Enjoy the best of London's culture completely free; from the many world-class free exhibitions London has to offer, to stunning art galleries and historic houses. Entry to the permanent collections of these museums and galleries is free; while charges may apply for special exhibitions.
With so many free attractions in London to explore, including many of the city’s wonderful museums and galleries, it’s no surprise London is one of the world’s capitals of culture! Find plenty of ideas below, ranked in no particular order.
Many museums have reopened following the coronavirus lockdown, with plenty of measures in place to ensure your safety. Some require advanced booking for timed entry, giving you the chance to explore with fewer people around. Make sure to check the latest venue opening times and requirements in advance.
1. British Museum
Retrace the history of humankind through the British Museum’s amazing collection of artefacts from all over the world. Access to the permanent collection – including highlights such as the Rosetta Stone and Parthenon sculptures – is free.
2. National Gallery
Discover more than 2,000 paintings from the Middle Ages to the 20th century at the National Gallery. See works by western European masters of painting such as Da Vinci, Botticelli, Caravaggio and Van Gogh.
3. Museum of London
The history of the city is at your feet at the Museum of London. Enjoy the interactive displays and follow the evolution of London from prehistoric times, through the Middle Ages and the Victorian era, up to the present day.
4. Royal Academy of Arts
5. Natural History Museum
Wander through the spectacular halls of the Natural History Museum, as you discover fascinating exhibits from the natural world. Marvel at dinosaur skeletons or gawp at Hope, a giant blue whale skeleton.
6. Science Museum
Experience the wonders of science first-hand with the Science Museum’s interactive displays. Showcasing more than 15,000 objects, the permanent collection includes must-see exhibits such as Amy Johnson's Gipsy Moth plane.
7. IWM London
Discover the troubled history of modern war at the Imperial War Museum. Interesting displays guide you through the stories of modern conflicts, from the First World War to the present day.
8. National Maritime Museum
Set in historic Maritime Greenwich, the National Maritime Museum showcases Britain’s naval history, from sea battles to exploratory expeditions. See ancient maps and ship models, and don’t miss the iconic uniform Nelson wore the day of the Battle of Trafalgar.
9. Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum hosts one of the greatest collections of art and design objects in the world (more than 2.3 million items, to be precise). Discover its beautiful galleries and retrace the history of creativity through fashion, furniture, sculpture, photography, jewellery and more.
10. Tate Modern
See how a power station has been transformed into London’s centre for modern and contemporary art at Tate Modern. Find world-class paintings, photographs and performance art, embrace the stunning view of the river from the gallery’s cafe, and explore the famous Turbine Hall, which has hosted large-scale installations.
11. Tate Britain
Find some of the best of British art from 1500 to today at Tate Britain, including the world’s largest collection of works by JMW Turner. Follow the Walk Through British Art rooms and see stunning paintings by Gainsborough, Whistler and Bacon.
12. Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheatre
Did you know London has a Roman amphitheatre? Be wowed by this ancient relic, which was found by archaeologists working on the site of the Guildhall Art Gallery in 1988. Entry to both the gallery and the amphitheatre is free.
13. Wellcome Collection
Discover what it means to be human through the Wellcome Collection’s jam-packed displays of science, medicine, life and art objects. Become immersed in a host of Insta-worthy and quirky exhibits, including those that play on the senses.
14. Queen's House
15. Sir John Soane's Museum
Explore Sir John Soane's Museum, the former home to the architect of the Bank of England. His historic house contains a wide collection of paintings, architectural drawings and antiquities, plus the original sarcophagus of Seti I.
16. Horniman Museum and Gardens
17. London Mithraeum
18. British Library
Delve into some of the world’s most important literary treasures at the British Library, the UK's national library. Marvel at the historic manuscripts, discover a rare example of Magna Carta and take a look at Shakespeare’s First Folio.
19. National Army Museum
Find out about Britain's army at the National Army Museum. Relive the history of the armed forces, from the British Civil Wars to the modern day, through thousands of inspiring objects in five galleries.
20. Royal Air Force Museum
Retrace the history of aviation at this fascinating London museum. With a huge amount of aircraft memorabilia under one roof, the Royal Air Force Museum gives a spectacular account of man's desire to take flight and the scientific advances to make it real.
21. The Wallace Collection
Be amazed by The Wallace Collection's precious collection of 18th-century French paintings, together with works by Titian, Canaletto and Rembrandt. The superb building, situated just off Oxford Street, is a treasure in itself.
22. Museum of London Docklands
Learn all about London’s history as a port with the Museum of London Docklands’ exhibits. The interactive displays recreate life at the height of London’s 19-century naval supremacy.
23. V&A Museum of Childhood
Visiting the V&A Museum of Childhood is like being a kid again, for one day. Discover a wide collection of childhood objects from the 1600s to the present day: toys, games, dolls and more. Closed for refurbishment until 2022
24. Bank of England Museum
25. Whitechapel Gallery
Head to the Whitechapel Gallery for cutting-edge contemporary art by emerging and renowned artists. In addition to the exciting programme of exhibitions, the gallery hosts talks, events and workshops.
26. Serpentine Galleries
In the middle of Hyde Park, the Serpentine Galleries (Serpentine Gallery and Serpentine Sackler Gallery) are two exhibition spaces devoted to displaying international contemporary art. Every summer, a new Serpentine Pavilion is set up in the Serpentine Gallery’s garden, showcasing the talent of a specific artist or architect.
For more inspiration, take a look at our guide to London's best museums, top galleries and the latest London exhibitions. You'll also find more cultural events with our what's on guide and pick of things to do this weekend.
If you're looking for "museums near me", download the Visit London app for more ideas on the go, and be sure to make the most of the best things to do this Christmas – just remember to stay safe, be responsible and follow social distancing guidelines while out and about