Museum Lates London: Where To Have Fun After Dark

Julia Wytrazek / © Culture Trip
Photo of Rebecca Steel
25 June 2019

Entertaining after-hours events have become a regular fixture at many of London’s top museums and galleries.

Natural History Museum Lates

Building, Museum
Map View

Adults can live out their childhood dreams by exploring the Natural History Museum at night with Lates. The museum allows after-hours entry to current exhibitions and famous galleries on the first Friday of every month. The Central Hall is taken over by free live entertainment, with open-mic performances from London’s fresh talent. Tasty meals and seasonal drinks are served in the museum’s bars and restaurants on the night.

Late at the Library

Library, Museum
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interior lobby British Library, St Pancras, London, England
© B.O'Kane / Alamy Stock Photo

Visitors can make as much noise as they want at special late events hosted by the British Library. In the past, DJ sets from electro-dance act Hot Chip and live music from the band Public Service Broadcasting have provided highly sought-after entertainment. Exciting demonstrations, workshops, talks and performances are inspired by the British Library’s current exhibitions. Dates and timings change monthly; book early to avoid disappointment, as tickets have been known to sell out within hours.

Late at Tate Britain

Art Gallery, Building, Museum
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Jeremy Deller's Acid Brass featuring Fairey Brass Band during Late at Tate Britain, London
Late at Tate Britain offers free music, art, performance, fashion shows and films | © Kristian Buus / Alamy Stock Photo
Late at Tate Britain offers free music, art, performance, fashion shows and films. Contributors include young creatives from the Tate Collective group, who develop fresh ideas for the evening. Past events have allowed guests to swap fashion items, ‘perform’ architecture and participate in installations. If you’re feeling peckish, head to Tate’s luxurious Whistler Restaurant.

Whitechapel Gallery First Thursdays

Building, Art Gallery, Museum
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Whitechapel Gallery, Whitechapel High Street
In 2009, Whitechapel Gallery expanded and took over the derelict library next door | © Phil Clark / Flickr

Numerous galleries, museums and studios in East London participate in the cultural extravaganza that is First Thursdays. Venues open late for the event, with some offering free workshops, talks and private viewings. Visitors can sign up in advance for the free Art Bus Tour, with a lottery deciding who will win a place on the bus. The tour, led by an experienced guide, travels to three specially chosen events and exhibitions, beginning and ending at Whitechapel Gallery. Each month, curators also produce a suggested route for a walking tour of selected venues. In addition to the many culinary hotspots of East London, delicious food is served in the Whitechapel Gallery Café.

Science Museum Lates

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Entrance to the Science Museum in Kensington, London
Head to the Science Museum for one of its Lates events | © Jon Bower art and museums / Alamy Stock Photo

More than 3,000 adults pass through the doors of the Science Museum for its Lates events. Three floors are transformed by themed shows, talks and interactive activities, many of which are free. Experts showcase some of the latest technology and talk about topics such as climate change, space exploration and forensic science. Diverse make-your-own activities take place, which in the past have included building a volcano or a motorised Dalek. Some of the regular crowd-pleasers are the pub quiz, comedy show, silent disco and speed dating. Thrill seekers are kept amused with rides on the RAF Typhoon and Red Arrows flight simulators. If exhaustion sets in, there are several bars and food outlets to refuel at.

Friday Late at the V&A

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The Victoria and Albert Museum
© david a eastley / Alamy Stock Photo
At the V&A’s Friday Late, free events are themed around the latest exhibitions. Visitors are invited to dress up and join in the fun with DJs, installations and performance artists. Talks, workshops and screenings add an intellectual flavour, while creative types will enjoy taking part in imaginative craft activities. The elegant V&A Café, the world’s oldest museum restaurant, provides an appetising range of food and drink on the night. Friday Late takes place on the last Friday of every month, except in May and December.

Friday Lates at the National Portrait Gallery

Museum, Art Gallery, Library
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Guide giving a tour to visitors to the Victorian collection at the National Portrait Gallery, London
The Friday Late has become a regular fixture at the National Portrait Gallery | © Julio Etchart / Alamy Stock Photo

The ever-popular Friday Late has become a weekly fixture at the National Portrait Gallery. Expect discussion and contemplation with talks, tours and philosophy salons, as well as life drawing, DJ sets and live music. Start your weekend in style exploring world-class exhibitions, discovering the collection and taking a free Rebel Women Gallery trail. Enjoy a drink at the bar or dine in the Portrait Restaurant for rooftop views of the London skyline.

National Gallery Friday Lates

Museum, Church
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At Friday Lates, the National Gallery opens its doors for talks, guided tours, life-drawing classes, live music and late exhibition openings. Concerts by the Royal College of Music, among others, respond to paintings in the collection. Guests can book a table at the award-winning National Dining Rooms or sample the modern European menu in the National Café. Drinks can be enjoyed at the bar in the Sainsbury Wing Foyer.

British Museum Friday Lates

Building, Museum, Library
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Late exhibition viewings, lectures and discussions are just a few of the attractions at the British Museum Friday Lates. Free 20-minute spotlight tours also introduce selected areas of the collection. Some Friday Lates in the past have been produced on an ambitious scale, such as Sound Histories, which featured more than 200 musicians performing 100 different scores across the entire ground floor. The Court Café, set in the stunning Great Court, offers refreshments and a quick bite to eat.

RA Lates

Museum, School, Art Gallery
Map View

Culture enthusiasts can soak up the latest exhibitions at the Royal Academy. Special Saturday Late events often feature talks and discussions on current topics, with attractions such as sculpture workshops, interactive installations, live music and DJs. The ever-popular RA Lates programme has included a huge inflatable cosmic installation, themed supper clubs, UV Garden of Eden life-painting and Pollock-inspired paint splattering among countless others, helping to bring exhibitions to life and guarantee an unforgettable Saturday night.

These recommendations were updated on June 25, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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