Things to see & do | Art, culture & heritage | Free museums & galleries

Free museums and galleries

Fabulous free museums

Did you know that many of Britain's largest museums and national collections are free? From Scotland to the South Coast, we've got dozens of fabulous free museums just waiting to be discovered. Read on for some of the best.

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

The beautifully designed National Museum is a wonderful exploration of Scottish history and culture telling the story of a nation with style. Look out for the 12th-century Lewis chessmen carved from walrus ivory, fearsome arms and armour and the colossal Newcomen steam engine.

Find out about Scotland’s other free museums at the National Museums Scotland.

National Gallery, London

The National Gallery is one of the greatest collections of Western European paintings in the world. Take in dazzling Impressionist masterworks, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers or van Eyck’s masterful Arnolfini Portrait. Get closer to the paintings by joining a free tour, trail or talk, or explore with the ArtStart touch-screen guide. The National Portrait Gallery next door has portraits of famous Britons from Shakespeare to David Beckham.

Tate Museums, London, Liverpool

The Tate Museums have amassed an incredible range of art from cutting edge installations at Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool to the superb collection of British art from 1500 to the present day at Tate Britain.

To learn more about the collections at the Tate galleries, visit the Tate website.

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Dig around at the Fitzwilliam Museum to unearth Greek pottery, Egyptian mummies and eclectic art from Titian, Veronese, Turner and Hogarth to Moore, Hockney, Freud and Hepworth.

Find out more about the Fitzwilliam Museum

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

The jewel in Glasgow’s cultural crown dominates the city’s West End and houses an enormous and eclectic collection. Don’t miss the sumptuous Scottish Colourist paintings, Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross or the Spitfire fighter that hovers above the main hall.

Find out more about Kelvingrove and other free museums in Glasgow

Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool

Set sail for Liverpool’s Maritime museum and immerse yourself in our island’s watery history. The newly opened International Slavery Museum on the third floor is both chilling and informative. If you’d prefer to stay on dry land, check out family favourite, World Museum Liverpool. It has a Bug House, space rockets and dinosaurs.

Check out more free museums in Liverpool

Imperial War Museums, London and Manchester

Not just a collection of weapons, these museums explore wartime culture, war’s inevitable horrors and how war has shaped our world. Experience the Blitz, life in a World War I trench, or learn about the ‘secret war’ of espionage.

Find out more about the Imperial War Museums

Kensington Museums, London

Kensington in West London is home to three enormous free museums within minutes of each other. The V&A is the world’s greatest museum of art and design, with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity. Discover sparkling jewellery, stunning sculpture, beautiful paintings and funky fashion and visit the British Galleries where displays include ‘The Great Bed of Ware’, famously referred to in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The Science Museum has hands-on exhibits for all the family and the cavernous Natural History Museum has an earthquake simulator, a dinosaur gallery and a life-size blue whale.

St Fagans: National History Museum, Wales

One of Europe’s leading open-air museums, St Fagans is a 100-acre collection of historic buildings from throughout Wales. Journey through time as you see six homes, their contents and gardens change from 1805 to 1985 and discover Wales’s smallest post office.

Discover more information about other museums in Wales

National Railway Museum, York

Even if you have no interest in railways it’s hard not to be awed by the sheer scale of this place. The Great Hall has around 50 restored locomotives from a Japanese bullet train to beautiful Victorian steam trains and you’ll be swept up in the aura of romantic nostalgia for the days of steam.

Find out more about the National Railway Museum

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