I am completely obsessed with museums, for me they’re like big, tangible history books and I’ve missed them a lot during lockdown. But seeing as cultural sites across the UK are set to start reopening from July (woohoo!) I thought I’d share some of my favourite free museums to visit in London for when we can start revisiting safely. Although you do have to pay for ‘special exhibitions’, the museums below offer free admission and who doesn’t love some free culture?!
Natural History Museum, South Kensington
My favourite of South Kensington’s ‘Big Three’, the Natural History Museum is home to over 80 million spectacular specimens including the iconic ‘Hope’, the Blue Whale. You can explore galleries filled with dinosaurs, mammals and geological specimens to your hearts content. ‘The Vault’, a literal hidden gem exhibits coloured diamonds, rare meteorites and actual glow in the dark gems. Tip: The Museum’s Wildlife Gardens are also free to enter for a bit of tranquillity in the city (seasonal times vary).
Wellcome Collection, Euston
One of the coolest museums I’ve been to – the Wellcome Collection is the perfect combination of science, art, medicine, life and literature. All exhibitions, including the three permanent exhibitions ‘Being Human’, ‘Medicine Now’ and ‘Medicine Man’, are free to visit and explore fascinating themes. As well as the exhibits, you can also visit the Reading Room for free. Surrounded by objects from the collections you can pull up a beanbag and lose yourself in a range of literature.
Museum of London, Barbican
With artefacts from prehistoric times to the present day, the Museum tells the fascinating history of the best capital in the world (no bias!). With a range of collections on display, visitors can explore life in London through archaeological finds, historical events, medical advances, political changes, globalisation and the community. ‘The People’s Gallery’ my personal favourite explores London between 1850’s – 1940s looking at life in the city through the Victorian era, two world wars and major changes to the population and economy.
The Vagina Museum, Camden
The Vagina Museum is the world’s first museum dedicated to gynaecological anatomy, founded after Florence Schechter discovered that there is a penis museum in Iceland but nowhere equivalent for vaginas. The Museum’s first exhibition, ‘Muff Busters’, looked at some of the wild myths associated with the vagina and gynaecological anatomy and explored how these myths are harmful and need to be challenged. The next free exhibition, ‘Periods: A Brief History’ will highlight the issues associated with a lack of understanding and provision for this traditionally taboo topic. Sound bloody fantastic!
The British Museum, Bloomsbury
Whilst working at the oldest museum in the world, I unexpectantly fell in love with 3 galleries that I had no real interest in before. The Coins and Medals galleries (Rooms 68 and 69a) – display numismatic material from around the world and quirky rotating exhibitions. The Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery (Room 33) – recently beautifully refurbished, it’s home to artefacts from China and South East Asia including the stunning ‘Peacock 2012’ by Caroline Cheng. The Waddesdon Bequest (Room 2a) – filled with exceptional medieval and Renaissance treasures collected by Baron Rothschild MP. Top tip: use the North entrance on Montague Place for quicker entry and security checks.
The Grant Museum of Zoology, Bloomsbury
The last zoological university in London, The Grant Museum of Zoology is filled with lots of unusual specimens, many of which are extremely rare or now extinct. The Museum holds around 68,000 specimens including dodo bones, the world’s rarest skeleton of the now extinct quagga and my favourite object, a jar filled with moles! You can also get an insta-worthy pic in the iconic Micrarium – an incredible lit exhibit showcasing 2300 microscope slides of whole small animals or sections from larger animals.
V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green
In my opinion, the cooler little sister of the V&A in South Kensington, The Museum of Childhood tells the story of childhood dating from around 1600 to the modern day. From doll’s houses, action figures and board games to dressing-up costumes, books and photographs the Museum makes for a real trip down memory lane. In particular, the lyrics from playground songs painted in the main gallery make me very nostalgic. Pass me my skipping rope!
I hope everyone can start revisiting museums safely as they start reopening over the next few months and you can enjoy some of these free spaces soon! (Double check opening times/travel options before visiting)