museums

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The treasure chest of London is its extraordinary array of museums which are open free to the public. These include not just the great national institutions such as the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert, the Science Museum, the National Gallery and the Tate Modern. There is also an astonishing variety of excellent specialist museums, which are open free and are worth repeated visits.

OUR FAVOURITE free MUSEUMS

British Museum. Camden. With 8 million works from every continent and period, and 6 million visitors a year, this is the UK's most popular cultural attraction. More info. 

Design Museum. Kensington and Chelsea. Entrance is free to the Design Museum's permanent collection 'Designer, Maker User'. More info. 

God's Own Junkyard. Waltham Forest. Museum and workshop of the neon sign maker Chris Bracey, who died in 2014. Over 700 neon signs of all periods. More info. 

Imperial War Museum. Southwark. Military vehicles and aircraft, memorabilia and explanatory displays commemorating British wars since 1914. More info. 

Novelty Automation. Camden. A gallery of satirical slot machines, all in working order, and all lovingly made from scrap materials by cartoonist and engineer Tim Hunkin. More info.

Serpentine Galleries. Kensington & Chelsea. Two exceptional galleries in Kensington Gardens showing leading contemporary artists from around the world. More info.

Soane Museum. Camden. The remarkable and beautifully preserved former home and antiquarian collection of the architect Sir John Soane, who died in 1837. More Info. 

Tate Modern. Southwark. One of the world's largest and most popular contemporary art museums, with 5 million visitors a year. Includes the spectacular Turbine Hall. More info.  

Victoria & Albert Museum. Kensington & Chelsea. One of the world's largest museums of decorative arts, with more than 2.3 million objects. More info. 

Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum. A treasure trove of 19th century engineering, assembled and staffed by enthusiasts. Open every Sunday. More info.

LIST OF free MUSEUMS

ART & DESIGN MUSEUMS

Barbican Curve. City of London. The Barbican Curve is an unusual curved gallery within the Barbican Centre showing free exhibitions and installations. More info. 

Design Museum. Kensington and Chelsea. Entrance is free to the Design Museum's permanent collection 'Designer, Maker User'. More info. 

God's Own Junkyard. Waltham Forest. Museum and workshop of the neon sign maker Chris Bracey, who died in 2014. Over 700 neon signs of all periods. More info. 

Hogarth's House. Hounslow, 1717. The country retreat of the artist William Hogarth from 1749 until his death in 1764. Two floors are open to visitors. More info. See on map. 

Japan House. Kensington & Chelsea. Funded by the Japanese government, Japan House offers a programme of free exhibitions and events showcasing Japanese art, design and technology. More info.

National Gallery. Westminster. Entry is free to the main collection of 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. More info. 

National Portrait Gallery. Westminster. The world's first and largest portrait gallery, offering free entry to its 11,000 portraits and 240,000 photographs. More info. 

New London Architecture. Camden. A free exhibition centre (including a great London model) and events promoting debate on the future of London. More info. 

Newport Street Gallery. Lambeth. This gallery, open without charge to the public, is funded by, and displays works owned by, the artist Damien Hirst. More info.

Photographers' Gallery. Westminster. Founded in 1971 as the first public photography gallery in the UK. Open free to the public. Supported by the Arts Council. More info. 

Royal Institute of British Architects. Westminster. The RIBA building at 66 Portland Place, houses free architectural exhibitions, also library, bookshop and cafe. More info. 

Saatchi Gallery. Kensington & Chelsea. Founded by Charles Saatchi, its exhibitions of contemporary art have produced extreme critical reactions. More info. See on map.

Serpentine Galleries. Kensington & Chelsea. Two excepitonal galleries in Kensington Gardens showing leading contemporary artists from around the world. More info. 

Soane Museum. Camden. The remarkable and beautifully preserved former home and antiquarian collection of the architect Sir John Soane, who died in 1837. More info.

Tate Britain. Westminster. Founded in 1897 by sugar merchant and philanthropist Sir Henry Tate. A major collection of historic and contemporary Britsh art. More info. See on map.

Tate Modern. Southwark. One of the world's largest and most popular contemporary art museums, with 5 million visitors a year. Includes the spectacular Turbin Hall. More info. 

Two Temple Place. Westminster. The Victorian gothic London home of American millionaire William Waldorf Astor. Now a public gallery featuring publicly owned art from UK regional collections. More info.

Victoria & Albert Museum. Kensington & Chelsea. One of the world's largest museums of decorative arts, with more than 2.3 million objects. More info. 

Wallace Collection. Westminster. Collection of decorative arts and paintings from the 15th to 19th centuries in the former home of its creator. More info. See on map. 

Whitechapel Gallery. Tower Hamlets. Art gallery which has premiered leading artists including Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Jackson Pollock. More info. See on map. 

William Morris Gallery. Waltham Forest. In the home of Arts & Crafts pioneer William Morris, 10,000 objects including textiles, wallpaper, glass and ceramics. More info. See on map. 

William Morris Society, Kelmscott House. Hammersmith & Fulham. Exhibition of the works of William Morris in the home he occupied from 1878 to 1896. More info. Seeon map. 

HISTORICAL MUSEUMS & LIBRARIES

Bank of England Museum. City of London. Collections of notes and coins, and a genuine bar of gold which can be handled within its case. More info. See on map.

British Museum. Camden. With 8 million works from every continent and period, and 6 million visitors a year, this is the UK's most popular cultural attraction. More info. 

Chocolate Museum. Lambeth. Independent museum and chocolate shop founded by Isabelle Alaya, a French artisan chocolatier. More info. See on map. 

Croydon Airport Micro Museum. Croydon. A volunteer-run museum on the history of Croydon airport. Open only on the first Sunday of the month. More info. 

Freemasonry Museum. Camden. Exhibitions covering the history of Freemasonry over 300 years. Also tours of the headquarters of British freemasonry. More info. See on map. 

Geffrye Museum of the Home. Hackney. Displays of homes through past centuries. Closed in January 2018 for two year development project. More info. See on map. 

Headstone Manor & Museum. Harrow. Construction of this moated manor began in 1310. The manor and Great Barn are open free to the public. More info. See on map. 

Horniman Museum. Lewisham. Anthropology, musical instruments, and stuffed animals. Founded by tea trader Frederick Horniman. More info. See on map.

Imperial War Museum. Southwark. Military vehicles and aircraft, memorabilia and explanatory displays commemorating British wars since 1914. More info. 

London Sewing Machine Museum. Merton. A collection of historic sewing machines, upstairs above a craft shop, open on first Saturday of the month. More info.

Museum of Childhood. Tower Hamlets. Museum of toys, dolls, and other childhood objects. A branch of the Victoria & Albert Museum. More info. See on map. 

Museum of London. City ofLondon. With more than six million objects, the world's largest museum of urban history. Prehistoric London to the present. More info. See on map. 

Museum of London Docklands. Tower Hamlets. This history of London's docklands from 1600 to the present. Sugar, slavery, and the Docklands at war. More info. See on map. 

Museum of the Order of St.John. Islington. The story of an ancient religious military Order, from its origins caring for sick pilgrims in the 11th century. More info. See on map. 

National Army Museum. Kensington & Chelsea. Five galleries covering British military history from the English Civil War to the present. More info. See on map. 

National Maritime Museum. Greenwich. World's largest maritime museum with 2 million items including maritime art, cartography, ship models and instruments. More info. See on map. 

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. Camden. 80,000 objects of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology. Part of University College London. More info. See on map. 

Red Cross Museum. City of London. Museum and records archive covering the history of the Red Cross from its foundation to the present day. More info. See on map. 

Royal Air Force Museum. Barnet. The story of people who moulded the world of aviation from the daredevil pioneers to heroes to ordinary servicemen and women. More info. See on map. 

Royal Hospital Chelsea. Kensington & Chelsea. Founded by Charles II, provides a home for military veterans. Their distinctive scarlet coat is worn with pride. More info. See on map.

Upminster Tithe Barn: Museum of Nostalgia. Havering. A magnificent 15th century barn stuffed with memorabilia including pots, pans, china, vacuum cleaners, TV sets, and agricultural implements. More info. 

Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum. A treasure trove of 19th century engineering, assembled and staffed by enthusiasts. Open every Sunday. More info.

SCIENTIFIC MUSEUMS

Anaesthesia Heritage Centre. Westminster. The Anaesthesia Museum holds Charles King's collection of historic anaesthesia apparatus, giften in 1953. More info. See on map. 

BDA Dental Museum. Westminster. The museum has 25,000 dental objects in its care, including anatomical models, dental art, and dental equipment. More info.

Bethlem Museum of the Mind. Bromley. Opened in 2015, an outstanding collection of archives, art and historic objects related to mental healthcare. More info. See on map. 

College of Optometrists Museum. Westminster. The world's finest historical collection of spectacle frames, contact lenses, artificial eyes, and eyebaths. More info. See on map. 

Francis Crick Institute. Camden. A world-leading centre of research into the fundamental biology underlying halth and disease, founded in 2015. Offers a free public programme of scientific talks and exhibitions. More info.

Grant Museum of Zoology. Camden. Part of University College London, this is one of the oldest natural history collections in the UK. Home to 68,000 zoological specimens. More info. See on map

Langdown Down Museum. Richmond. A museum, founded in 2012, which is devoted to the history of learning disability. Includes the Normansfield collection. More info. See on map. 

Natural History Museum. Kensington & Chelsea. Home to more than 80 million specimens of the earth and life sciences, including those collected by Charles Darwin. The foundation of the collection was that of the Ulster doctor Sir Hans Sloane. More info. See on map. 

Royal College of Nursing Heritage Centre. Westminster. Home to the largest nursing specific collection of materials in Europe. More info. See on map. 

Royal College of Physicians Museum. Westminster. The collection, dating back 500 years, includes portraits, silver, surgical instruments, and human remains. More info. See on map. 

Royal London Hospital Museum. Tower Hamlets. The hospital has served east London since 1740. The museum documents its history from the earliest days. More info. See on map. 

Royal Observatory. Greenwich. Commissioned by Charles II in 1675, the centre until 1957 of British astronomy. The location of the Greenwich Meridian. More info. See on map. 

Royal Pharmaceutical Society Museum. Tower Hamlets. Brand name medicines from the 1700s, drug jars, dispensing equipment, portraits and photographs. More info. See on map. 

Science Museum. Kensington & Chelsea. Founded 1857, the Science Museum attracts 3.3 million visitors a year. Power, space, flight, and the information age. More info. See on map.

St. Bartholomew's Hospital Museum. City of London. Documents and objects from the 12th to the 21st centuries, tracing the history of this leading London hospital. More info. See on map. 

Wellcome Collection. Camden. Founded by the Wellcome Trust in 2007, a museum that explores the connections between medicine, life, and art. More info. See on map. 

LIBRARIES & ARCHIVES

British Library. Camden. Exhibitions of exceptional books and manuscripts, including Magna Carta, the Gutenberg Bible and Chaucer. More info. See on map. 

City Business Library. City of London. Business information resources, free business start-up advice, eLearning, seminars and workshops. More info. See on map. 

Deptford Lounge. Lewisham. Public library, computer labs, study areas, café, and roof-top ball court. Situated off Deptford High Street. More info. See on map. 

London Metropolitan Archives. Islington. The local government archive for London. 72 miles of records dating from 1067 chart London's history. More info. See on map. 

Marx Memorial Library. Islington. Founded in 1933 to advance education in the science of Marxism and the history of Socialism. More info. See on map. 

National Archives. Richmond. The UK Government's official archive, containing 1,000 years of history from the Domesday Book to the present. More info. See on map. 

National Art Library at the V&A. Westminster. Public reference collection of literature on the fine and decorative arts, including books and journals. More info. See on map. 

St.Bride Library. City of London. Serving the printing community of Fleet Street, and the wider world of designers, artists and typographers since 1895. More info. See on map. 

Westminster Music Library. Westminster. An extensive loan collection of books, scores, performance parts, choral sets and sheet music. More info. See on map. 

Westminster Reference Library. Westminster. A general reference library, with specialist collections on fine art, performing arts, business and law. More info. See on map. 

Women's Library. Camden. Part of the London School of Economics. Printed material, archives and 3D objects from the 19th century to today. More info. See on map.