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The 37 Best Museums in London, United Kingdom [2024]

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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London is known for being one of the most significant cultural centers in the world. In addition to being the capital of England, it’s also home to priceless artifacts, jewels, and art pieces, all housed in the city’s museums.

Few other places allow you to see renowned collections from throughout history. So, whether you’re planning a solo trip or a getaway with your whole family, a London exhibit or gallery deserves a spot on your bucket list.

The 37 Best Museums in London

1. Bank of England Museum

Bank of England Museum
Image Credit: Bank of England Museum

London’s Bank of England Museum opened in the 1980s to display the evolution of the country’s currency over the past 300 years. The museum houses over 40,000 items, from old examples of England’s money to banking tools and artifacts throughout history.

One of the most popular wings is the collection of banknotes that gives a unique visual look at the passage of time. In addition to the permanent collection on display, the museum hosts temporary exhibits that dive deeper into topics regarding the history of English banking and money.

The museum also houses cartoons and articles that have discussed the economy throughout history. Tours are available for groups if you contact the museum a few weeks before your visit.

Like many of England’s exhibits, the museum is free for all visitors. It’s open on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Monday through Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is housed within the Bank of England building, so it’s closed on all bank holidays and weekends. The nearest tube stop is Bank.

  • Address: Bartholomew Lane, London EC2R 8AH

2. The British Museum

British Museum
Image Credit: Viktor Forgacs via Unsplash

With its over 8 million artifacts, The British Museum can piece together millions of years worth of history. While only about 80,000 objects are displayed at any given time, the museum occasionally hosts special exhibits in which some artifacts are brought out of storage.

Many of the museum’s non-displayed pieces can be seen online via its digital catalog. The museum is divided into around 10 different departments and many more exhibits featuring items from around the world.

Some of the most important artifacts featured at the museum are the Rosetta Stone, which allowed historians to decipher ancient Egyptian texts, the Parthenon Sculptures, and “The Tree of Life,” one of the only pieces made specifically for the facility. The British Museum’s collection may change over the coming years as some contested artifacts may be loaned or returned to their countries of origin.

The museum is free for all visitors, but donations can be made at the main entrance. The facility is open from Saturday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The nearest tube stop is Tottenham Court Road.

  • Address: Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG

3. Charles Dickens Museum

Charles Dickens Museum
Image Credit: Charles Dickens Museum

The Charles Dickens Museum is a must-visit spot for book lovers. Housed at what was once the famous author’s home, the museum has the largest and most important collection of pieces from Dickens’ life. The 100,000-piece collection consists of manuscripts, personal items, and first editions of some of his published work.

The museum first opened in the 1920s after the building was saved from being demolished. Since then, it’s grown in popularity. The museum also regularly hosts temporary galleries with pieces on loan from other collections and items usually held in the exhibit archives.

Events are also hosted at the museum’s Doughty Street location, which delves deeper into the life and literary themes of Dickens’ life and work. Typically, visitors are free to explore the museum on their own. However, there are also guided tour events available.

The house has 12 rooms, all restored with period-accurate furnishings. Admission is free for children under 6, £7.50 (~$9) for children, £12.50 (~$15) for adults. There are also discounts available and occasional free visitation days. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The nearest tube stop is Russell Square.

  • Address: 48-49 Doughty St., London WC1N 2LX

4. Chelsea FC Museum

Chelsea FC Museum
Image Credit: Chelsea FC

The Chelsea FC Museum is a beloved London attraction for sports fans worldwide. With multiple different exhibit tours available, there’s something for everyone. The primary exhibit takes guests through the history of the Chelsea Football Club. However, you can also take the extended stadium tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at the London stadium.

Even VIP tours are available for groups who want a more personalized and private experience. The museum doesn’t just explore the history and achievements of the men’s team but the Chelsea women’s club as well. The tour lasts about 60 minutes, though it can last longer depending on your chosen tour and how many questions are asked.

While walk-up tickets are available, the number of daily admissions is limited, so it’s recommended to prebook or arrive early.

The basic tour is free for kids under 5, £31.50 (~$38) for children up to 15, and £46.50 (~$57) for adults. While the more extensive tours are more expensive, there are discounts for groups, seniors, and students. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The nearest bus station is Fulham Town Hall.

  • Address: Stamford Bridge, Fulham Road, London SW6 1HS
Clink Prison Museum
Image Credit: Clink Prison Museum

For over 600 years, the Clink was one of London’s operational prisons, most often used for debtors and religious protestors. Due to its reputation as one of the oldest prisons for both men and women in England, it was converted into the Clink Prison Museum. In fact, this is the prison that inspired the colloquial term “clink,” now used to refer to all prisons and jails.

The museum’s primary mission is to help visitors understand the conditions prisoners lived in while the facility was in use. The cells have been restored, and tableaus have been created to help showcase what life was like for prisoners. The museum also tells the history of some of the Clink’s most famous prisoners.

The prison offers multiple self-guided and educational tours, including one that’s ghost-themed since stories have circulated that former residents might haunt the prison. The museum also hosts temporary exhibits about England’s history of protests and prison conditions.

Tickets are £6 (~$7) for children under 16, seniors, students, and visitors with disabilities and £8 (~$10) for adults. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except on bank holidays. The nearest bus stop is Southwark Bridge / Bankside Pier.

  • Address: 1 Clink St., London SE1 9DG

“The Clink Museum is located on the site of England’s oldest prison. We offer real history and we have torture equipment that you can handle. We cover part of the national curriculum covering crime and punishment and are fun for all ages! You get a free downloadable photo with every entry. Come and torture your friends!”

Miranda Furneaux, Director, Clink Prison Museum 

6. the Design Museum

The Design Museum
Image Credit: Felix Speller via the Design Museum

First opened in 1989, the Design Museum is London’s premier facility to learn about graphic design, fashion, architecture, and the industry of design. Though it’s been available to visit since the ’80s, the current Kensington site wasn’t opened until 2016 after the estate was donated. This move brought the museum to one of London’s cultural districts.

The permanent collection displays work from designers such as Jonathan Barnbrook, Christian Dior, and Zaha Hadid. In addition, it also hosts temporary exhibitions that showcase particular artists, styles, and design periods. The museum regularly hosts lectures and other informative events. Several shops throughout London sell pieces from featured designers.

The Design Museum is free to visit, though some exhibits may require an additional ticket. The museum is open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The nearest tube stop is Kensington High Street. 

  • Address: 224-238 Kensington High St., London W8 6AG
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Image Credit: Dulwich Picture Gallery

The Dulwich Picture Gallery opened to the public in 1817, making it the oldest public gallery in the country. Today, the facility displays over 600 paintings and portraits from renowned artists. In particular, the museum divides its artwork by category, with exemplary pieces from the Dutch, English, Flemish, French, Italian, and Spanish schools of art.

Among the pieces on display are “The Nurture of Jupiter” by Nicolas Poussin and “A Young Man” by Rembrandt van Rijn. However, several pieces in the museum’s archives are being restored or prepared to be displayed.

The gallery also hosts several events and outreach programs annually to help visitors learn and foster an interest in the arts. Keep in mind the museum closes 1 to 2 times a year for display renewals and archival work.

Admission is free for museum members and children under 18, £8.25 (~$10) for visitors under 30, £9 (~11) for seniors, students, and visitors with disabilities, and £16.50 (~$20) for all other adults. The gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus station is Dulwich Village.

  • Address: Gallery Road, London SE21 7AD

8. The Fan Museum

The Fan Museum
Image Credit: Rhian Cox via The Fan Museum

Since 1991, The Fan Museum has been one of London’s most underrated museums. When it opened, it was the first facility dedicated entirely to fans, with its primary mission to preserve the art of hand fans. Over time, the museum has amassed a collection of over 6,000 fans and related items, including antique innovations, with its oldest artifacts dating back to the 11th century.

While most of the collection is made up of fans from European cultures, there are also examples from other continents. In addition to the fans, the museum also houses a greenhouse, designed in the style of the orangeries of the 17th century, where delicate plants were stored in the winter.

The museum is free for children under 6, £3 (~$4) for children 16 and under, seniors and students, and £5 (~$6) for adults. The facility is open Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest overground stop is Greenwich.

  • Address: 12 Crooms Hill, London SE10 8ER

9. Fashion and Textile Museum

Fashion and Textile Museum
Image Credit: Fashion and Textile Museum

The Fashion and Textile Museum was first established in 2003 as the only museum in England that only focuses on the textile and fashion industries in the modern world. The facility aims to teach visitors about the design process through its collection. In this way, it’s able to shine a spotlight on emerging artists as well as those who are reinventing the sector.

Notably, the museum doesn’t have a permanent collection. Instead, it frequently rotates its temporary exhibit displays. It also hosts educational programs in its refurbished warehouse location and lectures for visitors of all ages.

The museum even hosts classes to teach interested students sewing, tailoring, and fashion design. To help plan your visit, the museum announces future exhibitions well in advance. This also helps ensure that each trip is slightly different.

Admission is free for children under 12 and those accompanying visitors with disabilities, £10.45 (~$13) for students 13 and older, £11.55 (~$14) for visitors eligible for discounted tickets, and £12.65 (~$15) for adults. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Unicorn Theatre.

  • Address: 83 Bermondsey St., London SE1 3XF

10. Foundling Museum

The Foundling Museum
Image Credit: Foundling Museum

Historically, the Foundling Hospital was the first facility in England focused on helping the country’s at-risk and abandoned children. The hospital was operational for over 270 years and was converted into the Foundling Museum in 2004. The museum houses a 14,000-piece collection of manuscripts, books, art, and artifacts that showcase the hospital’s history of charitable work.

The museum’s collection can be divided into 2 separate sections. The first recounts the hospital’s equipment and history, and the second displays everyday objects used by the staff and the hospital’s founder.

The Foundling Museum also hosts a series of temporary galleries throughout the year that take a closer look at topics like motherhood and moments from the facility’s history. It’s also available for rent as an event venue.

The museum is free for visitors aged 21 and under and National Art Pass holders, £9.50 (~$12) for adults, and £7.50 (~$9) for visitors eligible for a reduced-price ticket. Foundling Museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus station is Russell Square.

  • Address: 40 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ

11. Freud Museum London

Freud Museum London
Image Credit: Freud Museum London

Though he only lived in London briefly, Freud made a mark on the city, resulting in the house he stayed in being converted into a museum in 1986. Freud Museum London is dedicated to commemorating the entire life of the famed pioneer in psychiatry, but it specifically focuses on the years leading up to his death.

Since Freud and his family moved nearly all of their possessions to London, the museum can paint an accurate picture of his life. The museum also recounts the life of Freud’s daughter, Anna, who continued to live in the house after her father’s death.

The museum consists of a self-guided tour. While 60 to 90 minutes are recommended, it offers an accelerated visit program if you only have 30 minutes to spare. Guided tours are also available. The most popular wing is the study, which houses the museum’s collection of Freud manuscripts and books.

Admission is free for children under 12 and members. Tickets for students aged 12 to 16 cost £9 (~$11), and adult admission is £14 (~$17). The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest tube station is Finchley Road.

  • Address: 20 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3 5SX

12. Handel Hendrix House

Handel Hendrix House
Image Credit: Handel Hendrix House

Though separated by over 2 centuries, composer George Frideric Handel and guitarist Jimi Hendrix lived in houses right next to each other during their time in London. To honor these 2 great musicians, the top floors of 23 and 25 Brook Street were converted into the joint Handel Hendrix House museum.

Much of Handel’s home has been restored to its condition during his residency, including furnishing. The entire building of 25 Brook Street, where the composer lived, has been converted into a museum centered around his life.

Instead, just the top floor of the neighboring building focuses on Hendrix’s life in London, housing many of his old records and possessions. The collection houses hundreds of artifacts, from artwork to handwritten manuscripts. The building is also available for rent as an event venue. It also hosts temporary exhibits that dive into the world of past and present music.

The museum is free for National Art Pass holders, £5 (~$6) for children, and £10 (~$12) for adults. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus station is Oxford Circus.

  • Address: 25 Brook St., London W1K 4HB

13. Horniman Museum and Gardens

Horniman Museum and Gardens
Image Credit: Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Horniman Museum and Gardens was first commissioned in 1898. Since then, it’s been one of London’s premier locations for exhibits on anthropology, natural history, and music. With a collection of over 350,000 historic and scientific artifacts between those on display and those in the facility’s archives, it’s one of the most impressive in the city. It even won the Museum of the Year award in 2022.

Of particular note is the museum’s historic taxidermy collection, which showcases animal species that can be found worldwide. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum hosts temporary galleries periodically throughout the year.

The museum is spread across 4 different floors, with the basement housing an aquarium. The Horniman is also home to a 16-acre garden exhibit housing a butterfly house, a nature trail, an ornamental garden, and more.

The museum and gardens are free for all visitors, though the aquarium and some temporary exhibits require an additional ticket. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. except on bank holidays. The nearest bus station is Honor Oak Road.

  • Address: 100 London Road, London SE23 3PQ

14. Household Cavalry Museum

Household Cavalry Museum
Image Credit: Household Cavalry Museum

The Horse Guards at Westminster was built around 1750 as one of the city’s main military buildings. The cavalry remains integral to the Royal Military, with the building still in use. However, the building is also home to the Household Cavalry Museum.

Considered a living museum due to its ongoing operations, the facility allows visitors to see awards, musical instruments, costumes, and other artifacts that celebrate the work and history of the cavalry.

Perhaps one of the most beloved parts of the museum is the view guests can have of the stables. The cavalry horses can be seen through a secure partition when not on duty. Visitors can also watch the daily afternoon inspection at 4 p.m. each day and the cavalry’s morning ride to take over guard duty.

The museum is free for cavalry veterans, active personnel, and their families. Admission is also free for children under 5, £8 (~$10) for kids aged 5 to 16, and £10 (~$12) for adults. The cavalry building is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest tube station is Westminster.

  • Address: 66 Horse Guards Ave., Whitehall, London SW1A 2AX

15. Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum
Image Credit: Sergio Thor Miernik via Unsplash

London’s Imperial War Museum is one of a collection of museums that aims to explore the history of conflict in the U.K. starting with the 20th century.

The London location aims to educate visitors about the realities of World War I. In particular, it features recreations of war trenches, historic tanks, and planes used on numerous missions. The museum also displays the stories of people who served in the war and those of civilians who recount what life was like in England during that time.

In addition to the main exhibit, the museum also presents temporary exhibitions to dive deeper into the history of war. Considered the world’s leading war museum, the facility is a popular spot for educational trips and offers group tours and research opportunities.

Admission to the permanent exhibits is free for all visitors, but donations are welcome. Some special events may require an additional ticket. Private tours also carry an additional cost. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except on bank holidays. The nearest tube stop is Lambeth North.

  • Address: Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ

16. Jack the Ripper Museum

Jack The Ripper Museum
Image Credit: Jack the Ripper Museum

Though it’s one of London’s newest museums, opening in 2015, the Jack the Ripper Museum has become a favorite spot among murder-mystery fans. The museum showcases a remarkably accurate recreation of London’s East End at the end of the 19th century when Jack the Ripper was famously prowling the neighborhood.

Showcasing artifacts from the era and a series of wax figures to bring the exhibits to life, the museum aims to take visitors back in history to the time of the now-infamous murders. Each of the 5 rooms recreates a different setting, from the police station to various crime scenes.

The museum is also described as an interactive experience that helps steep the facts of the Jack the Ripper crimes in reality and aims to honor the victims of the murders by giving biographies of these 5 women.

Admission is free for children under 7. Tickets are £8 (~$10) for children between 7 and 15, £10 (~$12) for students, and £12 (~$15) for adults. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest bus station is The Highway.

  • Address: 12 Cable St., Aldgate, London E1 8JG

17. London Canal Museum

London Canal Museum
Image Credit: London Canal Museum

Located near the King’s Cross station, the London Canal Museum showcases the history and development of the city’s canal system. The museum opened in 1992 in what used to be an ice warehouse during the 19th century. Since first being established, the museum has grown to present 8 different exhibits covering topics from the ice trade to the history of the London cargo industry.

Though the entire museum centers around the canals, many of the displays in the facility showcase how this water system affected life on land, such as how engines and horses transported goods from boats to elsewhere in the city.

A section is also dedicated to Carlo Gatti, who owned the ice warehouse. The museum is also a venue for special events, both public and private, and it hosts a series of temporary educational exhibits each year.

Admission is free for children under 6, £3.50 (~$4) for those 7 to 15, £7 (~$9) for adults, and £5.50 (~$7) for visitors eligible for a reduced rate. Family deals are also available. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. King’s Cross station is the nearest bus, train, and tube stop.

  • Address: 12/13 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RT

“The London Canal Museum is almost 2 museums in 1 because it also tells the story of the 19th century ice import industry. The museum is housed in a former ice warehouse, and the 2 floors of exhibitions include a reconstructed tiny family cabin.”

Martin Sach, Chair of Trustees, London Canal Museum

18. London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum
Image Credit: London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum (LTM) is considered the leader in education regarding urban transportation and how it’s changed throughout history. The museum houses over 500,000 items ranging from photographs to models of vintage buses and trains that once transported Londoners around the city.

In fact, in 2000, the museum underwent an expansion that aimed to cover not just public transportation but how it intersects with private modes of travel. In addition to its primary museum location, there is also a London Transport Museum Depot location in West London. The museum launched the “Hidden London” program in 2015, which gives tours of the city’s underground network.

Tickets are free for children 17 and under, staff of the London transport system, members, and companions of visitors with disabilities. Admission for adults is £24 (~$29) and £23 (~$28) for those eligible for reduced rates. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest tube stop is Covent Garden.

  • Address: Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB

19. Madame Tussauds London

Madame Tussauds London
Image Credit: Madame Tussauds London

Though there are now locations worldwide, Madame Tussauds London is considered the flagship location. First founded in 1835, the wax museum famously displays notable figures throughout history.

Over 250 figures in the museum depict celebrities like Lady Gaga, historical figures like Queen Elizabeth II, and even fictional characters like Darth Vader. These wax figures are further brought to life by the detailed sets they’re placed in, which help immerse you in the walkthrough experience.

One of the most beloved parts of the museum is its interactive elements. Visitors are welcome to take pictures up close with the statues. However, to maintain the integrity of the figures, climbing or attempting to move or alter them isn’t allowed. The museum also periodically changes statues to ensure repeat visits are always different.

Standard tickets are £33 (~$40) if purchased beforehand or £37 (~$45) at the museum. You can also periodically find discounts for midweek visits or combination tickets with other attractions. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The nearest tube stop is Baker Street.

  • Address: Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LR

20. Museum of Brands

Museum of Brands
Image Credit: Museum of Brands

First opened in 1984, the Museum of Brands in London aims to preserve the history of marketing and both active and defunct brands from history. The facility houses over 12,000 pieces ranging from advertisements to authentic products like cereal, toys, and canned goods. In addition to the permanent exhibit, the museum regularly presents temporary galleries of loaned collections that go further into the history of branding.

Particular attention is given to how grocery shopping has changed throughout time as marketing and shopping demographics have been altered. It also hosts events and discussions about brand perception and how everyday objects can be considered artifacts. The museum also hosts workshops throughout the year and even offers its location as a venue for private events.

Admission is £5 (~$6) for children, £7 (~$9) for those eligible for reduced tickets, and £9 (~$11) for adults. Family tickets are also available. The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest tube stop is Ladbroke Grove.

  • Address: 111-117 Lancaster Road, London W11 1QT

21. Museum of London Docklands

Museum of London Docklands
Image Credit: Museum of London Docklands

The Museum of London Docklands first opened in 2003 to preserve and recount the history of the city’s ports and waterways. The River Thames, in particular, has always played an important role in the city’s growth, which inspired the facility’s creation.

The museum houses over 7 million artifacts spanning over 10,000 years to accurately represent the evolution that eventually led to modern-day London.

Many of the pieces, notably photographs, documents, and Roman-era artifacts, were initially archived by the Port Authority and the Museum of London. Had the Docklands exhibits never opened, these pieces likely would have remained out of public view forever. The museum also houses numerous boats which were acquired from other collections.

Of course, while much of the museum focuses on the benefits of London’s history, it also shines a light on darker periods. The museum, in particular, doesn’t hesitate to educate visitors on London’s role in the Atlantic slave trade.

The museum is free for all visitors, though some events may require a ticket and reservation. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest tube station is Canary Wharf.

  • Address: No. 1, West India Quay, Hertsmere Road, London E14 4AL

22. National Army Museum

National Army Museum
Image Credit: National Army Museum

The National Army Museum in London serves as the main museum facility for the British Army. With its vast collection of artifacts, the museum can create a timeline of the evolution of the British armed forces. It also aims to educate visitors about the other military units that have existed throughout the U.K.

In addition to offering visitors the chance to see emblems, uniforms, and documents in person and via the museum’s online collection, it’s also a renowned research center. Visitors are given a step-by-step guide to conduct research into former soldiers, as well as virtually any piece in the collection’s displays and archives.

The museum doesn’t just house army artifacts but art as well. In particular, it showcases “The Battle of Blenheim” and “Destruction of the Floating Batteries,” which showcase the historic British perspective of European and North American history.

The museum is free for all visitors, though donations are welcome. The facility is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. except on bank holidays. The nearest bus stop is Markham Street.

  • Address: Royal Hospital Road, London SW3 4HT

23. The National Gallery

National Gallery London
Image Credit: Anas Miah via Unsplash

Founded in 1824, The National Gallery is home to over 2,300 paintings that can be traced back to the 1200s. However, only a fraction of these pieces are kept on display, while the others are preserved in the museum archives. After raising some concerns about the gallery’s restoration methods, the museum has made greater efforts to preserve the integrity of all its pieces.

The museum houses work from various European artists, from Johannes Vermeer to Titian. Some of the most beloved pieces in the gallery are “A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal” by Vermeer, “Doge Leonardo Loredan” by Giovanni Bellini, and “Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame” by Francois-Hubert Drouais.

The work of less-featured artists, like Berthe Morisot, Paolo Uccello, and George Seurat, occasionally rotates through the museum’s displays throughout the year. The museum also collaborates with other galleries, often lending and receiving pieces for temporary exhibitions.

Admission is always free for visitors. The museum is open Saturday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., though it’s closed on major bank holidays. The nearest tube stops are Charing Cross and Leicester Square.

  • Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

24. National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum
Image Credit: National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum officially opened in 1937. Since then, it’s focused on helping visitors learn and understand how London’s connection to the sea has impacted the city on economic, social, and cultural levels.

The museum houses an impressive 2 million pieces ranging from artifacts directly from ships to star charts and artwork. Though many of these pieces are kept in the museum’s archives, many are regularly rotated through the galleries.

The museum’s main exhibits typically focus on maritime history. However, its temporary displays cover historical periods and contemporary works on sea travel, trade, and even astronomy. The museum also regularly hosts lectures and other learning events for people of all ages. Children’s events, in particular, are often presented to help kids get excited about history and natural science.

The museum offers free admission to all visitors, though donations are welcome to help support its upkeep. Most temporary galleries are free, but events may require an additional ticket. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on bank holidays. The nearest bus station is WAT Tyler Road.

  • Address: Romney Road, London SE10 9NF
National Portrait Gallery
Image Credit: National Portrait Gallery

First opened in 1856, the National Portrait Gallery in London is considered by many to be the first museum of its kind in the nation. Since its inception, the museum has exclusively housed a permanent collection of portraits of important British figures.

Today, it houses over 220,000 pieces traced back to the eighth century. While most of the pieces are painted portraits, a number of photographs representing more contemporary figures are also part of the collection.

Among some of the museum’s most popular portraits are those of William Shakespeare and Queen Victoria, the latter of which is notably a sculpture and not a painted or sketched work of art. The museum also hosts special exhibits in addition to its permanent collection.

Admission to the gallery is free for all visitors. The museum is open from Sunday to Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. The nearest bus stop is St. Martin’s Place.

  • Address: St. Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE

26. Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum
Image Credit: Joshua Rawson-Harris via Unsplash

Home to over 80 million objects from around the globe, the Natural History Museum is one of the most comprehensive worldwide. The museum opened to the public in 1881, but it first began as a private collection owned by a doctor in the 17th and 18th centuries. Wishing to help educate the masses, he sold his artifacts to the government, creating the museum’s foundation. Ironically, many of his pieces were sold before the museum ever opened.

Today, the museum is divided into 4 major zones, which cover topics ranging from human evolution to nature images. Notably, the museum uses traditional displays, keeping artifacts behind protective glass, and more interactive exhibits that create a more immersive experience.

Some of the most beloved pieces in the museum are the original first edition of “On the Origins of Species” by Charles Darwin, one of the only objects remaining from the original collection.

The museum and many of its events are free to visit, though donations are always welcome. The facility is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. except on bank holidays. The nearest tube stop is South Kensington.

  • Address: Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD

“We are facing urgent biodiversity and climate crises, and photography is a powerful catalyst for change. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition reveals some of nature’s most wondrous sights whilst offering hope and achievable actions visitors can take to help protect the natural world.”

Dr Doug Gurr, Director, Natural History Museum

27. The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret
Image Credit: The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

During the 18th and 19th centuries, operating theaters were an essential part of medicine since they allowed medical students to observe procedures.

The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret was opened to the public in 1962 to preserve this essential part of the field’s evolution. The museum consists of multiple rooms, including the original operating theater, the oldest of its kind, a reproduction apothecary, and a collection of medical records and equipment from history.

Among the items in its collection are medieval implements used in healthcare and other pre-science medicinal instruments used for trepanning and bleeding. The museum is appropriate for visitors of all ages, so you don’t have to worry if you’re visiting with small children or people who might consider themselves squeamish around medical things.

Admission is free for children under 6, £4.50 (~$5) for kids up to 16, £6 (~$7) for visitors with disabilities, and £7.50 (~$9) for adults. Family tickets are also offered. The museum is open from Thursday to Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Southwark Street. 

  • Address: 9a St. Thomas St., London SE1 9RY

28. The Postal Museum

The Postal Museum
Image Credit: The Postal Museum

The Postal Museum is a heritage museum run by the Postal Heritage Trust. It first opened in 2004 and is meant to showcase the history and evolution of the Royal Mail. The museum houses over 60,000 artifacts, the oldest of which date back 500 years. These artifacts feature stamps, old forms of correspondence and antique letters, artwork centered around the postal service, and more.

Due to the magnitude of the collection, not all of the pieces owned by the museum are on display, but non-visible items can still be seen via the museum’s online catalog. You can also request to research using the library’s resources.

The museum also hosts a variety of events each year. These include design workshops, tours through the tunnels of the Mail Rail system, and audio guide rides on the Mail Rail trains themselves.

Admission is free for children under 3, £9 (~$11) for children 3 to 15, £11 (~$13) for visitors aged 16 to 24, and £16 (~$19) for adults 25+ if booked online. Tickets are £1 (~$1) more if purchased on location. Reduced-price tickets are available. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The nearest tube stop is Chancery Lane.

  • Address: 15-20 Phoenix Place, London WC1X 0DA
Saatchi Gallery
Image Credit: Saatchi Gallery

Since opening in 1985, the Saatchi Gallery has been one of London’s premier locations for contemporary art lovers. Initially, the museum focused almost entirely on showcasing U.S. artists, particularly those specializing in minimalism.

However, British and other international creators have also been featured over time. Today, the gallery houses hundreds of pieces in various mediums, from photography to sculpture.

The gallery’s primary aim is to make art accessible by educating visitors and providing enriching spaces within the gallery to foster an interest in the arts. This mission is further bolstered by the events and temporary exhibits regularly hosted within the gallery.

The gallery also aims to help support artists, so virtually all of the pieces within the museum are available for sale to make room for new pieces. This creates an ever-evolving exhibit experience for repeat visitors.

The main gallery is free for all visitors. However, some temporary exhibits and special events require a ticket. Saatchi Gallery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except on bank holidays. The nearest tube stop is Sloane Square.

  • Address: Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY

30. Science Museum

London Science Museum
Image Credit: Amy-Leigh Barnard via Unsplash

London’s Science Museum houses over 250,000 items between its exhibits and archives. Spread across 4 floors, the museum covers a wide range of scientific fields, like energy, space, and even math.

The museum also serves as an important historical facility, showcasing how science has evolved. It even has pieces from significant events in the field, such as the command module from the Apollo 10 space mission.

The Science Museum also has space for temporary exhibits, frequently hosting galleries that delve further into scientific topics. The museum uses interactive, hands-on displays mainly geared toward young visitors to help children foster an interest in the sciences.

In addition to the museum itself, visitors can make an appointment to visit the museum libraries, particularly for research purposes. Many of the museum’s non-displayed artifacts can also be seen online via the museum’s digital collection.

Admission to the museum is free, but some special exhibits and events might require a paid ticket. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest tube station is South Kensington.

  • Address: Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD

“The Science Museum is full of amazing things — from planes and cars to surgical robots. Some of my favourite objects look ordinary but tell extraordinary stories. Look carefully and you’ll spot a small silver thimble in our Information Age gallery. Originally owned by Emily FitzGerald, in 1866 it was filled with a few drops of acid and used to send an electric current all the way across the Atlantic and back through one of the earliest telegraph cables.”

Jessica Bradford, Head of Collections & Principal Curator, Science Museum

31. Sherlock Holmes Museum

Sherlock Holmes Museum
Image Credit: Sherlock Holmes Museum

London’s Sherlock Holmes Museum, hosted at the famed 221 Baker Street residence mentioned in the stories, celebrates one of England’s most notable literary figures. When it opened in 1990, it was the first museum entirely dedicated to the character.

Since Sherlock Holmes is fictional, no personal artifacts are housed within the structure. However, the home has been furnished with period-accurate items to match the setting described in the books.

The main objective of the museum was to help immortalize the famous detective. The museum also helps bring the stories to life in a way that can be appreciated by lovers of the stories and those just casually familiar with Sherlock Holmes.

The Sherlock Holmes Museum also houses the world’s most extensive collection of Sherlock Holmes-related items, including books and other memorabilia created throughout the years. The museum is self-guided and usually takes about 30 minutes to complete, but there are no time limits for visits.

Admission is free for children under 6, £11 (~$13) for children under 16, £16 (~$19) for adults, and £14 (~$17) for those eligible for reduced rates. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest tube stop is Baker Street.

  • Address: 221B Baker St., London NW1 6XE

32. Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soanes Museum
Image Credit: Sir John Soane’s Museum

The Sir John Soane’s Museum is a museum that celebrates the career and genius of this famed architect. Housed in his residence, the museum features personal and professional artifacts from his life.

Since plans for the museum began while Soane was still alive, it was able to be established and opened to the public relatively quickly in 1837. Today, the museum houses an impressive collection of 45,000 pieces, 30,000 of which are design sketches for buildings Soane wished to build or had already brought to fruition.

Soane’s prosperity in life also allowed him the funds to amass an impressive collection of artwork and antiquities, all of which are still in the museum’s care. Among the objects displayed in the house are an Egyptian sarcophagus from the 13th century B.C. and Gandy’s “The Origins of Architecture” painting. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that revolve around Soane or the period in which he lived.

Admission is free for everyone. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest tube station is Chancery Lane.

  • Address: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP

33. Tate Britain

Tate Britain
Image Credit: Tate Britain

Initially opened in 1897 as the National Gallery of British Art, Tate Britain is the oldest gallery in the Tate museum network. The museum aims to showcase Britain’s history through art, with pieces dating back to the Tudors, virtually all of which were completed by British artists.

The collection comprises around 70,000 works of art between what is on display and what is in the archives. Among some of the most notable pieces in the permanent collection are Eva Rothschild’s “The Fallowfield” and Henry Scott Tuke’s “August Blue.”

Due to its reputation as one of the most important locations for British art and the sizable collection it has to match, the Tate Britain is one of the most-visited museums in the world. In addition to the regular collection, the gallery also receives pieces on loan and hosts regular private and public events throughout the year.

Admission is free. However, events and special galleries occasionally require the purchase of a ticket. Donations are also welcome. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except on bank holidays. The nearest tube stop is Vauxhall.

  • Address: Millbank, London SW1P 4RG

34. Tate Modern

Tate Modern
Image Credit: Toa Heftiba via Unsplash

The Tate Modern exhibit space is home to modern and contemporary art belonging to the U.K. With over 70,000 pieces in the collection, it’s also one of the largest museums of its kind in the world. However, it’s worth noting that only a fraction of this artwork is displayed at any given time.

The museum is primarily divided into 8 different galleries, organized by themes ranging from commentary on society to life in the city. Several temporary exhibits are also held in the museum throughout the year. The Turbine Hall is a particularly sought-after exhibition space where artists can showcase their talents.

Some of the highlighted pieces in the Tate Modern collection are “Lick Your Teeth, They So Clutch” by Rachel Jones, “Singing for the Sea” by Bethan Huws, and “Study of a Woman’s Head” by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones.

Since the museum’s collection has been building for years, it shows how modern art has changed throughout history. Additionally, workshops and other events are also sponsored by the museum. Admission is free for all visitors. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest tube stop is Cannon Street.

  • Address: Bankside, London SE1 9TG

35. Victoria and Albert Museum

Dior Exhibit Victoria and Albert Museum
Image Credit: John Carpenter via Unsplash

With a collection of well over 2 million objects, the Victoria and Albert Museum, often referred to as simply V&A, is the largest applied and decorative arts and design museum in the world.

The museum takes up over 12 acres of land and houses over 140 galleries to cover the history and development of art over 5,000 years. The museum doesn’t focus on any particular culture or geographic territory, with pieces housed in the exhibits coming from Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the Americas.

The V&A is divided into 16 collection categories, from textile to architecture, creating one of the most comprehensive art collections ever curated. Among the museum’s most popular items are its fine-art cast reproductions in the so-called “Cast Courts” wing.

General admission is free, but special exhibits sometimes require payment to enter. The museum is open Saturday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The nearest tube stop is South Kensington.

  • Address: Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

36. Wellcome Collection

Wellcome Collection
Image Credit: Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Collection is one of the most unique museums in London. Part exhibit and part library, it mostly centers around the medical field, housing a collection of artifacts and art pieces related to healthcare through history.

The facility houses 250,000 printed documents, photos, art designs, and other objects. Due to the limited display space, the museum frequently rotates its items, virtually guaranteeing that each visit will differ slightly.

The museum is, first and foremost, a research facility, so maintaining a quiet and peaceful atmosphere is required. Therefore, it might not be the best spot to head to if you’re traveling with small children who need a lot of stimulation. One of the only permanent exhibits in the museum is the “Being Human” gallery, which showcases the importance of accessibility for all people in the modern world.

The galleries are free to visit for all visitors. The facility is open Tuesday to Wednesday and Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Euston station.

  • Address: 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE

37. Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum

Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
Image Credit: Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum

With over 40,000 objects in its collection, the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum is the largest tennis museum in the world.

The museum was opened in honor of the centennial of the Wimbledon Championships in 1977 to preserve the game’s history from the 16th century through the modern age. The museum is designed to be appreciated by both tennis fans and those just vaguely familiar with the sport. It utilizes interactive displays and even virtual reality to help immerse guests in the game.

Among some of the most notable objects in the museum are items used by champions like Roger Federer and a series of trophies and historic equipment used in the sport’s early history. The museum can be self-guided, but there are also special tours available that allow visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the Wimbledon Stadium.

Admission is free for children under 5, £8 (~$10) for kids aged 5 to 16, £11 (~$13) for seniors and students, and £13 (~$16) for adults. The nearest bus stop is Tooting/St. George’s Hospital. The facility is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

  • Address: 3 Church Road, London SW19 5AG

How To Get Free or Reduced Admission to London Museums

We’ve indicated with each museum whether or not children, students, or seniors receive free or reduced admission. Several other programs offer similar concessions.

The London Pass offers free or reduced museum admission for 1 to 10 days to those visiting London. Participating attractions in the greater London area are the Charles Dickens Museum, Chelsea FC Stadium Tour, The Fan Museum, Garden Museum, Household Cavalry Museum, London Canal Museum, London Transport Museum, Museum of Brands, Postal Museum, Tower of London, and more. Passes start at £89 (~$109) for adults and £54 (~$66) for children.

The Art Fund National Art Pass program offers pass holders free or reduced admission to museums, galleries, and attractions. Participating London museums include the Fashion and Textile Museum, Florence Nightingale Museum, Freud Museum, Hackney Museum, Handel Hendrix House, Jewish Museum London, Natural History Museum (special exhibits), Pace Gallery, Royal College of Art, and more. Passes start at £56.25 (~$69).

Capital One cardholders can enroll in a complimentary 6-month membership with The Cultivist (through June 22, 2024) and receive access for themselves and a guest to the Leighton House Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Sambourne House, and Royal Academy of Arts.

Participation is subject to change; please verify participating museums and entry conditions before your visit.

Final Thoughts

As England’s capital, it’s no surprise that London has some of the best museums in the world. The city’s exhibits are as diverse as its culture, from artifacts that trace back thousands of years to contemporary exhibits honoring sports and pop culture. We hope this list has helped inspire your travel planning so you can check out a few of London’s museums for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the museums free in London?

While there are some galleries and exhibits that require a paid ticket, many of London’s museums are free for all visitors every day of the year. However, donations are usually welcome if you’re able to spare a little money while on your visit.

How many museums are in London exactly?

There are at least 190 different museums, galleries, and exhibits open in London, run by both private and national organizations. It’s difficult to pin down an exact number since there are constantly new attractions touring through and opening in the city.

What is the oldest museum in London?

Many of London’s museums can be traced back many years, often starting as private collections before being opened to the public. The Tower of London’s exhibits are some of the oldest in the city since visitors have been allowed since the 16th century.

Can I go to London museums without booking?

Most of London’s museums allow walk-in visits without any prebooking requirements. This is true for both free and paid exhibits. However, to avoid long lines, it’s recommended to arrive early before crowds start to form or consider prepurchasing tickets when that’s an option.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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