London is home to some of the world’s very finest museums and art galleries, with something to cater for every taste imaginable. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about London’s cultural attractions, however, is the fact that a great deal of them remain completely free to enter, with many only charging for entrance to special galleries and exhibitions but allowing free access to the majority of their exhibits. This applies to some of the most internationally renowned, including the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Tate. Most will give the opportunity to make a donation if you want to support the institution. Here’s a guide to some of London’s finest free museums.
The British Museum
This is among the world’s most renowned museums, and is probably the most famous in London. Its collection is currently home to around 8 million pieces spanning the whole globe, including such iconic artefacts as the Elgin Marbles, sculptural masterpieces from the Parthenon in Athens; the Rosetta Stone, which held the key to translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics; and exquisite sets of samurai armour from medieval Japan. The British Museum is located in the Bloomsbury area of London and is housed in a grand neoclassical building.
The Museum of London
With so many incredible collections of objects from all four corners of the globe, it’s easy to forget that London is something of a prime attraction in itself. The Museum of London puts the city at centre stage, spanning the colourful history of London throughout the ages with interactive exhibits on kings and queens, the Plague, the Great Fire, and various of the other incredible ups and downs which this amazing city has gone through over the millennia. The Museum of London is part of the Barbican Centre, meaning that it’s easily accessible from the Montcalm at the Brewery London City – among the capital’s premier luxury hotels.
The Natural History Museum
Another incredible sight to behold before you’ve even crossed the threshold, the Natural History Museum is a purpose-built ‘cathedral to nature’ which exemplifies this ethos in the smallest details, such as the tiny carved animals which scale its vast pillars. Its collection isn’t bad, either: some 80 million items running the gamut of plants, insects, mineralogy, and zoology. It’s also particularly renowned for its collection of dinosaur skeletons, and Dippy, the huge Diplodocus cast in the main hall, never fails to excite adults and kids alike.
With an unrivalled location on Trafalgar Square, untold millions have posed on the National Gallery’s steps for a touristy photograph, but you’ll be missing out if that’s as close to the front door as you get. This is one of the United Kingdom’s most visited museums and galleries (third in 2012, with over six million visitors), and is home to some 2,300 paintings spanning the period from the mid-13th century to 1900 – around 650 years. It includes works by some of the most famous painters in history, including Leonardo da Vinci, J.M.W Turner and Vincent van Gogh, among many others.