Hi my lovely readers!
London certainly is an expensive city for tourist and residents alike. There is much to do and see and many of the visitor attractions come with a hefty entrance price.
But luckily, London has a lot of excellent free attractions, including many museums that are world class, engaging and of course super interesting.
You can easily get lost in the museums as some of them are massive and need one full day to explore. If you are a museum nerd like me or just interested in learning new things, I am sure you will find one museum that suits your interests.
So, let’s look at some of the most popular free museums London has to offer!
The National Gallery is one of the most popular free museums in London. It is right in the heart of London, located in Trafalgar Square. It should be on every art lovers list of attractions to visit in London.
The gallery was founded in 1824 and has a vast collection of different paintings dating from the 13th all the way to the 20th century. Around 2,300 art works can be viewed in the gallery including famous artists such as Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Rubens and many more.
NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
The National Portrait Gallery, just as the name indicates, houses a collection of portraits. Here you can find the largest portraits collection in the world of around 215,000 works. It is believed that it was also the first portrait gallery in the world.
The National Portrait Gallery opened its doors to the public back in 1856 and displays portraits from the Middle Ages to the present day, a mix of paintings, photographs, prints and drawings.
Its aim is to ‘to promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture, and … to promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media’. (National Portrait Gallery, 2020).
Unfortunately, the National Portrait Gallery is currently closed until spring 2023 for major redevelopment works.
The British Museum, located in Bloomsbury, is another world class museum that you can find in London. In fact, it was the first national public museum in the world.
It was founded in 1753 and opened its doors to the public in 1759. It has a vast collection that covers human history and culture from all over the world:
- Ancient Egypt
- Ancient Greece and Rome
- Middle East
The collection spans over 8 million objects of pretty much anything you can think of such as coins, sculptures, jewellery, pottery, clocks, relics and many, many more.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
The Natural History Museum in London is one of the best of its kind. It is located just next to South Kensington Underground station in a terracotta building of Romanesque architecture, which in itself is considered a work of art. You might think the building itself might be an attraction as it is so iconic.
The museum has a vast collection of over 80 million items. It can broadly be divided into five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology.
It is most famous for its dinosaur exhibition and collection of animal specimen. There are plenty of skeletons, taxidermy and animals in jars to see. The collection of the universe and different rocks and minerals is really interesting as well. But of course the entire museum is inspiring.
Just next door of the Natural History Museum, you can find the Science Museum. And just like the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum is world famous. Apparently it is the most visited science and technology museum in Europe. That tells you already that it is worth stopping by.
The Science Museum has a diverse collection of over 350,000 objects and items, one of the most famous once being the Apollo 10 command capsule. The galleries on display are a mix of interactive and object galleries.
There are many exhibitions with diverse topics including locomotive engineering, 250 years of science and technology that have shaped our world and had a lasting impact on society, history of flight, space exploration, medical collection and many more.
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM
The Imperial War Museum (IWM) was founded in 1917 with the intention of recording Britain’s involvement and scarifies during WWI. Of course, it has since expanded to include recent conflicts and war times, too. It is situated within walking distance of Elephant & Castle underground station.
The aim of the museum is “to provide for, and to encourage, the study and understanding of the history of modern war and ‘wartime experience’.” (Imperial War Museum, 2020)
The museum has a collection of archives of personal and official documents, photographs, art collection, film and video of accounts as well as verbal history recordings. Furthermore, they have an impressive collection of military vehicles such as tanks, aircrafts, equipment, rockets and much more.
NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM AND QUEEN’S HOUSE
The National Maritime Museum opened in 1937 and holds important artefacts and items, around two million, related to Britain’s sea history. These include maritime art, cartography, manuscripts, ship models and plans, scientific and navigational instruments, instruments for time-keeping and astronomy.
Greenwich itself has long lasting ties to the sea and astronomical studies. Henry VIII lived in Greenwich, Charles II founded the Royal Observatory and of course it is home to Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian. Furthermore, the University of Greenwich used to be the Old Royal Naval College before it was transformed into the university in 1998.
The Queen’s House used to be a royal residence built by Inigo Jones between 1616 and 1635. It is said that the Queen’s House is one of the most important architectural buildings in Britain as it is the first classical building constructed in the country.
Most of the original interior has been stripped. However, the famous Tulip Stairs, Great Hall and Painted Ceiling can still be admired. Also, the museum managed to acquire the famous portrait of Elizabeth I – The Armada.
VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM
The V&A, founded by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1852, is a museum that focuses on art and design. It is also located in Kensington and only a 2 min walk away from the Natural History and Science Museum.
Its permanent collection houses around 2.3 million objects showcasing 5,000 years of creativity. Often, people and especially fashion students and enthusiast come here for inspiration relating to architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance.
MUSEUM OF LONDON DOCKLANDS
The London Docklands Museum situated in Canary Wharf, is all about the history of the docklands and the river Thames. The docks in London were located where the museum is today and were important for trade back in the days.
The museum opened in 2003 and has a collection, displayed in chronological order, covering the periods of the Docklands from the first port during Roman times, to its closure back in the 1970s all the way to the transformation into residential development and commercial area.
If you are bored of history and old artefacts from thousands and thousands of years ago, maybe a trip to Tate Modern is what you are looking for.
Tate Modern is one of the top three visitor attractions in the UK. The branch in London is fairly new compared to many of the other museums in the capital. It opened in 2000 and is of course famous for its international and contemporary art of around 70,000 artworks.
You cannot miss the iconic building along the Thames, the Bankside Power Station that was converted into the gallery. It is one of London’s most recognisable buildings.
Have you been to any of the museums? Which one would you want to visit?