London: 20 free museums in London

Posted in: Free London


National Gallery
The National Gallery is just one of the many free museums in London. Photo: Andrew N.

Planning to visit London on a budget could initially give any Cheapo a nervous breakdown. Everything just costs more than most other European destinations in this international city.

And unlike the euro, which has weakened in recent months, the British pound is still holding strong against other currencies. We don’t expect prices to be dropping any time soon.

However, as documented throughout our London guide, it is possible to live it up in London on a modest budget — with a little planning.

Related: 21 ways we saved on our trip to London

How? Besides the obvious (choosing a budget hotel, knowing how to eat cheaply, and getting around with an Oyster card), you’d be crazy not to take advantage of London’s free museums and attractions. Most of the nationally-run museums and art galleries are publicly financed and don’t cost visitors a pence. There are literally dozens of options from the incredible (and very busy) British Museum to lots of lesser-known gems.

Free is always a beautiful thing, and we’ve put together a list of our 20 favorites:

9 Must-visit free museums

British Library
World’s largest library holding an impressive 150 million+ items.

British Museum
A true blockbuster with artifacts from the Rosetta Stone to the Elgin Marbles.

National Gallery
Stunning collection housing works from masters like Cézanne and Van Gogh.

Natural History Museum
Earth science hub with hands-on exhibits and millions of specimens.

National Portrait Gallery
See depictions of the most famous Brits in history up close.

Science Museum
Interactive exhibits, historic collections, and an IMAX theater.

Tate Modern
Huge collection of modern art situated in a former power plant along the Thames.

The Tate Britain
British art, ranging from 16th-century pieces to contemporary works.

Victoria and Albert Museum
The world’s biggest destination for design and decorative arts.

11 Notable free museums

Bank of England Museum
The story of the country’s main financial institution since 1694.

Imperial War Museum
Framing the British wartime experience from World War I to present day.

The Geffrey Musem
Focusing on living rooms highlighting furniture, textiles, and decorative arts.

Museum of London
Walk through the entire timeline of the city at this urban history institution.

National Maritime Museum
The world’s biggest collection dedicated to seafaring objects.

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Exhibiting 80,000 ancient artifacts from the Nile Valley.

Royal Airforce Museum London
Displaying over 100 military aircraft from historic to modern.

Sir John Soane’s Museum
Quirky personal art collection and effects in a stately townhouse.

V&A Museum of Childhood
Huge collection of toys, games, and clothes in an airy, historic space.

Wallace Collection
18th-century French painting, an armory, and more in a London townhouse.

Wellcome Collection
Fascinating collection exploring the intersection of medical history and art.

Geffrye Museum

The Geffrye Museum is located in Shoreditch and offers a unique look into living room design. Photo: Heather C.

2 Bonus fun and free attractions

The Changing of the Guard
British pomp and ceremony at its best outside Buckingham Palace.

The Ceremony of the Keys
Witness an ancient Tower of London tradition. Book way in advance.

More budget help for London:

About the author

Craig Nelson

Craig is a New York-based writer and editor who has worked with many travel and food publishers including Not For Tourists, Frommer's, Google Maps, Zagat, and is now the blog editor for EuroCheapo. When he's not out exploring the five boroughs for his blog, he's dreaming up plans for his next trip across the pond.

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