As one of the world's great cultural cities, London is packed with more than its fair share of fine museums. From ancient relics to classical paintings and scientific instruments, you can travel through history and human achievement within the walls of London's museums. What's more, most of them are free to enter. Here's a guide to London's major museums and how to visit them.

British Museum

The British Museum is London's most-visited museum. It is packed with ancient artefacts ranging from Egyptian mummies to the Rosetta Stone and priceless Chinese porcelain, the latter of which is part of the impressive Asian collections in the Hotung Gallery of Oriental Antiquities, renovated in 2018. There are usually very well-curated special exhibitions worth paying ticketed admission for.

Opening hours: 10am-5:30pm daily, until 8:30pm Friday

Admission: Permanent collections free; special exhibitions ticketed and timed

Nearest Tube: Holborn, Tottenham Court Rd


British Museum, Room 61: The famous false fresco 'Pond in a Garden' from the Tomb of Nebamun, c. 1350 BC

Natural History Museum

A wonder of Victorian architecture stuffed with specimens, from insects to fossils to meteorites, London's Natural History Museum is extremely popular with kids and adults alike. You can view a first edition of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species, and the hanging dinosaur skeletons and earthquake simulator provide real wow-factor.

Opening hours: 10am-5:30pm daily

Admission: Free

Nearest Tube: South Kensington

Science Museum

All streams of science, from space travel to mathematics and medicine, are covered through the Science Museum's interactive exhibits and hands-on displays. Highlights include a full-size replica of the first moon lander from 1969, a collection of clocks through the years and the immersive and hands-on Wonderlab, where you can participate in chemistry experiments and learn about lightning. An IMAX theatre shows a regular lineup of mainly science-based documentaries and films.

Opening hours: 10am-6pm daily (last entry 5:15pm)

Admission: Permanent collections free; Wonderlab £8; special exhibitions and immersive experiences varied prices; IMAX tickets £11

Nearest Tube: South Kensington


One of the world's great decorative arts museums, the Victoria & Albert Museum's collections range from Asian embroideries to Greek sculptures and priceless jewellery, all displayed in a beautifully labyrinthine Victorian building.

Opening hours: 10am-5:45pm daily, until 10pm Friday

Admission: Permanent collections free; special exhibitions are ticketed and timed

Nearest Tube: South Kensington

National Gallery

Seated at the top of Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery houses more than 2,000 paintings in its collection, including European masterpieces by the likes of da Vinci, Renoir and Van Gogh and British highlights by Turner and Constable.

Opening hours: 10am-6pm daily, until 9pm Friday

Admission: Free

Nearest Tube: Charing Cross, Leicester Square


Diego Velázquez - Key facts. The National GalleryTate Modern

Modern and contemporary art housed in a looming former power station. Tate Modern's collections include works by celebrated modern artists like Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, David Hockney and Picasso. Don't miss the avant-garde rotating exhibit in the main Turbine Hall, as well as the Switch House wing, opened in 2016.

Opening hours: 10am-6pm Sunday-Thursday, until 10pm Friday-Saturday

Admission: Permanent collections free; special exhibitions are ticketed and timed

Nearest Tube: Blackfriars


Tate Modern - CC BY-SA 3.0, Britain

The older of Tate's London museums, Tate Britain is a celebration of specifically British art through the eras. Standouts include a huge J.M.W. Turner collection housed in the Clore Gallery, as well as works by John Constable, William Blake, Francis Bacon and many others.

Opening hours: 10am-6pm daily

Admission: Permanent collections free; special exhibitions are ticketed and timed

Nearest Tube: Pimlico

Museum of London

The entire history of London, from the 125,000-year-old hippos that lived in Trafalgar Square to the Swinging Sixties and contemporary life, is captured in the Museum of London. Particularly interesting are the galleries on Londinium - the Roman settlement that existed here 2,000 years ago; you can see some ruins of the Roman city wall just outside the museum's entrance.

Opening hours: 10am-6pm daily (galleries close at 5:40pm)

Admission: Permanent collections free; special exhibitions are ticketed and timed; Roman wall ruins free

Nearest Tube: Barbican or St Paul's

London Transport Museum

Clattering horse-drawn carriages, dinging street trams and old Tube trains are all on display inside the London Transport Museum, which is dedicated to the city's amazing transportation network. Most of the vehicles are open to clamber around in, so you can see what it would have been like to ride in a double-decker street car or bump along on an old Underground carriage.

Opening hours: 10am-6pm (last entry 5:15pm)

Admission: £18 at the door, £16.50 online, under-17s free

Nearest Tube: Covent Garden

Imperial War Museum London

The Imperial War Museums are a family of five institutions that explore conflict and its human impact - but the flagship museum is IWM London. This carefully and tastefully curated museum chronicles war through the ages, with a focus on the British Empire and Commonwealth. Exhibition spaces are themed around particular conflicts and events, such as World War I, the Holocaust and 'Secret War', which depicts espionage and intelligence efforts. The main atrium houses a hanging World War II Spitfire aeroplane flown in the Battle of Britain.

Opening hours: 10am-6pm daily

Admission: Free

Nearest Tube: Lambeth North

Photo Credits

Cover picture: National Gallery - By Morio - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,