London has many great museums and so many of them are free. Most have handy, well designed maps for a £1 donation as well as a place to leave a few pounds if you want to help them in their mission of providing free access to high quality history and art exhibits.
Imperial War Museum
Hours: 10am – 6pm daily
Recommended Visit Length: 3-4 hours
The Imperial War Museum is one of our favorite museums and might be one of the best history museums in the world. The exhibits artfully blend media and tactile elements that make the information incredibly interesting. It’s an engaging museum for folks of all ages. Our last visit to the IWM was on a rainy day and there were lots of school groups and the kids were having a great time.
Some of the highlights for me:
- WWI Exhibits – Incredibly immersive and extremely well done.
- A Family in Wartime – This exhibit follows a real family through their experiences in London during WWII. There’s also a small gallery (near the model of the family’s home) exhibiting paintings created by British government employed artists during times of war.
- Secret War – A truly interesting look at the history of modern espionage.
- The bookstores are also very good and worth a visit.
The National Gallery
Hours: 10am – 6pm daily; 10am – 9pm Fridays
Recommended Visit Length: 2 hours
Even though they are not connected, both The National Gallery and the National Portrait Museum are located in the same large building in Trafalgar Square. This makes them really easy to visit back to back. You also get a great view of Trafalgar Square, The Lions, and Nelson’s Column from the stairs of The National Gallery.
The National Gallery is the grand home of many famous paintings as well as lesser known works. The collection is so extensive that the galleries are organized by artist and/or artistic period. There’s always a crowd near the van Goghs.
The National Portrait Museum
Hours: 10am – 6pm daily; 10am – 9pm Thursdays & Fridays
Recommended Visit Length: 30 minutes – 1 hour
This museum is a bit smaller than The National Gallery. If you have limited time I would recommend visiting the National Portrait Museum over The National Gallery. You’ll see many famous paintings of famous faces. I really like the Elizabethan floor.
If you’d like even more art, check out my afternoon at the Tate Modern.