22 free museums in London you need to visit [2023]

Free Museums in London - Central Hall with Whale skeleton in Natural History Museum London

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A question that is often asked by first-time visitors to the capital is…

‘Are London’s Museums free?’

The answer is yes they are – well, most of them at least!

The majority of London’s best museums don’t charge an entrance fee at all, although there are usually boxes dotted around in case you’re feeling generous and do want to leave a small donation.

Many museums also host special temporary exhibitions and events throughout the year which are ticketed, but this won’t stop you from visiting their permanent exhibitions for free.

This makes a trip to the museum one of the best free things to do in London.

Below I’ve outlined the best free museums in London you need to visit…

Must-visit free museums in London:

The 6 top London museums and galleries with free admission that you shouldn’t miss…

The British Museum

The covered square of the British Museum London

The British Museum in London’s Bloomsbury was founded in 1753 and was the first national museum in the world to cover all fields of human knowledge.

The impressive museum now has a permanent collection of over eight million artefacts which span two million years of human history, art and culture.

And if the museum’s extensive free collections aren’t enough to draw you in, then its architecture certainly will.

At the centre of the British Museum sits the largest covered public square in Europe, known as the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, a two-acre space enclosed by a spectacular glass roof.

Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road and Holborn.

Is the British Museum free? Yes!

Natural History Museum

TREX Dinosaur at the Natural History Museum London

London’s Natural History Museum is dedicated to the study of life and earth science and is one of the leading centres of natural history research in the world.

Plus, it is located inside one of London’s most architecturally impressive buildings, making it a popular tourist destination for multiple reasons.

Dating all the way back to 1881, the museum has many important historical artefacts among its 80 million items, including specimens collected by Charles Darwin himself.

The museum’s dinosaur exhibition has always been one of its most popular areas, with numerous dinosaur skeletons and a huge animatronic T-Rex (which you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy!). They even have part of the first Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered.

Other interesting exhibits about the natural world include Volcanoes and Earthquakes with a working earthquake simulator and the central Hintze Hall with a blue whale skeleton tethered from the ceiling.

Nearest tube station: South Kensington.

Is the Natural History Museum free? Yes! There are only admission fees for some of the special exhibitions and events.

London Travel Tip: Exhibition Road in South Kensington (south-west London) is home to three of the best free museums London has to offer; the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the V&A. Plan to spend a whole day in South Kensington if you want to tick off all three in one go.

Science Museum

Science Museum in London

My personal favourite free museum in London has to be the Science Museum in South Kensington.

London’s Science Museum covers various aspects of science and human achievement, from the exploration of space to the invention of modern digital technologies. It is currently the most visited science museum in Europe.

Spanning across multiple floors, the huge museum has over 300,000 items in its collection, including world-famous objects such as the Apollo 10 command capsule, Stephenson’s Rocket and Puffing Billy (the world’s oldest surviving steam locomotive).

There are also a number of interactive exhibits, such as a 3D IMAX cinema showing science and nature documentaries.

Nearest tube station: South Kensington.

Is the Science Museum free? Yes! However, you must pay to enter the interactive Wonderlab gallery, which is worth the money if you’re visiting with kids.

Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum

Victoria and Albert Museum in London

The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design and is one of the largest art museums in the world.

The museum houses a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects spanning 5,000 years of art, design and sculpture from different cultures all across the world, with exhibitions on textiles, costumes, jewellery, furniture, drawings, printing, photography, ironwork, ceramics, ancient objects and plenty more.

Nearest tube station: South Kensington.

Is the V&A Museum free? Yes! There are only charges for special temporary exhibitions.

National Gallery

Pillared building of National Gallery London

The National Gallery is one of the UK’s most important art museums which contains over 2,300 works dating from the mid-13th century to 1900.

Housed inside a Grade I listed Neoclassical building on the northern edge of Trafalgar Square, the gallery is home many iconic works by world-famous artists, including the likes of Michelangelo, Velázquez, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, and others.

The National Gallery is certainly one of the most impressive free galleries London has to offer.

Nearest tube station: Charing Cross.

Is the National Gallery free? Yes! There are occasionally some special exhibitions which are ticketed.

Tate Modern

Poster reading: How can art change the world? At the Tate Modern London

For those who prefer more contemporary art to classical works, head to the Tate Modern on the south bank of the River Thames.

Located inside the former Bankside Power Station, the Tate Modern is Britain’s national gallery of international modern art, housing a huge collection of contemporary and modern artwork from 1900 to the present day, with artists including Picasso, DalÍ­, Pollock and Warhol.

The Tate Modern is the most visited art museum in Britain and the second most visited museum in the UK after the British Museum.

Nearest tube station: Blackfriars.

Is the Tate Modern free? Yes! There is sometimes a fee for special exhibitions and events.

Other notable free museums in London

More of the best free museums in London…

The Museum of London

The Museum of London documents the social history of London, from prehistoric times to the present day. The free museum is the largest urban history collection in the world.

Its diverse collection showcases artifacts, interactive exhibits, and immersive displays that show the evolution of the city and its people over thousands of years.

From ancient Roman Londinium to the medieval period, the Great Fire of 1666 to the modern metropolis you find today, the museum provides a deep understanding of London’s social, cultural, and economic development.

It also delves into many aspects of London life, including fashion, art, music, and politics, making it a fascinating place for both locals and tourists alike interested in understanding the story of this vibrant city.

Nearest tube station: Barbican and St Pauls.

London Mithraeum

Temple of Mithras City of London Museum

Hidden below the skyscrapers of the City of London, this small museum is dedicated to the remains of an ancient Roman temple that dates back over 2,000 years.

The temple is one of the lesser-known free museums in London, yet is considered one of the UK’s most significant archaeological sites.

You can explore the ancient temple through a unique multimedia display, which aims to recreate the ceremonies that may have taken place there during Roman times. This cool immersive experience offers a glimpse into the past and allows you to connect with the history of the site.

In addition to the temple, the museum also houses a collection of Roman artifacts discovered during excavations at the site. Among these artifacts are fragments of writing tablets, which contain the earliest known reference to London and the oldest handwritten document in Britain.

The museum is free, but the small temple can only accommodate a limited number of people at a time. So you do need to book a time slot in advance to ensure entry.

Nearest tube stations: Cannon Street and Bank.

Design Museum

Interior of Design Museum London

Located in a new ultra-modern building on the edge of Holland Park, the Design Museum is the world’s leading museum devoted to contemporary design in every form.

The museum covers product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design, looking at everything from the original design of the London Underground and interior home design from around the world to how new technologies such as the iPhone are shaping our everyday lives and what we might expect to see in the future.

Nearest tube station: Kensington High Street.

The British Library

The British Library is the largest national library in the world, with an estimated 200+ million items in its collection. As well as its many books, the library holds historic manuscripts, maps, stamps, photographs and even music from every age of written civilisation.

Visit the ‘Treasures of the British Library Gallery‘ to see some of its most significant items, including the Magna Carta, original writings from both Charles Dickens and Shakespeare, Michelangelo’s anatomical illustrations, one of the earliest Qur’ans and a copy of the world’s oldest dated complete printed book, the Diamond Sutra.

One of the best museums in London for literary lovers!

Nearest tube station: Kings Cross and Euston.

The Welcome Collection

The Human Body display at the Welcome Collection London

‘The free museum and library for the incurably curious’.

The Welcome Collection is a unique and intriguing museum that houses a collection of medical artifacts from different cultures and time periods. Established by Henry Wellcome, a collector in the 19th century, the museum focuses on the historical evolution of medicine worldwide.

Within the museum, you can explore a wide range of medical antiquities, offering insights into the practices and developments in medicine throughout history. It also provides a fascinating glimpse into the diverse approaches to healthcare across different cultures.

Nearest tube station: Euston Square and Euston.

V&A Museum of Childhood

The Museum of Childhood is a branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum that celebrates the world of childhood through its extensive collection of toys, games, and children’s artifacts.

The museum’s collection features a diverse range of objects, from antique dolls and teddy bears to vintage board games and interactive exhibits. It provides a window into the history of childhood, allowing visitors to explore how play, education, and leisure activities have evolved over time.

With its engaging displays and hands-on activities, the V&A Museum of Childhood is a fun free London museum for both kids and adults to enjoy.

Nearest tube station: Bethnal Green.

National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum in Greenwich London

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is a fascinating museum that pays homage to Britain’s maritime history and the impact of sea exploration on the modern world.

The prestigious museum houses an extensive collection that delves into various aspects of seafaring, naval warfare, trade, and exploration.

You can immerse themselves in the stories of legendary explorers, such as Captain James Cook, and learn about the journeys that led to the discovery of new lands and the establishment of global trade routes.

The museum showcases many interesting artifacts, including intricate ship models, navigational instruments, historical maps, and naval weaponry.

Through interactive displays and engaging exhibitions, you can also gain a deeper understanding of how the sea has shaped societies, economies, and cultures throughout history.

Nearest tube station: Greenwich and Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich (DLR).

Royal Air Force Museum

The Royal Air Force Museum, located in the former hangars of the historic Hendon Aerodrome just outside of central London, is a captivating institution that showcases the history of aviation and the Royal Air Force (RAF).

The museum’s large collection holds a remarkable array of aircraft, ranging from iconic World War I planes to modern jet fighters.

On a visit to the museum, you can admire these magnificent machines up close while learning about their technological advancements and the role they played in shaping the world of aviation.

The museum also offers a wealth of stories and exhibits that shed light on the experiences of the men and women who served in the RAF, from wartime heroes to those who aided in peacekeeping missions and technological innovation.

Nearest tube station: Colindale.

The Imperial War Museum

Facade of Imperial War Museum London

The Imperial War Museum is a large museum in Lambeth North that looks at the causes and consequences of war, and the significant impact it has on people’s lives around the world.

With dedicated exhibits on WWI and WWII, the museum walks you through the timeline of each major war, using many immersive experiences and displays, such as recreated trenches and Blitz bunkers.

The museum also has a large collection of tanks, planes, and weapons to showcase technological advancements in warfare over the years, as well as personal stories from those who have experienced war firsthand.

Nearest tube station: Lambeth North.

Other notable free art galleries in London

More of the best free galleries in London for art lovers…

Tate Britain

Spiral Staircase with artwork at Tate Britain London

Another member of the Tate group, Tate Britain is actually older than the larger and better-known Tate Modern, dating all the way back to 1897.

While the Tate Modern holds international modern artwork, Tate Britain is now dedicated to historical and contemporary British art.

Nearest tube station: Pimlico.

National Portrait Gallery

Located in an adjoining building to the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery houses a collection of historic portraits of important and famous British people.

Nearest tube station: Charing Cross.

The Wallace Collection

Art at Wallace Collection London

The Wallace Collection is an interesting free art museum located inside a large townhouse in Marylebone known as Hertford House.

The museum has a collection of paintings from the 15th to 19th century, as well as antiques and sculptures sourced from around the globe by Sir Richard Wallace.

Nearest tube station: Bond Street.

Queens House

The aptly named Queens House in Greenwich was the first-ever classical building in the UK in the 1600s with the original purpose of being the royal residence of Queen Anne of Denmark.

However, Queen Ann died before the building was completed and the building was given to Queen Consort Henrietta Maria. It was then used by several other royals over the years.

The Grade I listed building is now part of the National Maritime Museum and is used to display parts of their substantial collection of maritime paintings and portraits.

Nearest tube station: Greenwich and Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich (DLR).

Smaller free museums in London

The smaller and lesser-known (but still great!) free admission museums in London…

Horniman Museum

The Horniman Museum in Forest Hill (South London) is similar to the Natural History Museum but on a much smaller scale, with collections spanning natural history and anthropology.

The museum is particularly known for its elaborate taxidermy exhibition as well as the large 16 acres of gardens with a conservatory, nature trail, animal enclosure, butterfly house and sound garden with giant musical instruments you can play.

With its smaller size and fun interactive exhibitions, Horniman is one of the best free museums in London for kids.

Visiting London with kids? Check out these other fun free things to do in London with little ones.

Nearest tube station: Forest Hill.

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology 

A part of University College of London but free for anyone to explore, the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology is a small collection of hieroglyphics, carvings, pottery and other artefacts from Egypt and Sudan on display within the university campus.

Nearest tube station: Euston Square.

Grant Museum of Zoology 

Another free public museum belonging to University College of London in Bloomsbury is the Grant Museum of Zoology, with many skeletons and preserved remains of animals in Victorian-style glass cases.

Nearest tube station: Euston Square.

Bank of England Museum

Located within the Bank of England in the City of London, this rather niche yet very interesting little museum has a unique selection of exhibits detailing what the Bank of England does and the effect this has on our everyday lives.

You can also learn about the Bank of England’s historic buildings, find out more about the banknote design, and even try to lift a real bar of gold (it’s heavier than you think!).

Learn about money without having to spend any yourself at this free London museum.

Nearest tube station: Bank.

BONUS – Museums in London with paid entrance

Some other London museums that are worth visiting, even if you do have to pay for them…

London Transport Museum (PAID)

London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum in the heart of Covent Garden explores the capitals transport system, emphasising the powerful link between transport and the growth of London over the last 200 years.

The museum’s collection includes real horse and motor buses, trains, taxis, trams, trolleybuses and bicycles, transport signs dating back to 1800, historic tube maps, and photos, posters and artwork documenting the evolution of London’s transport network over time.

Nearest tube station: Covent Garden.

The Postal Museum (PAID)

The Postal Museum takes visitors back over 500 years of communication history through the eyes of the iconic postal service.

Plus, for the first time, you can now visit the secret 100-year-old underground tunnels running underneath the city on an exclusive Mail Rail ride, which was the world’s first driverless electric railway (worth the visit alone!).

Nearest tube station: Farringdon, Russell Square, King’s Cross and Chancery Lane.

Other London posts to help you plan your visit:

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Emily is a born and raised London girl, starting life in the north of the capital then moving down to Fulham in the southwest. She has a master’s degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology from University College London and now works full-time running this blog and as a freelance travel writer, splitting her life between London and travelling the world as a digital nomad.

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