The British Museum's Great Court with its magnificent glass and steel roof by Sir Norman Foster is an exhibition piece in itself. And, like most of the galleries in the museum, it's free to wander around and look up at in awe. In fact, over seven million objects from all over the world are housed in this impressive museum of human history and culture (many of the artifacts are stored underneath the museum due to lack of space). Founded in 1753, displays ranging from prehistoric to modern times were primarily based on the collections of physician and scientist, Sir Hans Sloane. Notable objects - all of which can be seen without spending a cent - include the Parthenon Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, the Sutton Hoo and Mildenhall treasures, and the Portland Vase. With such a wealth of objects to discover you may want to sign up for one of the free events that regularly take place including talks, films, performances and discussions.
Free London Museums
The spectacular British Museum building is home to a vast collection of world artefacts
Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1B 3DG
Events at British Museum
21st April to 14th August 2016 | £10, children under 16 Free
1st June to 20th November 2016 - Various Times | Free
19th May to 27th November 2016 | £16.50, children under 16 Free
21st January to 14th August 2016 | Free
21st January to 14th August 2016 - Various Times | Free
1st October 2015 to 31st December 2016 - 10am-5.30pm | Free
The UK's central bank has a long and complicated history dating back to 1694
Bartholomew Lane, City, London, EC2R 8AH
Housed within the Bank of England, this museum traces the history of the bank from its foundation by Royal Charter in 1694 to its role today as the nation's central bank. There are gold bars dating from ancient times to the modern market bar, coins, and a unique collection of banknotes. There are also many items you might not expect to find - pikes and muskets used to defend the bank, Roman pottery and mosaics uncovered when it was rebuilt in 1930, and documents relating to famous customers such as Horatio Nelson, George Washington and the Duchess of Marlborough.
Events at Bank of England Museum
18th January to 31st December 2016 - 10am-5pm | Free
Full of literary treasures and fascinating facts, plus plenty of quiet corners for book-browsing
96 Euston Road, King's Cross, London, NW1 2DB
With over 150 million items, a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland, artwork by artists such as Antony Gormley and Eduardo Paolozzi, and a host of historically momentous works - including the Magna Carta, the Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare's First Folio and the Lindisfarne Gospels - a guided tour around the British Library is essential if you only have time for one visit. This is, after all, the largest public building constructed in the United Kingdom in the 20th century and, as such, warrants a guided tour around its cavernous spaces. While the library has a lot to offer the casual visitor - exhibition galleries (mostly free) special exhibitions, events, films, musical performances and poetry readings - if it's your first visit it's a good idea to let an experienced guide navigate you through the main treasures that call this place home. These guides also really know their stuff and will open your eyes to this gargantuan repository. Of particular interest is the Diamond Sutra, the world's earliest dated printed book, and the only surviving copy of 'Beowulf'. The King's Library - a three-storey glass tower - forms the centre-piece of the building both architecturally and in terms of its historic acquisitions. With 65,000 printed volumes, The King's Library refers to King George III, whose personal collection is on display here. Some of the tours include access to the reading rooms, access to which is usually limited to those with passes. While it is free to explore this iconic building, paying for a tour is more than worth it if you only have a few hours to take everything in.
Events at British Library
15th April to 6th September 2016
Friday 29th July 2016 - 10am-5pm | £20, under 18s £15
An expert-led conference exploring ways of searching for theatrical ancestors.
Providing insightful documentation of conflict, from the First World War to the present day
Lambeth Road, Elephant and Castle, Southwark, London, SE1 6HZ
Tube: Lambeth North Station
Occupying the former Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane ('Bedlam'), the Imperial War Museum is the national museum of 20th-century conflict. Founded in 1917, it not only contains a fascinating display of the vehicles and weapons of war, but also makes an in-depth study of the social effects of conflict. From the M4 Sherman tank, the V2 rocket and Polaris missile, to the walk-through recreation of a front line trench from the Somme, the Imperial War Museum represents all facets of fighting and its aftermath. Both World Wars are chronicled with thought-provoking displays of painting and poetry from Sassoon to Wilfred Owen, and a reconstructed air raid shelter and Blitzed street from 1940. The sights, sounds and smells have been carefully recreated to really bring the experience to life. Over 15,000 paintings, 120 million feet of cine film and 30,000 posters make this a unique collection.
Events at IWM London (Imperial War Museums)
26th May to 4th September 2016 | Free
18th November 2015 to 13th November 2016 | Free
12th December 2015 to 31st December 2016 - 10am-6pm | Free
2nd April 2015 to 25th September 2016 | Free
1st January 2015 to 31st December 2016 - 10am-6pm | Free
This museum tells the story of the London, from prehistoric times to present day
150 Wall, City, London, EC2Y 5HN
Experience the real flavour of London life from the prehistoric to present day at this modern museum boasting over 1.1 million objects - many rescued from archaeological digs or discovered during building works in the City. A chain of chronological galleries guides visitors through the history of this ancient city; 47,000 objects from Roman London pave the way with buckles, brooches and belt-fittings to the medieval period, 17th-century glassware leads onto vivid Victorian street scenes, interiors and shop fronts. From the skulls of those thought to have been massacred by Queen Boudica to boots worn by the Duke of Wellington, Queen Victoria's Parliamentary robes and paraphernalia from the Suffragettes' Movement, the history of London and its inhabitants is brought back to life with startling intensity. Don't miss fragments of the old London Wall located just outside the museum.
Events at Museum of London
23rd July to 2nd September 2016 - 2pm | Free
Tales about the Great Fire of London.
27th May to 18th September 2016 - 10am-5.30pm | Free
23rd July 2016 to 17th April 2017 | Adult from £8, child from £5
The world's largest Maritime Museum is situated in the Greenwich World Heritage site
Park Row, London, SE10 9NF
- National Maritime Museum
- Queen's House
- Royal Observatory
Educational, exciting and larger than life. The Natural History Museum is truly unforgettable
Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 5BD
An 8-metre long giant squid, a walrus from Hudson Bay overstuffed by a London taxidermist in the 1880s, the skeleton of a Triceratops, a life-size Blue Whale and a sea cow are just a few of the 70 million items to call this exciting, interactive, life and earth science museum home. The permanent galleries show exhibitions on topics as diverse as: Dinosaurs - the ultimate prehistoric exhibition; Creepy-Crawlies - guaranteed to have you scratching in seconds; Human Biology - the must-see exhibition about the evolution of the species; and The Power Within - an examination of the earthquake experience. The Vault - a permanent exhibition of gems and rare meteorites - contains some famous, historic and priceless jewels. For those wanting to explore further a visit to The Darwin Centre is highly recommended. Book in for one of their free regular lectures and demonstrations and you'll see the how the museum's work is not just about preserving the past but conserving for the future. In warmer months the tranquil wildlife garden (open April to October), offers a further free attraction where you can get closer to nature. All galleries are free, although you may have to pay for some temporary exhibitions.
Events at Natural History Museum
3rd to 31st July 2016 - Various Times | Free
Try your hand at pond-dipping.
2nd to 31st July 2016 - 11.30am | Free
Discover more about the work of scientists and look closely at real objects using the many tools provided with the guidance of Museum Science Educator staff.
24th March to 11th September 2016 | £5.85 (Adults, Children and concessions), £19.80 (Family)
25th April 2016 to 26th February 2017 - 10am-5.50pm | Free
1st September 2015 to 31st December 2016 - 10am-5.30pm | Free
Full of hands-on exhibits and mind-boggling artefacts, plus a 3D IMAX Cinema
Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD
Tube: South Kensington Station
Home to one of the world's most magnificent collections of science, industry, technology and medicine, the Science Museum is one of London's most hands-on and interactive museums. Funded by the profits of the Great Exhibition of 1851, it started life in the 19th century as part of Prince Albert's grand scheme to promote industrial technology. Today, it occupies a purpose-built building and contains some 300,000 objects, covering the entire history of Western science, technology and medicine. Displays are designed to encourage interaction with certain areas aimed at specific age groups. In the Launchpad gallery, for example, visitors are invited to learn about forces and motion with exhibits that make physics fun for children aged between 8 and 14 years. There's a whole host of scientific things to discover, from how aircraft are built to morphing your face to see how you'll look in 10 years' time. The monthly Science Museum Lates are also free - offering adults a chance to enjoy the museum free of charge as well as free from marauding kids.
Events at Science Museum
10th February to 4th September 2016 | £10 (Adults), £7 (Concessions)
8th February to 3rd September 2017 | £15, concs £13
Take a stroll through time at Sir John Soane's extraordinary home
13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, Holborn, London, WC2A 3BP
An appealingly higgledy-piggledy treasure trove of artefacts, this extraordinary house elegantly located on Lincoln's Inn Fields is well worth an exploratory rummage. Lurking in nooks and crannies within the sprawling rooms and halls of neo-classical architect Sir John Soane's former residence are over 30,000 architectural drawings and antiquities. Works by Turner, Canaletto and Piranesi feature in the painting collection, with William Hogarth's eight canvasses of 'A Rake's Progress' forming the centre-piece. Each of the many spaces in this museum has its own strong identity and appeal. From the domed ceiling of the Breakfast Room and the Gothic library, to the study with its Roman architectural fragments and the two courtyards crammed with ancient stonework, this is a house of diversity and architectural merit. One of the most intriguing rooms is the Picture Gallery. Here, Canaletto's magnificent Riva degli Schiavoni, looking West, takes centre stage. Look out for the alabaster Egyptian Sarcophagus of Seti I dated 1370 BC appropriately located in the basement 'Sepulchral Chamber'.
Expansive, elegant. Spend a day browsing the V&A's art and design collections
Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2RL
Tube: South Kensington Station
With over 145 galleries to explore and over 4 million items, the V&A is one of the most influential museums of decorative and applied arts in the world. It was originally founded in 1852, with the aim of enthusing and educating British manufacturers and designers. It is now home to a stunning collection of European, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Islamic artefacts ranging from ceramics, glass, metalwork and sculpture to costume, armour, weaponry and furniture. The gallery also houses the national collection of the art of photography, the oldest photography collection in the world. Visitors can delve into the fascinating dress collection that features samples from historical dress to 21st-century haute-couture or examine the celebrated Arts and Crafts interiors of the Morris and Gamble Rooms. The gallery is often cited as housing the greatest collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture outside Italy, while the British Galleries - which opened to great acclaim in November 2001 - are unique in their exploration of British design from Chippendale to Morris, Adam to Mackintosh. Highlights include the Great Bed of Ward as mentioned in Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night', and James II's wedding suit. The building itself - a mix of Victorian and Edwardian design - also presents a truly formidable display. The Cast Courts (two great halls housing the museum's impressive collection of plaster casts), in particular, form a major focal point of the museum - with their high glass roof, elevated corridors and walkways.
Events at Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum
18th June to 6th November 2016
18th May to 6th November 2016 | Free
14th May to 13th November 2016 - 10am-5.45pm | Free
9th February to 31st August 2016 | Free
26th January to 4th September 2016 - Various Times | Free
27th November 2015 to 15th October 2016 - 10am-5.45pm | Free
8th March 2016 to 31st January 2017 - 10am-5.45pm | Free
IN THIS ARTICLE
Bank of England Museum
The British Library
Imperial War Museum
Museum of London
National Maritime Museum | Queen's House | Royal Observatory
Natural History Museum
Sir John Soane's Museum
Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum
London for Free
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