4 London museums and galleries that are free admission (but a donation is nice)

Coat: £69, Marks & Spencer. Bag: Sandro (old). Tee: Gap (old). Jeans: Gap (old). Shoes: Mango(old). Photographs: Christopher O’Donnell.

We are SO lucky that most of the museums and galleries in the UK are free, this isn’t really the case in most other countries.

I probably didn’t time this post very well, after the school holidays, but I’m pretty sure this is useful information at any time of the year. These are my favourite galleries in London which also happen to be free…

1. TATE

Both Tate Modern and Tate Britain are free, but personally I love Britain – it’s always much quieter due to its location and the free art is so extensive plus a wonderful mix of both classic and modern. I have been so many times, but every time I find something new or see it with fresh eyes – and if you do pay extra for the exhibitions, they are always so worth it – we LOVED the All Too Human exhibition this summer (we are actually Tate Members now to help support the galleries).

Rachel Whiteread’s tiny working dollhouses at V&A Museum of Childhood

2. V&A MUSEUM OF CHILDHOOD

Obviously, the V&A museum is amazing but I thought I’d add their lesser known museum in Bethnal Green here. Educational? yes. Fun? That, too. At first we were a bit disappointed as we assumed children could play with toys throughout history but it’s more of an interactive tour of toys from years gone by. But there are so many trails and workshops to keep kids busy, not to mention nostalgia for us adults, too.

3. THE WALLACE COLLECTION

I think this might be my most favourite hidden gem in the whole of London. It’s in W1, it’s quiet, the decor is breathtaking, not to mention the Rembrandt, Canaletto, Jan Steen, Franz Hals artwork on display.

And did I mention it was free….?

I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to while away an hour or so behind the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street – add it on your list for the next time you go.

4. THE BRITISH MUSEUM

I hadn’t been to The British Museum for years, it always reminded me of school trips being herded around, but we recently went to the Hokusai exhibition and fell back in love with it. As a Classicist, the ancient Greek artefacts in particular are fascinating and again, there are so many trails and activity packs set up for young kids.

Again, we are so lucky that places like this are free for us to use, and I plan on taking Peggy on a regular basis. Other museums on our ‘to-do’ list are The Horniman, The Museum of London and The Imperial War Museum (my aunt Betty, who used to live in Borough, was one of the voices they used on the phones where you could listen to their war stories!) – are there any others we’ve missed that you can recommend?

36 Comments

  1. The Design Museum is amazing! Their Design of the Year exhibit is well worth visiting every year although more geared for adults or older children.

    1. Aaaaah thank you – weirdly I couldn’t think of very many to visit when preparing this post, but now probably have an entire new post to create! x

  2. There always seems to be something I want to see on at the Fashion and Textile museum – at the moment it is Orla Kiely, I would love to see that. I also agree with Emily that the Design museum is excellent. I still remember the Manolo Blahnik exhibition they did years ago, possibly my favourite exhibition ever.

  3. The Welcome Collection is also a lovely place, the library is dreamy and they often have fun exhibitions plus nice cafe/book shop.
    Also a hidden *free* gem is the Grant Museum of Zoology, it’s floor to ceiling packed with animal specimens in jars! And just round the corner from the Welcome Collection so can do both in one trip.

  4. There always seems to be something I want to see on at the Fashion and Textile museum – at the moment it is Orla Kiely, I would love to see that. I also agree with Emily that the Design museum is excellent. I still remember the Manolo Blahnik exhibition they did years ago, possibly my favourite exhibition ever.

  5. The Welcome Collection is also a lovely place, the library is dreamy and they often have fun exhibitions plus nice cafe/book shop.
    Also a hidden *free* gem is the Grant Museum of Zoology, it’s floor to ceiling packed with animal specimens in jars! And just round the corner from the Welcome Collection so can do both in one trip.

  6. I always recommend the Sir John Soanes Museum – also free. Near Holborn, it is absolutely stuffed full of treasures and it’s such an unusual set up. They also do candle lit tours – completely enchanting. If you’ve not been you’d love it, especially as a classicist.

    1. Aaaah yes, a few people have recommended! I think I got it confused with the Sir Joan Soane designed museum in Dulwich, which isn’t free, so I didn’t visit! But rectify, sounds amazing xx

  7. Love this post, Alex! Like you I feel so passionately about our brilliant museums and go whenever I can (and have such fond memories of going to them with my mum growing up, so Peggy is lucky to have you taking her). The V&A, Wallace Collection, and Tate Britain are my favourites, but I also *really* love the Sir John Soane’s (sadly you can’t take pictures but it’s so eccentric and wonderful), the Portrait Gallery, and in Cambridge, the Fitzwilliam.

    Briony xx

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