Lifestyle

31 Fascinating & Free Museums Every Londoner Should Visit At Least Once

London has some of the best museums in the world. Plus, many of them are completely free to go and visit (although donations are of course very welcome). So, let’s go exploring! Here’s our rundown of some of the best museums in London:

Free museums in London

1. British Museum

People wandering around the interior of the British Museum
Photo: @lonelyplanet

Kicking off this list of museums in London is quite frankly the OG of museums in London. Despite the name, this sprawling building in London’s academic Bloomsbury district is only fleetingly concerned with British history. Instead, it aims to represent the entire sweep of human endeavour, from pre-historic man through Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Absolutely marble-ous! Though the museum is free to visit, there are occasional paid exhibitions. Find out more about the British Museum here.

You’ll find the British Museum at Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG. Nearest stations are Holborn and Russell Square. The museum is open daily from 10am-5pm. 

2. Natural History Museum

A whale skeleton in the interior of the Natural History Museum
Photo: @natural_history_museum

This gorgeous museum in South Kensington’s free museum district is most famous for the stunning Hintze Hall, dominated by the suspended skeleton of Hope the Whale. (In the Earth Gallery, meanwhile, you can take an escalator through the centre of the earth!) The Natural History Museum is dedicated to the flora, fauna and geology of the planet we call home, with exhibits on dinosaurs, earthquakes, venomous insects and other bad-ass features of the natural world. Paid exhibitions currently on include the ever-popular Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and the famous Dippy the Dinosaur returns.

You’ll find the Natural History Museum at Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 5BD. Nearest station is South Kensington. The museum is open daily from 10am-5.50pm. 

3. The Science Museum

The entrance to the famous Science Museum in London, which is currently running one of the best photography exhibitions in London
Photo: @shutterstock

Another free museum in South Kensington, dedicated to the miracle of technological progress… and all the neat things we’ve discovered along the way. Some of the ‘classic’ galleries at The Science Museum focusing on the birth of steam power are a little fusty, but the bit about space travel is neat, and there are tons of neat interactive exhibitions to play with. The Wonderlab area (which isn’t free alas) is full of hands-on experiments that kids will go absolutely bananas for. They also have IMAX screenings, events and current exhibitions on include ‘Our Future Planet’ and ‘Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination’.

You’ll find The Science Museum at Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD. Nearest station is South Kensington. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am-6pm.

4. Victoria & Albert Museum

Exterior shot of the V&A Museum
Photo: @vamuseum

Documenting 5,000 years of art and design, the free Victoria & Albert Museum is the third in the South Kensington museum trilogy. Known to most simply as the V&A, head here for amazing outfits, glittering jewellery, intricate mosaics and ancient sculptures in their constantly changing collection. This year sees the Beatrix Potter exhibition and ‘Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear’ grace the museum’s gilded halls.

You’ll find the Victoria & Albert Museum at Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL. Nearest station is South Kensington. The museum is open Monday to Sunday from 10am-5.45pm. 

5. Museum of London

The greatest city in the world deserves its own museum, and that’s exactly what the Museum of London provides! Set somewhat incongruously in the middle of a brutalist roundabout, exhibits here cover everything from the city’s ancient past as a Roman settlement right up to the present day, featuring both the 2012 Olympic cauldron…  to a congealed lump of sewer blockage from our city’s great nemesis, the Fatberg. In December it’ll close its doors to the public for the last time. But do not fret, museum lovers. This move is only temporary, and it will be be opening at a new location with a new name – The London Museum – early next year.

You’ll find the Museum of London currently at 150 London Wall, Barbican, London, EC2Y 5HN. Nearest station is Barbican. The museum is open daily from 10am-5pm. 

6. Museum of London Docklands

The sister to the Museum of London, this Docklands museum explores London’s heritage as a port city: the home of sailors, globe-spanning import-export business, and all that salty jazz. A ‘Sailortown’ recreates the ramshackle neighbourhoods of the city in the 1800s, and even has a fake pub, so why not crack open a few tinnies to really bring the exhibit to life? (N.B you’ll probably be get asked to leave the Museum of London Docklands if you do this.)

You’ll find the Museum of London Docklands at 1 Warehouse, West India Quay, Hertsmere Road, London, E14 4AL. Nearest stations are Westferry and West India Quay. The Museum is open daily from 10am-5pm. 

7. Imperial War Museum

The exterior of the Imperial War Museum in Kennington, London
Photo: @imperialwarmuseums

War: what is it good for? This free museum in south London interrogates exactly that, charting human conflict as it’s affected Britain throughout the centuries, with a particular focus on WW1 and WW2. See how London survived the Blitz and hear the stories of those who paid the ultimate price for their country at the Imperial War Museum.

You’ll find the Imperial War Museum at Lambeth Road, London, SE1 6HZ. Nearest stations are Elephant and Castle and Lambeth North. The museum is open daily from 10am-6pm. 

8. Design Museum

A cavernous space in Kensington that celebrates all things design. At the Design Museum, the core ‘Designer Maker User’ collection is free to visit, but make sure to check out other exhibitions, including current opening ‘Football: Designing the Beautiful Game’ – perfect for footie fans – and future ones in the pipeline include ‘Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design’.

You’ll find the Design Museum at 224-238 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6AG. Nearest station is High Street Kensington. The museum is open from Sundays to Thursdays from 10am-6pm and on Fridays and Saturdays from 10am-9pm. 

9. Horniman Museum

One of the further-flung museums on our list, head south-east to Forest Hill for this fantastic all-rounder. Based upon the eclectic collections of Frederick John Horniman, you’ll find a gallery of taxidermy (including a famously over-stuffed walrus), a World Gallery based on diverse civilisations around the globe, a butterfly house, an underground aquarium (this has an admission charge) and even some cute llamas outside in the beautiful gardens at the Horniman Museum. They’ve also got exhibitions on at the moment including ‘Cats and Dogs’ and ‘Falling Birds’.

You’ll find the Horniman Museum at 100 London Road, London, SE23 3PQ. Nearest station is Forest Hill. The museum is open Mondays to Sundays from 10am-5.30pm. 

10. V&A Museum of Childhood (currently closed for refurbishment, reopening TBD)

Out in Bethnal Green, you’ll discover the free V&A Museum of Childhood. Operated and curated by the V&A, it’s home to toys, dolls houses, and thousands of other interesting items, but a major refurbishment is aiming to turn it into a ‘world-leading museum of design and creativity for children and young people‘. Nifty!

You’ll find the V&A Museum of Childhood at Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9PA. Nearest station is Bethnal Green. The museum is currently closed for refurbishment but is due to open later in the year.

11. Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane’s Museum in Holborn holds over 45,000 fascinating items amassed by the 19th-century architect Sir John Soane, and is a true smorgasbord of art and culture. Current exhibitions include ‘Hidden Masterpieces’, ‘Space Popular: The Portal Galleries’ and ‘Anne-Marie Creamer: Dear Friend’.

You’ll find Sir John Soane’s Museum at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3BP. Nearest station is Holborn. The museum is open from Wednesdays to Sundays from 10am-5pm. 

12. Wellcome Collection

Investigate bodies beautiful and bizarre at the Wellcome Collection, a free museum near Euston concentrating on the human body. A permanent collection of anatomical curios is on display, and their programme of temporary exhibitions is usually pretty cool too. The beautiful library and reading room upstairs is an especially tranquil spot to enjoy a book or catch up on some emails.

You’ll find the Wellcome Collection at 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE. Nearest station is Euston Square. The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays at 10am-6pm.

13. Grant Museum of Zoology

This little free museum from University College London boasts over 60,000 zoological specimens, which mostly means weird skeletons and pickled creatures in jars. (Don’t miss the disturbing ‘jar of dead moles’!) What better place to bone up on your animal knowledge then, hey?! Current exhibitions on at the Grant Museum of Zoology include ‘Art by Animals’ and ‘Darwin (or) Bust’.

You’ll find the Grant Museum of Zoology at the Rockefeller Building, 21 University Street, London, WC1E 6DE. Nearest station is Warren Street. The museum is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 1pm-5pm and on Saturdays from 11am-5pm. 

14. RAF Museum

Having received a multi-million pound upgrade in 2018 to celebrate of the Royal Air Force’s 100th anniversary, the free RAF Museum in Colindale, north London, now boasts interactive galleries and immersive activities… along with lots and lots of planes.

You’ll find the RAF Museum at Grahame Park Way, London, NW9 5L. Nearest station is Colindale. The museum is open daily from 10am-5pm. 

15. The National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich
Photo: @shutterstock

Another free addition to this roundup of the best museums in London, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich celebrates London’s seafaring past with permanent exhibitions along with temporary attractions throughout the year, including a fun area especially for kids. They also occasionally hold Fever’s celebrated candlelight concerts here.

You’ll find the National Maritime Museum at Romney Road, London, SE10 9NF. Nearest stations are Greenwich and Maze Hill. The museum is open from Mondays to Sundays from 10am-5pm. 

16. National Army Museum

The National Army Museum in Chelsea tells the story of Britain’s fighting forces, across five galleries and four floors: Soldier, Army, Society, Battle and Insight. Current exhibitions include ‘Around the World’, ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Politics and Protest’.

You’ll find the National Army Museum at Royal Hospital Road, London, SW3 4HT. Nearest station is Sloane Square. The museum is open on Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am-5.30pm.

17. The Vagina Museum

A display of exhibitions at The Vagina Museum in Bethnal Green in London
Photo: @vagina_museum

Yeah your museum is cool, but does it have goddamn glittery tampons?! Bethnal Green’s Vagina Museum is a vital space for understanding and celebrating the vagina, and has proved so wildly popular that they’re now on the hunt for a bigger space. Visitors can join their membership programme to become ‘card-carrying members of the Cliterati‘, and their Twitter feed is a brilliant follow.

You’ll find The Vagina Museum at 18 Victoria Park Square, E2 9PF. Nearest station is Bethnal Green. The museum is open on Wednesdays from 10am-8pm and on Thursdays to Sundays from 10am-6pm. 

18. The Chocolate Museum

Only open on Sundays to the public after the latest lockdown, Brixton’s Chocolate Museum tracks our favourite sweet treat from bean to bar. Tasty workshops allow you to craft chocolate truffles, whilst exhibition ‘Choco-Tale’ unveils the history of chocolate-making.

You’ll find The Chocolate Museum at 187 Ferndale Road, London, SW9 8BA. Nearest station is Brixton. The museum is open on Sundays from 11am-6pm. 

Museums in London with paid admission (that are still great)

19. London Transport Museum

Buses and people milling around in London Transport Museum in Covent Garden
Photo: @ltmuseum

Trains, planes and automobiles! Well, no planes… but there are buses! This Covent Garden museum memorialises the many ways Londoners have schlepped across the city over the last century. Embrace your inner transit nerd, and don’t miss the gift shop, which gives you the chance to spritz up your living room with some classic tube moquette. Adult tickets at the London Transport Museum are from £18.50, kids go free!

You’ll find the London Transport Museum at The Piazza, London, WC2E 7BB. Nearest station is Covent Garden. The museum is open on Mondays to Sundays from 10am-6pm. 

20. The Postal Museum

A view of the postal train track at The Postal Museum in Holborn
Photo: @thepostalmuseum

This unmissable museum in Farringdon is dedicated to the history of the Royal Mail. Most notably, it has an entire secret underground train ride, which follows the tracks of the abandoned Mail Rail, by which letters and parcels were conveyed under the city as recently as the early 2000s. It’s frickin’ awesome! Elsewhere at The Postal Museum, you can discover the daredevil history of the postman, whose personal equipment once included high-powered weaponry to fend off highwaymen. Great stuff. £16 for adults, £9 for kids – and tickets also net you unlimited entry for a year, plus one ride on the Mail Rail.

You’ll find The Postal Museum at 15-20 Phoenix Place, London, WC1X 0DA. Nearest station is Russell Square. The museum is open on Wednesdays to Sundays from 10am-5pm. 

21. Pollock’s Toy Museum

The tiny Pollock’s Toy Museum near Goodge Street is best known for its Instagram-worthy exterior, but yes, there really is a toy museum inside. It focuses mostly on the weird playthings of yesteryear – expect creepy dolls, wooden toys from Victorian times and other pre-Fortnite entertainments. £9 for adults, £4.50 for kids.

You’ll find Pollock’s Toy Museum at 1 Scala Street, London, W1T 2HL. Nearest station is Goodge Street. The museum is open on Mondays to Saturdays from 10am-5pm. 

22. Viktor Wynd Museum Of Curiosities

The bizarre collection of curiosities at the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities offers everything from ‘the intriguing beauty of McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys, to old master etchings to prison inmates & mad women’s doodles, occultists paintings and pop art prints, the horrors and wonders of nature, two-headed kittens and living coral.‘ Tickets are £10.

You’ll find Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities at Victoria Buildings, 11 Mare Street, London, E8 4RP. Nearest station is Cambridge Heath. The museum is open on Wednesdays to Saturdays from 3pm-11pm and on Sundays from 12pm-10pm. 

23. The Garden Museum

This small collection – hidden inside an old church, and with entirely unexpected views of the Houses of Parliament from the viewing platform – offers a permanent display of paintings, tools, ephemera and historic artefacts: a glimpse into the uniquely British love affair with gardens. The café at The Garden Museum is also rather pleasant! Admission is £14 for adults.

You’ll find The Garden Museum at 5 Lambeth Palace Road, London, SE1 7LB. Nearest station is Lambeth North. The museum is open on Mondays to Saturdays from 10am-5pm. 

24. The Cinema Museum

London’s Cinema Museum is devoted to keeping alive the spirit of cinema from the days before the multiplex. Admission is only via joining one of their regular guided tours, which costs £10 for adults and £7 for children.

You’ll find the Cinema Museum at 2 Dugard Way, Renfrew Road, London, SE11 4TH. Nearest station is Elephant and Castle. The museum is only available to visit on guided tours and you can book onto one here

25. Dennis Severs’ House

Beautifully eccentric, this place has been frozen in time, transporting you all the way back to Georgian London. The Grade II-listed museum tells the story of the fictional Jervis family, with the space left as if they’d just popped out. Lucky visitors to Dennis Severs’ House will see Madge, the mouse-hunter-in-residence, standing watch over the home, along with many other intricate characters. Tickets start at £15.

You’ll find Dennis Severs’ House at 18 Folgate Street, London, E1 6BX. Nearest station is Shoreditch High Street. The museum is open on Thursdays to Sundays at staggered opening times. You can find out more here

26. The Clink Prison Museum

A rather arresting spot amongst London museums, The Clink Prison Museum spent some 600 years as one of the city’s most feared prisons. Far from the charming spot it is today, Southwark used to be a lawless place; prostitutes, heretics, and drunkards all graced the cells of The Clink at one point or another. So, why not join them? Adult entry is £8, kids are £6.

You’ll find The Clink Prison Museum at 1 Clink Street, London, SE1 9DG. Nearest station is London Bridge. The museum is open on Mondays to Sundays from 10am-6pm. 

27. Fashion & Textile Museum

As far as museums in London go, the Fashion & Textile Museum is rather eye-catching, given that it’s a lurid shade of orange. You won’t find any permanent displays inside; instead, a catwalk parade of temporary exhibits come and go, each one revealing something new about contemporary fashion and textiles. Adult tickets are £12.65, children under 12 are free.

You’ll find the Fashion & Textile Museum at 83 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XF. Nearest station is London Bridge. The museum is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11am-6pm. 

28. The Old Operating Theatre Museum

The blood and viscera has long since been scoured away, making this museum a fascinating place to visit. Pioneering medical techniques were trialled at The Old Operating Theatre Museum back in the day, and today, it holds the crown as the oldest surviving surgical theatre in Europe. Tickets for adults are £7.50, and for children from £4.50.

You’ll find The Old Operating Theatre Museum at 9A St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY. Nearest station is London Bridge. The museum is open from Thursdays to Sundays from 10.30am-5pm. Last admission will be 4.15pm.

29. The Fan Museum

Those who love curiously niche museums should make a beeline for Greenwich, where The Fan Museum tells the history of fans and the art of fan-making. A bright and breezy visit should end at The Orangery for afternoon tea. What can we say, we’re fans of it… Adult tickets are £5, kids tickets are £3.

You’ll find The Fan Museum at 12 Crooms Hill, London, SE10 8ER. Nearest station is Greenwich. The museum is open from Wednesdays to Saturdays from 11am-5pm. 

30. Leighton House Museum (currently closed, reopening TBD)

Now this next addition to this roundup of museums in London is certainly unique. Once upon a time, an eccentric fellow known as Frederic, Lord Leighton decided to turn his house into a palace of art. The result is a splendid museum – the Leighton House Museum – with mosaic walls, sculptures aplenty, and even a fountain built into the floor. A little impractical to live in, but well worth a visit. The museum currently remains closed for refurbishment, but is aiming to reopen this year.

You’ll find the Leighton House Museum at 12 Holland Park Road, London, W14 8LZ. Nearest station is High Street Kensington. The museum is currently closed but is planning to open later this year. 

31. The Florence Nightingale Museum

This wonderful little museum, rounding off this roundup of museums in London, provides an invaluable and enjoyable educational experience where guests could learn all about The Lady of the Lamp’s innovations and long lasting legacy. The Florence Nightingale Museum has only just opened post Covid-19, so now’s the perfect time to visit!

You’ll find The Florence Nightingale Museum at 2 Lambeth Palace Road, London, SE1 7EW. Nearest station is Waterloo. The museum is open on Wednesdays to Sundays from 10am-5pm.



Also published on Medium.