10 Free Museums to check out in London
What do you do when you want to enjoy a free day out in London but don’t have a lot of money to spend? Visit one of the city’s many museums and galleries, of course! Many are free or have an affordable entry at least once a week.
Whether you’re interested in art, history, science, or something more unusual, there’s plenty to choose from, no matter your interests.
To help you out, we have compiled a list of our favourite free museums and galleries in London. From small hidden gems to well-known institutions, there is something here for everyone.
Here are some of the free galleries and museums you can visit in London, together with the closest tube stations for each location.
The Wellcome Collection is a museum of science and medicine that hosts several free events and exhibitions every week. Highlights include the weekly Friday-night events such as the Late Lounge, which offers a unique insight into some of the fascinating objects in the museum’s collection.
There are also regular themed talks, family activities and workshops for all ages. Another great addition to Wellcome’s offerings is the Wellcome Walks series. Every month or so, a free guided walk will take place, highlighting a specific aspect of London’s history, such as how plague outbreaks have shaped the city over the centuries.
All these events are free and open to all; the museum simply asks you to register at least 24 hours in advance.
How to get to The Wellcome Collection using the London Underground
The closest tube station to The Wellcome Collection is Euston Square
The British Museum is one of the free museums to visit in London and home to a vast collection of artefacts from across the globe. It is open every day and offers a combination of blockbuster exhibitions and smaller displays.
There is always something new; previous exhibitions have included the Rosetta Stone, China: The Chinese Revolution and Pacific: Exploring Human Beginnings. It is also worth checking the website for special free events and exhibitions.
How to get to The British Museum using the London Underground
The closest tube station to The British Museum is Tottenham Court Road.
If you love animals, the Grant Museum of Zoology is a must-visit. It is home to thousands of specimens worldwide, including insects, birds, and mammals. Highlights include the zebra-like quagga that was hunted in the 1880s.
The museum also boasts fossils from amphibians, reptiles, fish, and mammals, including a dodo skeleton. The Grant Museum of Zoology is open daily but may close earlier during winter.
How to get to The Grant Museum of Zoology using the London Underground
The closest tube station to The Grant Museum of Zoology is Warren Street.
Some people who visit the Freemason’s Hall in Covent Garden may be surprised to learn that it is a museum and a meeting place for the Freemasons, who are fascinating and friendly.
The museum itself is free and open to all and offers a fascinating glimpse into the history and traditions of the Freemasons. The museum has regular exhibitions, talks and other events, and a reading room is open to the public.
How to get to The Library and Museum of Freemasonry using the London Underground
The closest tube station to The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is Holborn.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is the world’s oldest architectural association, and its building in Bloomsbury is a fascinating architectural gem. The building is worth a visit, and there is a permanent exhibition and art gallery on the upper floor open to all.
The exhibition, called Drawing Architecture, explores architecture and drawing through various artistic media and disciplines, such as illustration, architecture, animation and painting. There are regular talks, exhibitions and events at the venue.
The RIBA hosts a range of free events every week, and it is well worth signing up for their mailing list to stay up-to-date with what is on.
How to get to RIBA using the London Underground
The closest tube station to RIBA is Regent’s Park.
Sir John Soane’s Museum is one of the best-kept secrets in London and a fascinating and unusual place to visit. Hidden in the heart of Bloomsbury and home to the architect Sir John Soane’s collection of antiquities, the museum is open daily, offering free entry and extremely reasonable rates for guided tours. The museum has also recently undergone a major refurbishment and re-opened in November 2018.
The building is architecturally fascinating, and Soane’s architectural drawings have been incorporated into the walls and ceilings of the museum. There is also a small café serving hot and cold drinks and cakes and a gift shop on site. There is a regularly updated exhibition in the museum and several free events and activities, including guided tours and a Sunday Architecture series of talks and workshops.
How to get to the Sir John Soane’s Museum using the London Underground
The closest tube station to The Sir John Soane’s Museum is Holborn.
If you love art, architecture, and interiors, the Wallace Collection is a must-visit. The collection comprises paintings, furniture, porcelain, silver, and other objects d’art collected by the Wallace family since the 18th century. Highlights include works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Canaletto, and Velasquez. The building is an architectural gem reconstructed as it was in the 19th century and you will have fun checking it out with friends and family.
How to get to The Wallace Collection using the London Underground
The closest tube station to The Wallace Collection is Bond Street.
Tate Britain is one of the most famous art museums in London. Located on the south bank of the Thames, this gallery houses a permanent collection of British art from the 16th century to the present day. Highlights include works by JMW Turner, George Stubbs, Thomas Gainsborough, and William Blake.
The gallery also has a large selection of 20th-century British art, including pieces by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and David Hockney. There are often rotating exhibitions and events at the Tate Britain, so check the website before you visit to ensure it is open.
How to get to Tate Britain using the London Underground
The closest tube station to Tate Britain is Pimlico.
For anyone who loves aviation history, the Royal Air Force Museum is one of the best museums in London. The collection of over 200 aircraft and more than 50,000 artefacts trace aviation history from the first heavier-than-air flight in 1903.
Highlights include the “ENDURANCE” exhibition, which tells the story of the crew of the Royal Air Force And South Atlantic Squadron who were stationed on the British Antarctic Survey base; “The Rise of the Airborne”, an interactive exhibition which details the history of airborne forces in the British military; and the “Hands On” gallery, an interactive gallery for children with numerous flight simulators.
The museum is open daily, but some exhibitions are only on certain days of the week, so check the website before you visit.
How to get to The Royal Airforce Museum using the London Underground
The closest tube station to The Royal Airforce Museum is Colindale.
For a fascinating insight into the history of the British home, the Museum of the Home is a must-visit. The museum has a collection of over 5,000 items, including furniture, household appliances, and domestic ephemera.
It traces the evolution of the British home from medieval times to the present day. Highlights include a Victorian kitchen, an Edwardian sitting room, and a room preserved as it was when a family lived there in the 1930s.
How to get to The Museum of the Home using the London Underground
The closest tube station to The Museum of the Home is Hoxton (London Overground).
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is a fascinating museum and houses an immense collection of over 2.27 million objects. Housed in a beautiful historic building on the edge of Kensington Gardens, the museum is free to enter and open daily from 10 am to 5.45 pm. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
How to get to The Victoria and Albert Museum using the London Underground
The closest tube station to The Victoria and Albert Museum is South Kensington.
For a fascinating, edgy look at modern war and conflict, visit the Imperial War Museum. It is one of London’s best free museums and a must-see if you are interested in history. The museum tells the story of modern war, conflict, and the people who fought them through artefacts, interactive exhibits, and audiovisual displays.
There are ten galleries in the museum, each covering a different theme. The themes range from the Battle of Britain to the Cold War. You can get lost here for hours.
How to get to The Imperial War Museum using the London Underground
The closest tube station to The Imperial War Museum is Lambeth North.
The world’s most visited art gallery, Tate Modern, is an unmissable museum. Housed in a former power station, the modern art collection has become a London cultural icon. The collection includes works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and Picasso.
The museum also hosts contemporary art exhibitions, including major shows by artists like Mark Rothko and Louise Bourgeois. There is always something new to see here, and it’s one of the best ways to spend a free day out in London.
How to get to The Tate Modern using the London Underground
The closest tube station to The Tate Modern is Southwark.
There is no better way to truly experience a new place than by exploring its culture and museums. If you have limited funds and are looking to save while on vacation, we recommend checking the various city museums’ websites to see what days they offer free admission. We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on museums and galleries in London to visit for free or cheap. Now it’s time to pack your bags and prepare for your next adventure. Keep this list handy, so you don’t miss out on these free London attractions.
About the author
Having worked across the heritage and tourism sector for over 10 years, Monty Beaumont is an expert when it comes to discovering new places to visit and great days out for the whole family.
He has previously worked for the National Trust as a General Manager in Cornwall, coordinated the complex operations of running a castle in Devon and the mastered the intricacies of providing exceptional hospitality and service at some of the finest historic houses in the UK.
As part of his vision and drive for Monty’s Guide, Monty travels across the country to find new places to visit and explore, and sharing his finding on montysguide.com, which is used by 1,000s of people each week to find their next great day out.
His experience and knowledge of the historic and cultural sector gives him a unique insight into the elements that make tourism and learning so important in our quest to understanding more about our heritage.