If art and culture is your thing, London is hard to beat. Steeped in history and full of character, it’s always attracted a creative crowd. Whether you’re slap-bang in the centre or down in the East End, there’s always something interesting to see. Luckily, many of the city’s most famous museums are free, so you can experience its cultural highlights without breaking the bank. These are the capital’s coolest museums and art galleries that you can visit without paying a penny.
Located in Bloomsbury, the British Museum is one of London’s top cultural attractions, drawing millions of visitors each year. Dedicated to human history, art and culture, the museum houses a collection of 8 million works from all over the world. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone (an ancient Egyptian relic inscribed with hieroglyphics) and a collection of ancient Greek Parthenon sculptures, which were made between 447BC and 432BC.
Entry to the museum’s permanent collection is free, though it may be worth booking a ticket online to secure your place. The British Museum is extremely popular, so it can get really busy! It’s open every day from 10am-5pm, with a later closing time of 8.30pm on Fridays.
Address: Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG
The National Gallery houses over 2300 paintings that date from the mid-13th century to the 20th century. You’ll get to see works by renowned artists such as Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Da Vinci – and all for free! You can book online to guarantee entry, but walk-up tickets are also available. The gallery opens daily from 10am until 6pm, and stays open until 9pm on Fridays.
If you’re looking for a cheap place to eat close by, stop off at Muriel’s Kitchen. Located inside the gallery itself, this casual café serves up seasonal dishes alongside some seriously indulgent cakes and pastries. It’s a serene and beautifully decorated space – with delicious food to boot – and it’s less expensive than some restaurants in the area.
Address: Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN
Tate Modern & Tate Britain
The Tate galleries in London are part of a wider UK network (alongside Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives), and two of the city’s most notable art spaces. Both galleries are free to visit, and they’re open every day from 10am until 6pm.
The Tate Modern is located on Bankside, right next to the Thames. Housed in a former power station, the building itself is an architectural marvel. The original Turbine Hall makes for an impressive entrance, and the space is used to exhibit large-scale sculpture and installation art. Since it first opened in 2000, the Tate Modern has become one of the country’s foremost modern art galleries, with works dating from the early 1900s to the present day.
Address: Bankside, London, SE1 9TG
On Millbank, just 15 minutes from easyHotel London Victoria on foot, you’ll find the Tate Britain. This is the oldest gallery in the Tate network, having first opened its doors in 1897. It’s home to a substantial collection of British artwork, with some pieces dating back to the Tudor times. You’ll find historical paintings by the likes of William Hogarth and J.M.W. Turner, as well as more contemporary works by artists such as Henry Moore and Francis Bacon.
Address: Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum (or the V&A, as it’s commonly known) is one of the capital’s most popular museums, housing a collection of over 2 million objects. As the world’s largest museum for applied arts and design, it’s a unique cultural gem that draws millions of visitors annually. Across seven floors and some 150 galleries, you’ll find everything from furniture to fashion items. With such a vast and varied collection, it really is a must-see.
Located close to Exhibition Road, you can walk to the V&A in under 20 minutes from easyHotel South Kensington or hop on a bus and make it in 15. The museum opens every day from 10am-5.45pm, and stays open until 10pm on Fridays.
Address: Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
Natural History Museum
Opposite the V&A you’ll find one of London’s most-visited museums (officially). The Natural History Museum is a must-see for anyone staying in the capital. Housed in an impressive Romanesque building, this museum and research centre exhibits a huge range of specimens from the natural world, including a magnificent 25-metre-long blue whale skeleton called ‘Hope.’ The museum is open daily from 10am until 5.50pm (but last entry is at 5.30pm).
Again, it can get really busy here, so it’s worth booking in advance if you can. For more information about visiting the Natural History Museum, take a look at our in-depth guide.
Address: Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD
Horniman Museum and Gardens
If you’re out East – South East, to be precise – and fancy getting your cultural kicks, head to the Horniman Museum and Gardens in leafy Forest Hill.
Proof that there’s still plenty to see outside of the city centre, this museum of natural history and anthropology has a wide collection of unique objects from all over the world, including taxidermy, musical instruments and archaeological materials. Housed in a beautiful Grade II listed building, the museum was founded in 1901 by tea trader Frederick John Horniman. Today, the museum draws hundreds of thousands of people every year and its popularity continues to grow. The surrounding gardens – totalling 16 acres – are also free to enter, but you’ll need to buy tickets if you want to see the Butterfly House.
There are some great (and affordable!) eateries in the area, too. If you’re looking for a light bite, try the Horniman Café, which is located inside the museum. For something heartier, head to the Lazy Chef on Devonshire Road. With its extensive menu of brunch and lunchtime favourites, you can’t go wrong. Forest Hill is home to some great pubs too, where you’ll find traditional fare and friendly faces. The Signal Pub and the Sylvan Post are two such examples, and both are just a short stroll from the museum.
If you’re staying with us in Croydon, you’ll be able to get to the Horniman Museum and Gardens easily: it’s a 20-minute car journey, or just over half an hour on public transport.
Address: 100 London Road, London, SE23 3PQ
The British Library
The British Library is the UK’s national library and it’s home to some of the world’s most important literary artefacts, including the Magna Carter (the first royal charter). The collection also includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, music, newspapers and more, with the oldest pieces dating back some 3000 years.
Address: 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB
Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum is one of the world’s leading war museums, and it was founded while the First World War was still going on. Documenting the extraordinary stories of those caught up in conflict, it gives voice to the ordinary people whose lives were torn apart by war. With a particular focus on WWI and WWII, the museum houses a vast collection of objects, from film and photographs to weaponry and vehicles. Take a look at our visitors guide to the Imperial War Museum for more information.
Address: Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ
The Design Museum is a huge space dedicated to contemporary design. Exhibiting graphic, fashion, digital and architectural design pieces, it’s one of London’s most interesting art spaces. Alongside its permanent collection, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions, although you may need to pay an entrance fee for some of these. The museum opens daily from 10am until 6pm, and closes later (at 9pm) on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s just a 14-minute walk from our South Kensington hotel, close to High Street Kensington underground station.
Address: 224-238 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6AG
Sir John Soane’s Museum
Sir John Soane’s Museum is one of the capital’s best small museums, although it’s arguably a bit of a Tardis. Tucked away down a side street in Holborn, it was once the home of 19th-century architect John Soane, and almost everything has been kept as it was when he died in 1837. It houses a huge collection of objects, including paintings, antiques and architectural drawings drawn up by Soane himself; there’s even a sarcophagus of the Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I in the basement! The museum is open from 10am until 5pm every day, and you can easily walk there from Holborn underground station.
Address: 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3BP
The Wallace Collection
The Wallace Collection is situated in a grand townhouse in Manchester Square, right in the heart of the city. Exhibiting artwork from the 15th to the 19th centuries – with a particularly impressive collection of 18th-century French paintings – it’s a must-see attraction for classic art lovers. You’ll find paintings by Titian and Velázquez, as well as objects dating back to the mediaeval and Renaissance periods. Entry to the museum’s permanent collection is free and it’s open every day from 10am-5pm.
From easyHotel Paddington you can hop on the Elizabeth Line to Bond Street station, which is a 7-minute walk from the Wallace Collection. Alternatively, you can walk to the gallery from our hotel in around 20 minutes.
Address: Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN
The Science Museum
Another Exhibition Road favourite, The Science Museum celebrates some of the greatest scientific achievements in history. From space and the environment to medicine, computing and communication, almost every facet of modern technology is explored in detail here. Many of the exhibits are interactive, so it’s a great place to visit with kids in tow. Take a look at our in-depth guide to find out more.
Address: Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD
Museum of London Docklands
The Museum of London Docklands details the capital’s history as a port city through stories of trade and migration. It houses a wide collection of artefacts displayed across several galleries. ‘Sailortown’ is an immersive display showing what life was like in the districts around London’s docklands during the 19th century (pretty pungent, we expect); ‘London, Sugar and Slavery,’ takes an honest look at the city’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, with historical documentation, paintings and objects on display. The museum is open from 10am-5pm daily.
Address: No 1, West India Quay, Hertsmere Road, London, E14 4AL
Located in the heart of the East End, the Whitechapel Gallery is a brilliant art gallery showcasing some of the very best contemporary work. This place has always been on the cutting edge; it displayed Picasso’s Guernica as part of a touring exhibition protesting against the Spanish Civil War way back in 1938. It’s been instrumental in showcasing emerging talent too, exhibiting early works by David Hockney, Mark Rothko and the YBA artist Sarah Lucas. The gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday from 11am until 6pm, closing at 9pm on Thursdays. It’s just a short stroll from Aldgate East station, or – if you’re staying with us in Shoreditch – a 20-minute journey on the underground.
If you want to make a day of it, head over to Brick Lane after your visit and stop off at one of the curry houses here. The award-winning City Spice restaurant is a good option, but there are a slew of budget-friendly eateries to choose from in the area, so you won’t be disappointed wherever you end up.
Address: 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX
Discover the ancient remains of a temple dedicated to the Roman god Mithras in the middle of the city. This impressive historical site was discovered by chance in 1954 and lies over one of London’s lost rivers, the Walbrook. The uncovering of these remains is one of the most significant events in British archaeological history, and it really is a remarkable thing to see. Admission to the London Mithraeum is free, but it’s recommended that you book ahead to secure a place.
Address: 12 Walbrook, London, EC4N 8AA
There’s so much history and culture to uncover in London, and you don’t need to break the bank to experience it. Book a stay at one of our London hotels today and see the city’s best budget-friendly museums for yourself.