Looking for the best museums in London? You’ve come to the right place!
There are many interesting museums in London, and no matter where you are in town, you will find one that tickles your interest and where you can spend an hour (or even a day!) browsing at the collection. Visiting museums is one of the best free things to do in London – indeed, most of them don’t charge an admission fee.
With more than 170 museums in town, selecting the top museums in London is no easy task. I have lived there for 8 years and obviously have my favorite, and my selection is inevitably based on my preferences. Yet, I hope you will enjoy these London museums.
The good news is that many of the best museums in London are free – so you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank. Continue reading for a selection of the best free museums in London, with the top exhibits as well as the plain weird ones and the coolest hidden gems.
GOOD TO KNOW: Given the current times, in an effort to limit the number of people inside the museum at the same time all museums in London – London free museums as well as those for which you have to pay – have adopted a system which requires advanced bookings of time-slots and by which visitors will have to follow a one-way route through the exhibit. Make sure to check the website of the museum you intend to visit before going!
The Best Museums In London
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The National Gallery is open every day from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. It closes at 9:00 pm on Fridays. It’s closed on 1 January and from 24 to 26 December. Admission is free; audioguides cost $5 GBP (around $6 USD) and can be grabbed at the Sainsbury Wing.
NEAREST METRO STATION: Charing Cross.
Located in the heart of town at a short distance from Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden, and in the beautiful Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery is easily one of the best museums in town – and definitely my favorite one. You need to factor in at least a couple of hours to explore all of it – definitely more if you want to have a more in-depth visit. It’s massive! Make sure to grab a map of the museum at the entrance, so that you can get your bearings and know where to find the exhibits you are interested in.
TIP: Make sure to visit the website of the National Gallery for information about special exhibits. These usually require the payment of a fee but in my experience they are always worth it.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The British Museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. On Fridays it closes at 8:30 pm. The museum remains closed on Mondays, Tuesdays and from 24 to 26 December. Admission is free and you can get an audioguide for £7 GBP (around $9 USD). Make sure to book a time-slot here.
NEAREST METRO STATIONS: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street.
The British Museum has one of the widest collections of antiquities you can wish to see – all in one place. And it’s free. My favorite piece there is Rosetta’s Stone. It literally is the first thing I go check out any time I visit.
As already mentioned, the British Museum is one of the free museums in London. You can opt to pick an audio-guide at the entrance for a small fee to help you browse the collection. Alternatively, you can go on a guided tour. I promise you they are not that expensive!
- British Museum guided tour – it lasts 2 hours. You can pick between the 10:00 am one or the 2:00 pm one.
- The British Museum Tour: the ideas that made our world – it starts at 2:00 pm and lasts a bit longer.
Churchill War Rooms
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Churchill War Rooms is open daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. Tickets cost £22 GBP (around $29 USD). For information and tickets, check the official website here. Alternatively, you can get your tickets here for the same price.
NEAREST METRO STATIONS: St. James’s Park; Westminster.
This is one of the best museums in London for history geeks. It is entirely dedicated to the life of Winston Churchill. You can also visit the Cabinet War Rooms, which is the bunker where Churchill hid during the London Blitz and and directed WWII efforts.
You can easily visit the museum independently, but if you’d rather go on a guided tour you can opt for this WWII Westminster Walking Tour and Churchill War Rooms. You can book it here.
Imperial War Museum
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is free but tickets must be booked in advance here.
NEAREST METRO STATIONS: Lambeth North and Elephant & Castle
This museum focuses on all wars that have occurred since World War I.The exhibit consists of documents, letters, clothes and more – which can all be linked to a conflict. There is a permanent exhibit on the Holocaust which is a must-see.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Time slots must be booked in advance on the museum’s website here. Admission to the general exhibit is free.
NEAREST METRO STATIONS: Southwark, Blackfriars and St Paul’s
Known to be one of the best museums in the city, the Take Modern is filled to the brim with interesting art, with works of Picasso, Dali, Warhol and the like. The exhibit is organized in themes rather than artistic eras. The building itself is an absolute wonder of industrial era, with the massive Turbine Hall definitely capturing visitors’ attention.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Make sure to book a time-slot for your visit on the museum’s website. Admission to the general exhibit is free.
NEAREST METRO STATIONS: Pimlico, Vauxhall and Westminster
This is one of the best museums in London that solely concentrates on British artists. The permanent collection includes the works of Whistler, Turner, and Francis Bacon.
Victoria and Albert Museum
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open Thursdays to Sundays from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Admission if free but you must book your preferred time-slot in advance. You can do so here.
NEAREST METRO STATIONS: South Kensington and Gloucester Road
This is one of the largest museums in London, and definitely one of its best (and in fact, one of the best in the world). The building – glorious in and of itself with its red bricks, tilings, frescoes and more – is like a magic place inside of which you will find a series of incredible exhibits on fashion, architecture, theater and more.
Natural History Museum
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Natural History Museum is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 11:00 am to 5:50 pm. It is closed between 24 and 26 December. Visits must be book in advance on the official website. Admission is free.
NEAREST METRO STATIONS: South Kensington and Gloucester Road
Dinosaurs fans stop right here – the Natural History Museum has a massive collection of 80 million pieces among plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks and more. Kids will agree this is one of the best museums in London. Should you be keen on joining a guided tour of the museum, you may want to consider this option.
GOOD TO KNOW: Keep your eyes opened for the reopening of the Wellcome Collection, a lovely free museum located in Euston Road, which the ambition of exploring the links between science, medicine, life and art.
National Maritime Museum
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The National Maritime Museum is open daily from 10:30 am to 4:00 pm. Admission is free but advanced bookings are required. You can book your visit here.
NEAREST STATIONS: DLR Greenwich
This museum – part of the Royal Museums – is all about naval memorabilia. You will see maps, artefacts and uniforms, including the one that belonged to Admiral Nelson.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is free but you are required to book a time-slot here.
NEAREST METRO STATION: South Kensington
Easily one of the top museums in London, the Science Museum counts with an incredible array of galleries and interactive exhibits spread across its 7 (yes, SEVEN!) floors. It’s a perfect place to visit for families with children.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open Monday to Wednesday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and Thursday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. The museum is closed from 24 to 26 December. Tickets cost £16 GBP for weekdays (around $21 USD) and £18 GBP for weekend visits (around $24 USD)
NEAREST METRO STATIONS: Kensington High Street, Earl’s Court and Holland Park.
Easily one of the coolest museums in London, the name is surely reflected in the building – incredibly minimalistic, with predominant oak and marble materials, and then very colorful exhibits. There is a permanent collection – Designer, Maker, User – which includes more than 1000 objects that give a good introduction on the progress in design and architecture in the last two centuries. Yet, most people visit for the temporary exhibits.
London Transport Museum
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. Tickets cost £18.50 GBP (around $25 USD) and must be booked in advance. You can get a ticket here.
NEAREST METRO STATION: Covent Garden
This fun museum is a cool place to get acquainted with London transportation system, with an exhibit that goes from the vintage red Routemaster buses that became a symbol of London, to tube trains, signs, uniforms, posters and even photographs that show how London used to look a couple of centuries ago.
Charles Dickens Museum
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open Friday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is £9.50 GBP ($12.50 USD).
NEAREST METRO STATIONS: Russell Square, Chancery Lane, Holborn and Kings Cross St Pancras.
If you love the writings of Charles Dickens, this will definitely be one of the best museums in London for you! The museum is set in the Georgian townhouse where the writer spent a few years, and showcases various pieces that will help you piece together his life – there are letters, manuscripts, portraits and even original furnishings and tapestry.
GOOD TO KNOW: There even is a Charles Dickens walking tour of London. You can view it here – keep in mind it doesn’t include the museum’s entrance fee.
Sir John Soane’s Museum
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open Thursdays to Saturdays. Tickets must be booked in advance here.
NEAREST METRO STATION: Holborn
Unknown to most tourists, this is definitely one of the nicest museums in London. In one place you will find a fantastic collection of artworks that belonged to Sir John Soane, and everything is placed exactly where he liked it to be.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Serpentine Galleries are open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is free but tickets must be booked in advance here.
NEAREST METRO STATIONS: Lancaster Gate and Knightsbridge
Serpentine Galleries have no permanent exhibit – but regular temporary ones that usually focus on contemporary artists. It’s located in Kensington Gardens, so it can be a nice addition to a walk in the park.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Madame Tussauds is open Mondays to Thursdays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (last entry); Fridays and Sundays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (last entry) and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (last entry) on Saturdays. The museum is closed on 25 December. Admission prices vary. You can get Madame Tussauds tickets here.
NEAREST METRO STATION: Baker Street
Easily one of the best museums in London, Madame Tussauds is one of the oldest museums in town, with the first showroom opened in 1835. It’s a fun place to visit for both adults and kids, to look at life-size reproductions of all the most famous people in the world.
Make sure to also read my post “How To Get Madame Tussauds London Tickets And Skip The Lines.”
Sherlock Holmes Museum
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is £15 GBP (around $20 USD).
NEAREST METRO STATION: Baker Street
Close to Regent’s Park, this museum which opened in 1990 is one of the best museums in London for lovers of all things quirky. The idea behind the museum is to recreate what was meant to be Sherlock Holmes’ home, the way it’s been described in the books. There even is the bookshelves and the 17 steps to go to the living room.
Getting tickets in advance is a must-do. Alternatively, you may consider a Sherlock Holmes guided tour. I recommend:
- Sherlock Holmes 4-hour private walking tour – a 4 hours private guided tour which includes a visit to the museum.
- Sherlock Holmes 2-hour walking tour – this tour is more of an addition to the museum visit, as it actually doesn’t go to the museum itself – but it takes you also to the movie sets inside BBC.
Old Operating Theatre Museum
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm. Tickets cost £20 GBP (around $26 USD). Make sure to book your tickets and pick a time-slot in advance directly on the museum website.
NEAREST METRO STATION: London Bridge
The Old Operating Theater Museum definitely is one of the most unique museums in London. It’s one of the oldest operating theaters in the world – active at the time when anesthesia was not even available. It’s a great place to get an idea of how surgeries used to be carried out when things such as antibiotics and antiseptics were unheard of. There is a small exhibit of herbs that were once used in medicine.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. Admission is free but you must book your visit in advance here.
NEAREST METRO STATION: Bond Street
This fantastic museum is located in the mansion of the illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess of Hertford, and counts with the works of Titian, Rembrandts and Velazquez, as well as with beautiful furnishings and china.
Horniman Museum and Gardens
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. Admission is free but you must book your visit in advance here.
NEAREST METRO STATION: Forest Hill (Overground)
If you fancy getting a bit out of the center of London, this museum has an exhibit about natural history and anthropology, as well as an aquarium. The museum is surrounded by a beautiful garden.
Further readings about London
If you are planning a trip to London, make sure to check out my posts:
- 24 Stunning London Hidden Gems
- How To Make The Most Of London In A Day
- 15 Amazing Day Trips From Paris
- The Best 5 Days London Itinerary
- An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days London
- A Perfect Itinerary To See London In 3 Days
- How To See London In 2 Days
- 10 Cool Things To Do In Covent Garden
- 15 Great Day Trips From London
- How To Get Tower Of London Tickets
- 5 Easy Ways Of Getting London Dungeon Tickets
- 7 Easy Ways Of Getting London Eye Tickets
- Where To Stay In London: The Best Areas And Hotels
- Where To Get The Most Impressive Views Of London
- How To Get From Heathrow To London