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Sam Peet © Culture Trip
Sam Peet © Culture Trip
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London's Best Free Art Galleries and Museums

Picture of James Chesley
Updated: 19 April 2018
What better way to spend an afternoon than perusing world-class art for free? From historic to contemporary works, these London museums and commercial galleries will provide you with a productive day of cultural entertainment without breaking the bank.

The National Gallery

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Situated in Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery houses the widest collection of paintings from the mid-13th century to the 1900s. Initially set up as a gallery for the British people, unlike the Louvre the charity-based gallery was not founded on nationalising a Royal Collection but instead has risen to such seismic proportions that it is now one of the most famous art galleries in the world. Masterpieces range from J.M.W. Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire to Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Other prominent artists include Leonardo Da Vinci, Holbein, Constable, and Vermeer.
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Tate Britain

Art Gallery
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Interior of Tate Britain
Interior of Tate Britain | © Kiev.Victor/Shutterstock
Part of the Tate network of galleries, Tate Britain is home to the best historically-significant and contemporary British art. First set up as the National Gallery of Britain, its name quickly changed to the Tate Gallery due to its founder, sugar merchant Sir Henry Tate, of Tate & Lyle. This famous gallery situated on the former site of the Millbank Penitentiary, today houses an extensive collection of works by the likes of William Hogarth, William Blake, Henry Moore and the world’s largest collection of J.M.W. Turner. On a side note, if you want to get to the Tate Modern from the Tate Britain quickly, you can take a speedboat from the Millbank Millennium Pier to get there.
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Mon - Sun:
10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Accessibility & Audience:

Family Friendly

Services & Activities:

Guided Tours

Atmosphere:

Indoors

The Wallace Collection

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A five-minute walk from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, there is a beautiful collection situated in Manchester Square known as the Wallace Collection. A former residency of the Seymour family, it is home not only to paintings, but also statues, furniture, earthenware, ivory and miniatures, not to mention the fabulous armoury situated on the ground floor of this townhouse. Prominent European artists of the 18th and 19th centuries, such as François Boucher, Van Dyck, Rubens, and Rembrandt are all situated here. To house such beautiful paintings, the rooms themselves are styled according to how a 19th-century house would look. The centre piece of this gallery is the Simon Sainsbury Gallery, situated in the north wing of the building. Notable paintings here are The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals, and The Swing by J.H.Fragonard.
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Tate Modern

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View of the Tate Modern Gallery
View of the Tate Modern Gallery | © A.B.G./Shutterstock
Along London South Bank stands the magnificent Tate Modern, opened in 2000. Situated in the disused Bankside Power Station, it has been reinvented (along with the grand Turbine Hall and the majestic tower) and now stands as a beacon for modern art. The gallery itself has permanent instalments as well as new and developing exhibitions, as modern art is forever expanding. Famous paintings such as Pablo Picasso’s Figure dans un Fauteuil and Piet Mondrian’s abstract masterpiece Composition C are showcased beautifully throughout. After an overwhelming stroll through the gallery, collect your thoughts by visiting the on-site café, restaurant, or bar. With breathtaking views, the Tate Modern is more than just an art gallery; it’s an essential part of the London skyline.
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Mon - Thu:
10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Fri - Sat:
10:00 am - 10:00 pm
Sun:
10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Accessibility & Audience:

Family Friendly

Services & Activities:

Guided Tours

Atmosphere:

Indoors

Serpentine Galleries

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Exterior of the Serpentine Gallery
Exterior of the Serpentine Gallery | © PlusONE/Shutterstock
There is nowhere better to view contemporary art than the Serpentine Galleries, situated in the peaceful Kensington Gardens. They combine a rural and urban setting to create a tranquil and reflective zone for some of the finest contemporary art around. From artists such as Henry Moore to Andy Warhol, many have had their artwork featured here. Comprised of both the Serpentine Gallery and the newly added Serpentine Sackler Gallery, both galleries offer spaces that hold exquisite art, cafés, restaurants and social spaces. Each year since 2000, temporary pavilions have been staged outside, so make sure to stroll through the gardens and wonder at these wonderful galleries when you are next in Kensington.
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Tue - Sun:
10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Accessibility & Audience:

Family Friendly

Atmosphere:

Indoors

White Cube

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White Cube’s ethos has been pushing young British artists to the fore – a brave and courageous stance that makes it the first step for new up-and-coming artists. This raw dynamic has placed well-known artists such as Tracey Emin firmly in the limelight. Therefore, if you value the new and the novel, you would be foolish to miss such an intrinsic part of the contemporary art scene in London. Originating on Duke Street in Mayfair, before opening in Hoxton Square, White Cube now permanently resides in Bermondsey where it exhibits some of the rawest pieces of London’s contemporary art scene.
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Marian Goodman Gallery

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Marian Goodman opened her London outpost in 2014 a former townhouse in Golden Square. This contemporary gallery is a quiet space, perfect if you want to escape the hordes on nearby Regent Street. Tying in exhibitions from both New York and Paris, this provides visitors with an insightful look into the new contemporary artists that hail far from these shores and among the many notable artists who have been exhibited are Jeff Wall, John Baldessari and Cristina Iglesias.
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Saatchi Gallery

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Chiara Dalla Rosa /
Chiara Dalla Rosa / | © Culture Trip
Saatchi‘s philosophy is to show contemporary art which you would not see at the Tate Modern. Many artists have passed through this gallery to become the trailblazers for contemporary art, such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. The ethos of this is to continue to exhibit the Damien Hirsts of tomorrow. The Duke of York’s HQ opened in 2008 and is one of Britain’s most beautiful art spaces in London, with no better way to frame these pieces of art than in the heart of Chelsea. Although Charles Saatchi does not come without his controversy, this only pushes the gallery to the forefront of the public eye. As Charles Saatchi is seen as more of a dealer than a collector, this enables the public to have an unique view at an ever-changing gallery of pieces. It allows flow and fluidity concerning what you may see at the Saatchi Gallery, which definitely gives the national galleries of Britain a run for their money.
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