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The best free museums in London and the UK

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Explore our list of some of the best free museums you can visit in London and across the UK. The cost of living in the UK is on the rise, but a day of fun and education doesn’t have to break the bank.

Whether you want to broaden your horizons, entertain the family during the school holidays, or are just looking for something free to do on a rainy day, a visit to a free museum could be the answer.

Discover the stories behind the artifacts, delve deeper into our planet’s history, and hear the tales of those who came before us and shaped the world as we know it. Museums are a great way to experience both local heritage and global culture. They are often packed with rare items from around the world and have the ability to bring history to life.

The UK is home to a wide variety of museums, there are over 30 free museums in London alone. Here we explore some of the best free museums across the UK

Related: Experiences for children

London

Site: South Kensington, London.

At the Science Museum, you can enjoy award-winning exhibits and collections spanning science. From Helen Sharman’s iconic spacesuit to Amy Johnson’s Gipsy Moth airplane, explore the extraordinary stories of human achievement and the challenges we have overcome.

You can even search the museum’s online collection and learn more about the objects that changed our world and the exciting stories behind them.

The science museum also has an impressive newly refurbished IMAX cinema, tickets can be purchased online.

London Natural History Museum

London’s Natural History Museum is one of the capital’s most popular attractions and is completely free for visitors (Image credit: Getty Images)

Site: South Kensington, London

London’s famous museum is home to over 80 million objects and specimens, including plants, creatures, dinosaur fossils, rare insects and more. Billions of years of natural history are open to visitors, completely free of charge – you can even get up close to collections made by none other than Charles Darwin.

Conveniently located next to the Science Museum of London, the Natural History Museum is open 362 days a year (closed December 24-26).

Site: Lambeth Road, Lambeth, London

Founded over a hundred years ago, Britain’s National Military Museum chronicles the country’s wartime experience over the decades. Over six floors of exhibits take visitors from the first images of World War I to the conflicts of the 21st century.

Besides rare artefacts and impressive military vehicles, the London branch of the Imperial War Museums (IWM) is also home to thousands of archives and documents, which tell the stories of real people caught up in conflicts at home and on the front line.

The British Museum, founded in 1753, is the oldest museum in London. (Image credit: Michael Mulkens via Getty Images)

Site: Great Russell Street, London

Founded in 1753, London’s oldest museum features everything from Egyptian mummies to Aztec sculpture. Covering two million years of human history – the oldest artefact being a Paleolithic hashing tool – you could literally spend days exploring the vast exhibits around the world.

At the center of the British Museum, you can also visit the Reading Room, which served as a study space for some of the world’s most famous writers and thinkers, including Mahatma Gandhi, Karl Marx, Mark Twain and Virginia Woolf.

Site: Cromwell Road, London

For lovers of art and design, the Victoria and Albert (V&A) is the perfect free attraction in the British capital. Named after Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, who laid the foundation stone for the building in 1899, the V&A has an impressive collection of original masterpieces, contemporary art, architectural marvels and even a fantastic gallery of fashion.

In addition to dozens of free permanent exhibitions available in-house and online, the V&A also hosts temporary collections and events throughout the year, many of which are also completely free!

Northeast

Site: Blandford Square, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

The Discovery Museum has a great selection of exhibits for the whole family. Here you can experience what it’s like to fly with the RAF Red Arrows in the museum’s new flight simulator or admire the world’s first steam turbine powered ship, Turbina, which stands proud in the central hall .

The Discovery Museum also offers educational workshops and also provides a wealth of online content for virtual learning opportunities. You can even take a virtual tour and explore the “Charge! History of the North of England Cavalry” gallery from the comfort of your own home.

North West

See science in action at the Museum of Science and Industry. (Image credit: coward_lion via Getty Images)

Site: Liverpool Road, Manchester

See science in action and watch it at the Museum of Science and Industry. The museum’s interactive gallery is sure to keep everyone busy. See how your reactions compare to the speed of light, gaze into the mirror of infinity, or watch your very own skeleton ride a bike.

You can also learn more about Manchester’s historic cotton industry in the museum’s textile gallery and see how ‘Cottonopolis’ changed the world. Browse Manchester’s industrial innovations in the museum’s Revolution Gallery and learn about the groundbreaking work that helped shape life as we know it.

yorkshire

Site: Millennium Square, Leeds

The Leeds City Museum consists of six impressive galleries: Life on Earth, The Collectors Cabinet, World View: Voices of Asia, The Leeds Story and Ancient Worlds.

The museum houses an impressive collection of 800,000 animals, plants and minerals. The heavy-footed Moa skeleton – one of the largest birds to ever roam the planet – is not to be missed. In the Ancient Worlds gallery, you’ll find the final resting place of Nesyamun, the 3,000-year-old Leeds Mummy and the only known mummy known to originate from the 20th Dynasty.

East Midlands

Site: New Walk, Leicester

Formerly known as the New Walk Museum, the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery is packed with impressive collections and exhibits spanning the natural and cultural world. From ancient Egypt to wild animals, dinosaurs to Picasso ceramics, there is an exhibition for everyone.

The Victorian Art Gallery contains a range of paintings dating back to the 19th century and the Picasso ceramics collection was donated to the museum by Lord and Lady Attenborough.

West Midlands

Site: University of Birmingham, Aston Webb A Block

Do you like rocks? If the answer is yes, then the Lapworth Museum of Geology is for you. Explore the last 3.6 billion years of Earth’s history with one of the UK’s most impressive geological collections.

And it’s not just pebbles! With a range of entertaining and interactive exhibits, from volcanoes to earthquakes and even dinosaurs, there’s something for everyone. The museum has an extraordinary collection of over 250,000 rock, fossil and mineral specimens. There are also large collections of old geological maps and photographic material.

east of england

Site: Main Street, Colchester

Explore Britain’s natural history, with a particular focus on North East Essex with the Colchester Natural History Museum. Learn about the earthquake that rocked Colchester in 1884, and see the mammoths and hippos that roamed the area.

There are a range of interactive displays to try, from peeking into a badger’s ensemble to hearing the monumental roar of a mammoth. The family museum is impressive both inside and out and is housed in the former All Saints Church.

South West

The Bristol Museum & Art Gallery contains three floors of impressive exhibits. (Image credit: vandervelden via Getty Images)

Site: Queens Road, Bristol

Explore three floors of exhibits at Bristol’s remarkable museum and art gallery. Upon entering the museum, you are greeted by a large hall and a Bristol Boxkite aircraft hovering above your head. The second floor houses a series of stunning paintings as well as one of the best collections of Chinese glass outside of Asia.

From ancient Egypt to Assyria, dinosaurs to minerals and even Banksy’s Paint Pot Angel, the museum offers something for everyone. There is also a discovery area dedicated to children under 5 years old intended to entertain the youngest visitors.

North Ireland

Site: Bangor, County Down

Located in the beautiful grounds of Bangor Castle, this small museum chronicles the history, archeology and wildlife of the area. Here you can see examples of incredible archaeological treasures such as the Ballycrochan swords, dating back to 500 BCE.

Have you ever wondered what life was like for the Vikings? Get a taste of Viking life in the museum’s replica longhouse.

You can also explore the links between North Down and the Far East with the museum’s Jordan Collection – a fine selection of Asian decorative objects.

Scotland

Site: Chambers Street, Edinburgh

Immerse yourself in Scottish history, discover the wonders of nature and learn about global cultures, all in one place. At the National Museum of Scotland, you can stand in the shadow of a giant cast T-rex skeleton or strike a pose in the Fashion and Style gallery. You can also learn about Scotland’s most controversial monarch – Mary, Queen of Scots and hear her fascinating story. The museum is also home to Dolly the Sheep, the first cloned mammal created from an adult cell.

Want to see what the museum looks like before making the trip? You can take a virtual walk through the museum and see what it has to offer. You can also explore more than 1,000 objects from the national collection that have been added to Google Arts & Culture’s online collection.

Wales

The National Museum Cardiff houses impressive collections of art, geology and natural history. (Image credit: matthewleesdixon via Getty Images)

Site: Cathays Park, Cardiff

Surround yourself with impressive collections of national art, geology and natural history at the National Museum Cardiff. Wales is home to more than 1,000 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) covering around 12% of the country’s area, according to Natural Resources Wales. At the museum you can find out what makes Wales so important and explore some of the environments that make Wales unique.

The museum houses one of Europe’s finest collections of art from Wales and around the world. Explore 500 years of paintings, sculptures and ceramics as well as an impressive collection of impressionist art.