12 free museums in London that you should not miss

River Thames at sunset
River Thames at sunset

London is not a cheap city for tourists. Luckily, there many interesting and free museums in London that allow visitors to learn about the history and culture of England without breaking the bank.

There are many interesting and free museums all across London for you to choose from whether you want to see famous pieces of art, historical documents, statues, Egyptian mummies, or children’s books.

Here is a list of 12 free museums in London that you should not miss:

The British Museum

The British Museum, London, England
The British Museum (Source)

During the 19th century, London was considered the capital of the world. The reach of the British Empire stretched far and wide. During this period of time, England had no trouble collecting artwork and historical pieces from lands all across the globe.

The British Museum is one of the most comprehensive museums in the world. Established in 1753, the museum first opened to the public on January 5, 1759.

The British Museum holds some 8 million permanent works from every continent. These works document the history, art, and culture of humans from the beginning of man to present day.

Don’t miss: The Great Court, Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, Assyrian lions, Parthenon sculptures

Monday-Thursday: 10:00AM–5:30PM
Friday: 10:00AM–8:30PM
Saturday-Sunday: 10:00AM–5:30PM
Closed December 24-26 and January 1

Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom
Closest Stations: Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Russell Square, Goodge Street

Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum, London, England
Imperial War Museum, London, England (Source)

The Imperial War Museum was founded by Sir Alfred Mond in 1917. The purpose of the museum was not to be a war memorial but to serve as a constant reminder of the sacrifices soldiers of Britain and the British Empire made during the First World War.

In 1936, the museum was moved to its current location in Southwark. The building previously housed the Bethlem Royal Hospital.

Since the Imperial War Museum opened in 1936, four other branches have opened across England including two other branches in London. The two branches in London are the HMS Belfast and Churchill War Rooms.

Don’t miss: The Holocaust Exhibition, First World War Galleries, Secret War Exhibit

Daily: 10:00AM-6:00PM (last admission at 5:30PM)
Closed December 24-26

Lambeth Rd, London SE1 6HZ, United Kingdom
Closest Stations: Lambeth North, Waterloo, Elephant and Castle

Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England
Victoria and Albert Museum (Source)

With over 4.5 million objects, the Victoria and Albert Museum is the largest decorative arts and design museum in the world.

Over 2,000 years of Western, Asian, and Islamic arts and designs are on display. Displays include clothing, furniture, ceramics, porcelain, stained glass, musical instruments, paintings, metalwork, jewelry, carpets, sculptures, textiles, photos, books, and more.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, also known as V&A, was founded in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in 1852. The museum was named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Don’t miss: Mick Jagger’s jumpsuit he wore during the Rolling Stones tour in 1972, Ardabil Carpet, notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci

Monday-Thursday: 10:00AM–5:45PM
Friday: 10:00AM–10:00PM
Saturday-Sunday: 10:00AM–5:45PM
Closed December 24-26

Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom
Closest Station: South Kensington

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum, London, England
Natural History Museum (Source)

Just across the street from the Victoria and Albert Museum is a large, Neo-Romanesque building that houses the Natural History Museum.

The museum, which was established in 1881, is world-renowned for its research and conservation of some 80 million life and earth science items and specimens. The building itself has also become somewhat of a tourist attraction for its ornate architecture.

Natural History Museum is famous for its collection of dinosaur skeletons. Since 1979, Hintz Hall has been dominated by a 109 year old skeleton cast of a Diplodocus dinosaur known as “Dippy.” The cast was a gift given from Andrew Carnegie. The original dinosaur is housed at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. For four to six months, starting in September 2015, “Dippy” will be relocated to various locations around England in an effort to increase curiosity in natural history.

Don’t miss: Hintz Hall, dinosaur skeletons exhibitions, blue whale skeleton, he beautiful architecture

Daily: 10:00AM-5:50PM (last admission at 5:15PM)
Closed December 24-26

Cromwell Rd, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom
Closest Stations: South Kensington, Gloucester Road

London Science Museum

London Science Museum, London, England
London Science Museum (Source)

Just next door to the Natural History Museum is the sprawling and kid friendly London Science Museum. The museum was first established on June 26, 1909 and eventually opened to the public between 1919 and 1928.

Today, over 3 million people visit the museum every year which holds some 300,000 items related to science.

Some of the most popular items include the first jet engine, steam locomotives known as Puffing Billy (1813) and Stephenson’s Rocket (1829), steam engines including Old Bess (1777), the first prototype of the 10,000-year clock, and a replica of a DNA model .

If you are visiting the museum with kids, they will be entertained for hours thanks to the many interactive and hands on exhibits. Many of these exhibits teach kids and adults about time, space and ocean exploration, climate change, medicine, and more.

Don’t miss: Puffing Billy, Old Bess, Stephenson’s Rocket, 10,000-year clock prototype, IMAX Theater (extra charge)

Daily: 10:00AM-6:00PM (last admission at 5:15PM)
Closed December 24-26

Exhibition Rd, London SW7 2DD, United Kingdom
Closest Stations: South Kensington, Gloucester Road

The National Gallery

The National Gallery, London, England
The National Gallery, London, England (Source)

The National Gallery, located prominently on Trafalgar Square, holds one of the greatest collections of British and European paintings. The museum holds over 2,000 paintings from the 13th to 20th centuries.

When the National Gallery was founded in 1824, it housed only 38 paintings. The museum was moved to its current location in 1838.

Today, the National Gallery is world renowned for its paintings by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Jan van Eyck, Hans Holbein, and J. M. W. Turner.

Don’t miss: The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist (Leonardo da Vinci), Rembrandt’s self portraits, The Bathers (Cézanne), Sunflowers (Vincent van Gogh)

Monday-Thursday: 10:00AM–6:00PM
Friday: 10:00AM–9:00PM
Saturday-Sunday: 10:00AM–5:30PM
Closed December 24-26 and January 1

Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN, United Kingdom
Closest Stations: Charing Cross, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Enbankment

Horniman Museum

Horniman Museum, London, England
Horniman Museum (Source)

The Horniman Museum is a small museum located in the Forest Hill suburb of London. The museum houses some 350,000 objects related to anthropology and natural history along with a large collection of musical instruments and stuffed animals.

The museum was founded by Frederick John Horniman in 1901. Horniman was avid collector and tea farmer. His successful tea business supplied him with the funds needed to collect items and eventually open the museum.

The beautiful stone and brick museum building was designed by Charles Harrison Townsend. The building features a prominent clock tower. The tower features tree motifs and small domed turrets.

Don’t miss: Stuffed animals collection, clock tower, outdoor garden

Daily: 10:30AM-5:30PM
Closed December 24-26

100 London Rd, London SE23 3PQ, United Kingdom
Closest Station: Forest Hill

Geffrye Museum

Geffrye Museum, London, England
Geffrye Museum (Source)

Geffrye Museum, named after Sir Robert Geffrye, is a unique museum that focuses on the domestic interior design of rooms from 1600 to present day.

The building that today houses the museum was built in 1714 by the Ironmongers’ Company. The building, part of a group of almshouses, originally housed some fifty poor people.

In the early 20th cetury, the Shoreditch area became the center of the East End furniture trade. Many of the almshouses were then converted into museums for the purpose of educating craftsmen.

The Geffrye Museum opened in 1914 as a furniture museum.

Monday: Closed (unless bank holiday)
Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00AM-5:00PM
Closed on Good Friday, December 24-26, and January 1

136 Kingsland Rd, London E2 8EA, United Kingdom
Closest Stations: Hoxton, Old Street

Wellcome Collection

Wellcome Collection, London, England
Wellcome Collection (Source)

Located near the end of Museum Mile is Wellcome Collection. This bizarre and unique museum, visited by over 500,000 curious visitors, was founded in 2007.

It was named after Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome, an American born pharmaceutical entrepreneur.

The museum is well known for its eclectic collection of contemporary and historical scientific artifacts, artworks, and interactive displays related to medicine, life, and being human.

There are two permanent collections, Medicine Man and Medicine Now.

Medicine Man is a must see exhibit with odd items and artifacts collected by Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome himself. Some of these items include a leper clapper, amulets, and a sign for a Chinese doctor that was hung with human teeth.

Medicine Now uses different forms of multimedia to describe issues and answer questions about modern medicine, the human body, obesity, and disease.

Dont’ miss: Florence Nightingale’s moccasins, Napoleon’s toothbrush, George III’s hair

Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Wednesday: 10:00AM-6:00PM
Thursday: 10:00AM-10:00PM
Friday-Saturday: 10:00AM-6:00PM
Sunday: 11:00AM-6:00PM

183 Euston Rd, London NW1 2BE, United Kingdom
Closest Stations: Euston Square, Euston, Warren Street

V&A Museum of Childhood

V&A Museum of Childhood, London, England
V&A Museum of Childhood (Source)

If you are in London with kids, then the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is a must stop. The museum, located in the East End of London, is a branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).

When founded on June 24 1872, the museum was known as the Bethnal Green Museum. Its main purpose was to make art more accessible to the poor.

The museum is housed in a beautiful red brick and wrought iron hall featuring a round-arched style. The hall was once part of the original Victoria and Albert Museum.

Today, the museum features the largest collection of childhood objects in the United Kingdom. On display, you will find toys, costumes, video games, dolls, teddy bears, marionettes, puppets, robots, model trains, and anything else related to childhood.

Hands-on interactive displays and activities give children the freedom to ride on a rocking horse, assemble a robot, or play in a sandpit.

Don’t miss: Antique dolls and doll house, Victorian rocking hose, first Mickey Mouse doll

Daily: 10:00AM-5:45PM (last admission at 5:30PM)
Closed December 24-26 and January 1

Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9PA, United Kingdom
Closest Station: Bethnal Green

Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, England
Sir John Soane’s Museum (Source)

Sir John Soane’s Museum is a museum and town home that was once the home of Sir John Soane, a neo-classical architect who worked on projects such as the Bank of England.

Soane was also an avid collector. For 45 years, Soane used this house to store his large collection of art and antiques. The museum opened in 1837, after the death of Soane.

Almost every corner, nook, and cranny is filled with bizarre items along cramped passageways.

Items include statues, busts, gargoyles, Peruvian pottery, Chinese ceramics, sculptures, drawings, paintings, and even mummies. Many of these items are still arranged in the same way as they were when Soane and his family lived here.

Don’t miss: sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I, Monk’s cell, white marble bust of Soane

Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00AM-5:00PM (last admission at 4:30PM)
Sunday: Closed

13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP, United Kingdom
Closest Stations: Holborn, Temple

The British Library

The British Library, London, England
The British Library

Though not technically a museum, The British Library should not be missed. Just think of it as a museum of books housing some of the most important books of the Western World.

The British Library, established on July 1, 1973, is the national library of the United Kingdom. Before 1973, the library, along with the historic reading room, was part of the British Museum. In 1997, the library was moved to its current location in St Pancras.

With over 170 million items, including 14 million books, the library is the largest in the world.

The library, along with all the collections and services, is open to anyone who has a genuine need.

Don’t miss: Beowulf manuscript, Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer), Captain Cook’s journal, History of England (Jane Austen), Magna Carta

Monday-Thursday: 9:30AM-8:00PM
Friday: 9:30AM-6:00PM
Saturday: 9:30AM-5:00PM
Sunday and Holidays: 11:00AM-5:00PM

96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB, United Kingdom
Closest Stations: King’s Cross St. Pancras, Euston

Last Updated on January 1, 2024

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My name is Anthony and I am addicted to traveling all around the world experiencing new people, cultures, and foods. These are some of my stories.

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