London’s 1001 Night (of Museum) + Extras
(This is an add-when-I-remember-to-write-more blog post)
It has been a long time plan to write about London’s Museum (which, based on this list are about 250). I have suggested a bit about visiting museums in this post. Fortunately, I managed to snatch a £5 Student Art Pass Deal last December (which based on the page is £34 for under 26 (which I’m sadly almost not a member anymore) and £67 originally). In need to list the museums I’m able to visit for free, here’s the long-awaited post!
(Some of the museums in London here, by ayearinmuseums.com)
Free is Free
There are 250+ museums in London. To visit museums, usually, you need to pay the price. This is a problem for a stingy thrifty traveller like yours truly. Fortunately, unlike in Amsterdam (mainly noted as I’ve visited to live the tale), there are a lot of free ones! And the good news is, unlike some other cities where the free museums are the not-so-famous ones, the London ones are definitely QUALITY. The four big ones (will then be referred in this article as THE BIG FOUR): The British Museum, National History Museum, Science Museum, and Victoria & Albert Museum are free. Free ones that are nearby as well: National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain. Horniman Museum is free but you need to travel a bit to zone 3 (so worth it though). There are definitely more of them, some listed here.
I wish to visit the free ones first before paying for one, ahaha.
Google Maps (unfinished) is here.
As a student whose journey to London is mostly for business reason, I always have something to do during the work hours and not able to visit museums. Afraid not, as there are a lot of days where museums in London open late, suitably called LATES. The Big Four has their Lates:
- British Museum open until 20.30 every Friday
- Natural History Museum opens between 18.30-22.00 with a specific theme every last Friday of the month
- Victoria & Albert Museum Lates clashes with Natural History Museum, so if I manage to visit, I choose one with more exciting theme first)
- Science Museum Lates is in last Wednesday of the month (sadly, so far I visited the Friday ones more), 18.30-22.00
There are quite fun; I always try to visit whenever I’m in London during the day.
Big Bag Big
This photo of British Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor
As unfortunately, the world is getting more and more dangerous, some museums (esp. In London) do bag check in the entrance, and a lot more forbid bags bigger than specific sizes. These rules are definitely a pain for backpack-totting-backpackers, as, even though you’re able to bring your 70L rucksack to a museum, are you sure you want to unpack and repack 70L of stuff when there’s a long queue behind you?
Museums where I experienced bag check (that I remember)
- British Museum
- Science Museum/ Natural History Museum/ Victoria & Albert Museum >> sometimes yes, sometimes no
- Kensington Palace
Activities for Children
I’m not a museum or archaeology student, but one of the things I like about museums in the UK (Not that other countries’ museum don’t do this, but I get a lot more samples in the UK) is how inclusive they’re for children. You have free entrance (eh, this is pretty common), worksheets for children; you have costumes to wear and take a picture with, you have a lot of books and toys in the museum shop (the bane of parents, I believe).
National Art Pass
Costing £34/ £67, if you don’t live in the UK, especially near London, and not a fan of museums, National Art Pass is probably not something in your budget list. As a fan of free museums, getting one is not my priority, but last December there’s this £5 Student Art Pass promotion I mentioned at the start of this article. Thinking of visiting Kensington Palace with it (and paying back the cost, as Kensington Palace itself cost £12.30 for a student already), it has proven its usefulness!
Though some museums are not on my priority list if I couldn’t manage to enter them free, Leighton House Museum (which I visited with the card) is very pretty, as well as The Fan Museum.
(Sadly the Art Pass and the Student Card clashes for this Harry Potter exhibition in British Library, I imagined I could get a £2 ticket, sadly not, haha >> stingy mode on)
Google Maps of London museums free with National Art Pass (no Half price map from me, free-visit first)
Cities I planned to visit and the Free-with-National-Art-Pass museums there (and cheapest way to visit)
- Cardiff >> Cardiff castle (London-Cardiff return £19)
- Bath >> Fashion Museum, Museum of East Asian Art (London-Bath 9.2 return, Gomshall-Bath, 21.8 return)
- Portsmouth >> National Museum Arm
Friend of …
If you’re a big fan of a paid museum, you can join the yearly membership of that museum. I planned to get a Historic Royal Palaces membership to visit 5 castles in London (as I wanted to visit Hampton Court Palace and Tower of London (that you could visit for free if you live around the area, one of my friend was)). As I’ve managed to enter Kensington Castle for free… I’m rethinking whether I still want to buy it or not)
Other than museums
The UK is definitely big on membership cards (as proven by the thickness of my wallet), if you’re not into museums, there are other alternatives such as National Trust (that has Open Days every year, last year link), mostly for castles, historical buildings, and parks. English Heritage has Stonehenge and Down House (Charles Darwin’s House) in its repertoire. There is also Scotland Explorer’s Pass and National Museum of Scotland’s Friends for people in Scotland.
Update (22 August 2018): There are a lot of open days in the UK for once a year, such as Open Day London (Late September, including Leighton House Museum), English Heritage Open Day (Early September, including Bletchley Park), and Open Farm Day (First Sunday in June)