We love London’s museums for two reasons: first for their huge collections, and second for their accessibility. Well, many museums in London are free so that anyone, regardless of their wallet, can see, for example, van Gogh’s Sunflowers, dinosaur fossils or learn about the history of the city. In this post we will show you free museums and galleries in London.
We know London quite well. There was a time in our lives when we came here on average every 2 months – this was when we lived in England and moved to the capital at every opportunity. Such occasions were, for example, visitors: whenever family or friends dropped by they wanted to see London. So we took them on a tour of interesting places in the UK capital. In addition to the obvious symbols like Big Ben, the London Eye, the Tower of London and London Bridge, we always took them to some museum. Not everyone was receptive to these ideas, but everyone always came away delighted.
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Tour London for free!
The last time we were in London was in the fall of 2021, and that’s when we saw another free museum, and when we showed it on social media coverage quite a few people asked us to prepare just such a list of free museums in London. Admittedly, with a lot of slippage, but it’s finally here. We could create a separate post about each of these facilities (which we hope to do someday), but for now we have prepared a list with brief descriptions so that you can decide for yourself which facility interests you the most.
Free museums in London that are worth seeing
The following museums in London are free of charge, but you may need to reserve a seat for a specific time – please check the facilities’ websites for up-to-date information (links are provided in the descriptions). In addition, some exhibitions (e.g., temporary ones) may have an additional fee. We visited the museums in the first part of the post in person, the others are given for inspiration and are on our list of sites to see.
At the end of the post we have prepared a map with all the free museums and galleries in London.
Natural History Museum in London
The Natural History Museum is the place where we enter the world of nature around us: plants, rocks and animals – both those that live today and those that are extinct. There are separate sections on rocks, minerals and gemstones, human evolution, animals or dinosaurs along with an impressive moving tyrannosaur.
Of course, most exhibitions are devoted to animals – we can take a close look at different species and see what creatures invisible to the naked eye live around us. The section on evolution and planetary processes is also extremely interesting – here the earthquake simulator deserves special attention.
And we must admit that this museum is not as modern as one might expect. I remember my first visit to this museum about 20 years ago, and believe me, what was memorable during that visit is still here and holding up well :) Nevertheless, changes can also be seen …
In our opinion, this is a must-see item! This is our number one when it comes to free museums in London.
Science Museum in London
The Science Museum in London presents the history and achievements of science and technology – both the development and their role in our daily lives. And even though everyone is aware of how much knowledge this is, the size of the museum still knocks you off your feet. We spent probably 8 hours here last time, and only because they were already closing the museum, because we could have easily sat for another two hours (we should add that it was a visit with three children already).
What, then, has so consumed us? The part about the discovery of space, the development of medicine with old tools and equipment, ancient vehicles or even learning about the human body.
It is worth mentioning that the museum has a dedicated section for children aged 3-6, where they can play and experiment with water, light and sound.
The National Gallery in London
London’s most famous gallery is located in the equally famous Trafalgar Square and admission is also free. The gallery contains an extensive collection of paintings by many famous artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Dieg Velazquez, Rembrandt, Claude Monet and many others. One of the most famous works is van Gogh’ s Sunflowers, mentioned in the introduction, which not long ago became the target of an attack by two female activists and was doused with tomato soup (the painting survived). Although we have been to the gallery several times we only managed to see them once – this is due to the simple fact that the paintings are on loan to other museums and we just happened to hit a time when they were in a completely different place.
And we won’t pretend here that we know more about art than we actually do, but even for laymen like us the National Gallery makes a huge impression every time. The number of works (there are more than 2,300 here) but also the building itself, which houses the paintings, is a delight.
The British Museum in London
The British Museum is another impressive free museum both because of the building and the amazing collection of almost 8 million (!!!) exhibits. It is the largest museum in the UK and one of the largest in the world [
. You should plan a full day, or preferably even 2 days, for the tour.
What will we see inside the British Museum? First of all, monuments of ancient history – here we can admire sculptures, bas-reliefs, coins, sarcophagi, monuments, jewelry, ceramics, weapons, clothing – divided according to their origin (region) or history. There is a room with collections from ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, there are sections devoted to America, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa.
On the one hand, one is delighted not only by the quantity, but also by the size and variety of some of the exhibits, and on the other hand, behind these collections is a rather dismal history of acquiring many of them (let’s not kid ourselves, not all of them were purchased, auctioned or received as donations).
Museum of London
This is our latest discovery and an absolutely fantastic addition to the other free museums in London. Where better to learn about the city’s history than at the Museum of London? Immediately upon entering the exhibition, we are taken back to the time of settlement in the areas of present-day London, and subsequent exhibitions chronologically show not only the most important historical events but also what life was like for ordinary residents.
Here we learn about the development of medicine, how food was cooked, trade routes, the plague epidemic or the Great Fire of London. The Museum of London is modern, presenting various aspects of London life over the centuries in a very interesting way.
Special tasks are available for families with children – children are given cards and have to find different objects, look for answers to questions, and in the process can absorb knowledge even better.
Other free museums and art galleries worth noting
Victoria and Albert Museum
Located right next to the aforementioned Natural History Museum and Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum is a more traditional museum. While the previous ones had a lot of interactive exhibits, allowing people to learn through experience and play, this museum is more about traditional showcases and exhibits.
In operation since 1852, the museum is one of the oldest and largest museums in the UK (it originally operated in a different building than it does today). Inside awaits an impressive collection of diverse works of art and historical items from all corners of the world. Admired here are: sculptures, textiles, costumes, jewelry, photographs, paintings, books, ceramics, glassware and much more.
V&A Museum of Childhood, Young V&A
Although currently closed it is worth noting because something new is being prepared. Previously operating under the name V&A Museum of Childhood, the museum, part of the Victoria & Albert Museum, provided a rich collection documenting childhood and everything related to it from ancient times to the present. You could find traditional wooden toys, board games, toy prototypes and those that were mass-produced….
However, we are now looking forward to the new venue, Young V&A, which aims to be a more interactive and open place for young visitors: encouraging creative play and learning. At the time of publication of this post, the opening date is not known.
Tate galleries: Tate Modern and Tate Britain
Tate are art galleries in the UK. There are currently four, two of which (Modern and Britain) are located in London and can be visited for free.
Tate Modern is a museum of modern art, operating since 2000 in the former Bank Side Power Station. The museum has a rich collection of modern and contemporary art, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings and installations.
The Tate Britain is the former Tate Gallery, now has a collection of works created in Britain and here you can see works by artists such as William Blake, Francis Bacon, John Everett Millais, Thomas Gainsborough.
National Portrait Gallery in London
Another place currently closed, but in the case of the Portrait Gallery it is known that it is expected to open in 2023, so it is worth keeping an eye on.
Founded in 1856, the museum has more than 11,000 portraits of British celebrities in its main collection. These are portraits of both rulers and politicians, artists. athletes.
Museum of London Docklands
The lesser known and less popular museum is located in the Docklands and takes a closer look at the role the Thames River has played and the history of London’s docks and harbor. The relatively new museum (opened in 2003) is part of the Museum of London.
Visitors learn about the history from the first port on the Thames to the time the docks were closed and used for commercial and residential purposes. There are many interesting arrangements, mockups, the place is tailored to different audiences, although it must be admitted that the theme of slavery and executions may not be suitable for younger visitors (here a space dedicated to children under 8 – Mudlarks – comes to the rescue).
Imperial War Museum
This museum is one of the largest of its kind dedicated to armed conflict. The themes center around the First and Second World Wars, but not only in a global context, but also showing the stories of ordinary people.
Bank of England Museum
Definitely a smaller museum, centered around the theme of finance and the central bank. Here you can view coins, banknotes, gold bars and learn a lot about the history of legal tender, how the banking system developed in Britain and the role of the Bank of England.
National Maritime Museum
Another free museum in London is located in Greenwich and has collections related to the maritime expeditions of the British (both war and trade). In the interiors you can see ship models, navigational instruments, maps, documents, galleons, banners, coins or works of art related to sea voyages.
Royal Air Force Museum – Royal Air Force Museum
The museum is located a little farther from central London, but still within the city limits, at the former Hendon Airport, and the collections can be viewed in buildings and aircraft hangars.
The museum, which has been in operation for more than 50 years, takes a closer look at the history of British military aviation by displaying such exhibits as aircraft, helicopters, uniforms, armaments and aviation instruments.
Map of free museums in London
All the above described free museums in London are scattered practically all over the city, so you can explore London itself by the way too :) Below you will find all these museums on one map:
London – where to stay overnight?
Wondering where to stay the night in London? Here are some suggestions for different budgets, in central London, while choosing facilities with the best possible reviews.
We don’t have our favorite place, although since we have family here, hotels don’t interest us ;) Nevertheless, many times we simply bought the cheapest facilities and none of them impressed us…. But you don’t go to London to sit in a hotel!
- Keystone House
Address: 6 Caledonian Road, Islington, London, N1 9DU
Prices: from 507 PLN for a double room
- Dockers Inn
Address: 97 Wapping Lane, Tower Hamlets, London, E1W 2RW
Prices: from 524 PLN for a double room
- The Gantry London, Curio Collection By Hilton
Address: 40 Celebration Avenue, Newham, London, E20 1DB
Prices: from 950 PLN for a double room
- The Harrington
Address: No 1 Harrington Gardens, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW7 4JJ
Prices: from 840 PLN for a double room
- Wombat’s City Hostel London
Address: 7 Dock Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1 8LL
Prices: from 830 PLN for a double room OR from 211 PLN for a bed in a dormitory room
- Astor Court Hotel
Address: 20 Hallam Street, Westminster, London, W1W 6JQ
Prices: from 1100 PLN for a double room
Our opinion on free museums in London
While London itself is not a cheap city, the very fact that there are so many free attractions means that for more than a week you can just see the museums themselves for free, and the only costs are those related to travel, accommodation, transportation and food :)
Museums in London completely change your perspective! Although free they are really made for the so-called “free”. grazing – engaging, interesting, interactive, featuring the greatest works, tailored for families with children…. what more could you want?
How many of these museums have you already seen?