Five of the best FREE museums in London!
Updated: Jun 1, 2021
(This post was first published on 5/3/2019, and was last updated on 5/31/2021)
It's not a secret that I love London. It's an amazing city with so much to see and do. One of the best things you can do on your trip to London is to visit one of their many museums. In fact, with over 170 of them, you could visit a new museum per day for over six months. While I've only been to a fraction of London's museums, I do try to visit a new one every time I’m there. I'm proud to say that I’ve made it to quite a few! Many of them are free - you can spend days learning things without spending a penny (it’s also why I’ve been to several of them two or more times!) As hard as it was to narrow it down, these are my five favorite free museums in London!
Victoria and Albert Museum
How to get there: South Kensington underground station (District, Circle, and Piccadilly lines); Bus routes 14, 345, 360, 414, 74, C1 all have a stop near the museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum simply blew me away. This museum is all about design and decorative arts, and my favorite part is the wing showing the evolution of fashion through the years. Both times I’ve been they’ve also had visiting exhibitions – one on underclothes and one on bridal fashions. These are a little extra (about £8, if I remember right), but they are totally worth it! The Victoria and Albert Museum also has some incredible sculptures to look at. As a bonus, both the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are right next door - this is a great area to come on a rainy day to learn something new.
Imperial War Museum
How to get there: Lambeth North underground station (Bakerloo line), Elephant & Castle underground station (Bakerloo, Northern lines); Bus routes 344 & 360
This might actually be my favorite museum in London, and one of my favorite museums in the world. It actually took me two different visits to see everything the Imperial War Museum has to offer. There are also so many interactive exhibits there. The WWI section includes an area where you can walk through mock trenches, complete with the sounds of planes flying overhead and gunfire. The Holocaust exhibit was also so moving and in-depth – they used the stories of many real people throughout the exhibit, which was definitely very moving. The museum recommends visitors to this exhibit are 14 or older due to the subject's sensitivity. While this museum offers something for kids of all ages, it is especially good for older kids who will understand some of the history behind the things they’re seeing.
Museum of London
How to get there: Barbican tube station (Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City lines), Bus routes 4, 8, 25, 56, 100, 172, 242, 388, 521
The Museum of London chronicles the transformation of London from Roman times until now, as well as what life was like for people who lived in London during all these different periods. All the exhibits are very engaging, and there are plenty of hands-on displays for the kiddos. My favorite exhibit by far is the video showing the Great Fire of London in 1666 and how it spread. The museum is huge and there’s so much to see! It is also very close to St. Paul’s Cathedral - a great place to visit after you've finished your visit to the museum.
Museum of London: Docklands
How to get there: Canary Wharf tube station (Jubilee line); West India Quay (DLR); Bus routes D3, D7, D8, 277, D6, 15, 115, 135
This museum near Canary Wharf was recommended to me by a friend who really enjoyed her visit here, so I knew I needed to check it out. The Museum of London: Docklands covers the maritime and shipping history of London, as well as how the docklands area itself has grown and transformed from a place for pirates and slave trade to the busiest port in the world, and on to the regeneration period of the later part of the 20th century. Honestly, this museum is easily one of my favorite history museums I've visited, and one you should definitely check out!
Geffrye Museum of the Home
How to get there: Old Street tube station (Northern Line), Liverpool Street tube station (Metropolitan, Central, Hammersmith & City, Circle lines); Hoxton Station (overground); Bus routes 149, 242, 243, 394
Photos courtesy of Time Out & Christopher Ridley
This museum, located in Shoreditch, is a little off the beaten path but you should definitely check it out. The Geffrye Museum of the Home showcases 11 different rooms that show you what life in London was like in different periods of time from the 1600s to now. If you're interested in seeing how people used to live, this is the museum for you!
With 170 museums in London, you really can't go wrong! I picked my five best free museums in London based on the ones that I have visited multiple times and really enjoy - you're sure to find a favorite or two as well!