG
Category: Museums
Beazley Designs Of The Year On Soon Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

18th September 2019 to 5th January 2020 | £12 (Adults), £9.50 (Concs), £6.50 (Children)

 
Beazley Designs Of The Year Design Museum 2019-09-182020-01-05 Where:
Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street London, W8 6AG
Category: Museums
Moving to Mars Editor's Top Pick - Recommended

16th October 2019 to 1st March 2020

 
Moving to Mars Design Museum 2019-10-162020-03-01 Where:
Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street London, W8 6AG
Category: Museums
All events at Design Museum
 
 
 

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