Best Free Exhibitions in London

You can still get cultured whilst saving some cash in London. Whether it’s wandering through art galleries, getting snap happy at photography exhibitions or admiring a quirky installation, here are our pick of the best free exhibitions in London. There are so many great museums and galleries in London, which means there are some incredible shows to see, from interactive exhibitions and art installations, to photography collections and immersive experiences

London is blessed with world-class galleries and museums, with free entry to many of them, including Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the V&A, the Design Museum, the Science Museum, the British Museum, the Wellcome Collection, and the Natural History Museum, being totally free. That means you can check out incredible permanent collections, covering everything from fossils to Old Masters, without paying a penny. And if you’ve done all the big hitters, many smaller, independent art galleries in London also operate free entry, so you might just stumble across the next big thing at one of these free art exhibitions.

Keep your eyes peeled as you wander around the city’s different neighbourhoods too as there’s also of lot of public art to explore for free across London. Canary Wharf boasts an impressive collection of artworks, which is actually the largest free to visit public art exhibition in the UK with pieces by Camille Walala, Henry Moore, Ottotto and Helaine Blumenfeld.

Each year City of London works with artists and partners to curate a new trail of artworks that forms the annual sculpture park, Sculpture in the City.  And you can’t miss Frieze Sculpture, where Regent’s Park is filled with installations each autumn to coincide with the annual Frieze London art fair. Current free faves include an exhibition dedicated to the music and musicians of Croydon and a display that showcases the history of communities led by the Abbess and nuns from c.666AD to the early 16th Century near Barking Abbey at the area’s brand new Women’s Museum.

So whether you’re looking for exhibitions today, exhibitions this weekend or you want to stay on top of all upcoming art exhibitions, we’ve got you covered.

Dive Into a World of Birds at the Natural History Museum

24th May 2024 - 5th January 2025
Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London

With Birds: Brilliant and Bizarre, the Natural History Museum is presenting an in-depth look into the long history and, often quite odd, character of the feathery vertebrates. The multi-sensory exhibition will have you fully immersed in the bird world – whether through touching a prehistoric egg or braving a whiff of stinky seabird eggs – as it was hundreds of millions of years ago, as it is today and how it’s projected to be decades from now.

180 Studios Is Hosting the Largest Ever Exhibition of Art and Sound

23rd May - 28th September 2024
180 Strand, London WC2R 1EA

Immerse yourself in a world of sound at The Vinyl Factory – Reverb, a multimedia exhibition exploring the intersection of sound and art that’s the largest of its kind. The show at 180 Studios features pieces from over 100 artists and musicians across music, film, visual art and performance, including Es Devlin, Julianknxx, Virgil Abloh, Cecilia Bengolea, Jeremy Deller, William Kentridge, Jenn Nkiru, Hito Steyerl, and Gabriel Moses. Devon Turnbull has created a space to listen to unheard vinyl with ‘Hi-Fi Listening Room Dream No.1’, and ‘Amplified’ by Theaster Gates stands as a sonic installation by day and turns into a performance space by night, where shows will be recorded and pressed direct-to-disc. 100 vinyl records released by The Vinyl Factory, from the likes of Marina Abramovic, Nan Goldin, Grace Jones, Mica Levi, Yussef Dayes, Es Devlin, Fred Again, Thom Yorke, Roxy Music, Massive Attack, Pet Shop Boys, Daft Punk, The xx, and Kojey Radical, will also be on display.

See the Early Life of Bob Marley at This Photography Exhibition

30th May - 19th June 2024
Muswell Hill Gallery, High Street, London

See Bob Marley like never before at the Through The Lens of Esther Anderson: Bob Marley: The Early Years exhibition at Muswell Hill Gallery. 20 rare and iconic photos of Marley, taken by filmmaker, activist, photographer and co-founder of Island Records Esther Anderson, in the early ’70s are on display at the show. Anderson worked closely with Marley at the time, so her work offers an intimate glimpse into his life before he became a superstar.

David Bailey & Mary McCartney's Photographs Are on Display at Claridge's

Until 19th July 2024
Brook St, London W1K 4HR

Claridge’s ArtSpace, the gallery annexed to the Mayfair hotel, is hosting its first photography exhibition with Double Exposure: David Bailey & Mary McCartney. The show features work from two iconic photographers and brings them into dialogue for the first time. Spanning from the 1960s to the present day, a range of photographs and celebrity portraits from both Bailey and McCartney are on display, showcasing both their individual styles and shared visual language.

Explore 500 Years of Black British Music at the British Library

Until 26th August 2024
96 Euston Rd., London NW1 2DB

The British Library is documenting the musical journey of African and Caribbean people in Britain over the past 500 years with the Beyond the Bassline: 500 Years of Black British Music exhibition. The show features over 200 exhibits, many of which are being publicly displayed for the first time, including handwritten accounts from 1512 featuring materials for the wedding outfit of John Blanke, the earliest recorded musician of African descent in Britain; Jamal Edwards’ video camera used to shoot SB.TV videos; jazz musician Coleridge Goode’s 1958 diary; a custom made jacket for Skunk Anansie vocalist Skin; Stormzy’s signed Glasto 2019 set list; and Dennis Bovell’s 1970s Fender Stratocaster. There are also soundscapes, films and artworks that reflect the history of Black communities in Wales, protest music and resistance in Leeds, Rastafari culture, the DIY spirit of Black British music and the Black radical imagination.

Elton John's Photography Collection Is Being Displayed at the V&A

18th May 2024 – 5th January 2025
Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

Sir Elton John is obviously best known for being a musician but he’s also a keen collector of photography and he’s showcasing just some of the works he owns with husband David Furnish. The V&A is hosting the Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection exhibition, featuring over 300 prints from more than 140 photographers, many of which will be going on public display for the first time. The show covers the 1950s to the present day and feature images from the Civil Rights movement, AIDS activism and September 11th, as well portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Miles Davies and Chet Baker, with works from the likes of Horst. P Horst, Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Zanele Muholi, Ai Weiwei, Carrie Mae Weems and more.


The World Press Photo Exhibition Is Back in London

3rd - 24th May 2024
Borough Yards, Stoney Street, London SE1 9AD

After a seven-year break, The World Press Photo Exhibition is back in London with a show in Borough Yards. The photos displayed in the exhibition are all entrants in this year’s World Press Photo Contest, a competition that showcases the best photojournalism and documentary photography from around the world. Over 61,000 entries from photographers from 130 countries were submitted for the 2024 contest and the images on display at the exhibition will give people a chance to think about social, environmental, political and cultural topics outside of the news cycle and explore how visual stories help to tackle important global issues.

Dive Into the Last Decades of Michelangelo at the British Museum

2nd May – 28th July 2024
Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG

The British Museum is delving into the last three decades of Michelangelo’s life and career with a major new exhibition. Michelangelo: the last decades will examine how his art and faith evolved as he aged, how he redefined the iconography of religious art, and showcase works produced right up to his death at age 88 in 1564. The two-metre high ‘Epifania’, one of the largest Renaissance works on paper, will be on display for the first time since it underwent conservation work in 2018, and it is joined by his biographer Ascanio Condivi’s painting made from the drawing, bringing the two pieces together for the first time in over four centuries. A collection of drawings, including preparatory ones for the ‘Last Judgment’, not seen for nearly twenty years will also be on show alongside letters and poems written by the artist.

Check Out the Inaugural Exhibition at the Museum of Homelessness

24th May - 30th November 2024
Manor House Lodge, Seven Sisters Road, London

The Museum of Homelessness has officially moved into its new space in Finsbury Park and is launching its inaugural show, How to Survive the Apocalypse: Wisdoms from our Community. The immersive exhibition will be open every Friday and Saturday until the end of November and will draw upon the Museum’s experience of fighting at the front lines against issues such as record levels of homelessness, widening inequality, Brexit, a climate emergency, a pandemic, and a series of ongoing social and political crises. Vistors are told to expect and unconventional museum tour, in a conversational atmosphere, that’ll include performance, poetry, object handling and more.

Yinka Shonibare Is Exploring the Legacy of Imperialism at the Serpentine

12th April - 1st September 2024
Serpentine Gallery, London

British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare has a major solo show – his first in London for over 20 years – on at Serpentine South Gallery. Suspended States explores the legacy of imperialism, the ecological impact of colonisation and the relationship of power to refuge by reimagining Western iconography. The show includes installations like ‘Decolonised Structures’, statues of colonial figures painted with Dutch wax print patterns; ‘Sanctuary City’, made of miniature buildings that represent places of refuge for the persecuted; and ‘The War Library’, where 5000 books covered in Dutch wax print represent conflicts and peace treaties.

Georg Baselitz Is Exhibiting at White Cube for the First Time in Eight Years

10th April – 16th June 2024
144, 152 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TR

German artist Georg Baselitz is hosting an exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey, his first at the gallery for eight years, featuring new work produced over the last year. At 86, Baselitz is still going strong and his new pieces, both large-scale paintings and works on paper, reflect on his 60-year-plus career, nodding to his key inspirations over the years and sketches he created in his youth.

An Immersive LEGO Exhibition Is Here

Until 14th July 2024
The Boiler House, 152 Brick Lane, London E1 6RU

The Art of The Brick, appropriately opening on Brick Lane, will feature more than 90 LEGO sculptures – that amounts to over a million bricks – that reinterpret some of the most recognisable artworks on the planet, including Michelangelo’s ‘David’, Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ and Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’. The exhibition is the work of artist Nathan Sawaya, who is also displaying some of his original pieces in the show, like a giant version of his ‘Yellow’ sculpture and ‘Perniciem’, which showcases endangered species in their natural environments. The works will be accompanied by 3D video mapping and a musical score, and there’ll also be a play and build area where you’ll be able to make your own LEGO creations.

Check Out the World's Largest Collection of Bansky Works from 1998 - 2008

11th April 2024 - January 2025
100 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0JG

The Art of Banksy first landed in London in the spring of 2021 after touring the world, popping up in cities from Melbourne to Miami, and following another international jaunt, it returned to the capital in 2023. After closing at the start of this year, the exhibition is on its way back for a third run, this time opening in a new space in Soho. The show is not authorised by the artist and therefore not curated in collaboration with him (not really Banksy’s style is it?) so all the pieces on show are loans from private collectors. In fact, the exhibition will display the world’s largest collection of official Banksy works from 1997 – 2008. This time around, over 150 pieces will be on show, including the iconic ‘Girl and Balloon’ ‘Flower Thrower’ and ‘Rude Copper’ as well as artworks from Dismaland, ones that reference the war in Ukraine and some going on public display for the first time.

Explore the Legacy of Tropical Modernism at the V&A

2nd March – 22nd September 2024
Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London

The V&A is hosting a major architectural exhibition highlighting the style of Tropical Modernism by architects Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry from their work in the 1940s. The style, which focused on practicality over beauty in a hot and dry climate, developed in West Africa and came to symbolise a postcolonial future in countries like Ghana and India after they gained independence. The exhibition dives into the origins of Tropical Modernism along with its connection to colonisation, and how it spread representing progressiveness in a country.

See How Food Can Express Heritage at SPACE Ilford

9th March – 12th October 2024
10 Oakfield Rd, Ilford IG1 1ZJ

Photographer Kenneth Lam is hosting his first solo exhibition A seat at our table at SPACE Ilford, inviting audiences to explore the dishes and memories of their own cultural identities. Taking inspiration from classical still life and the the stories of Redbridge residents, Lam explores the table as a symbol of home and the way food can express heritage and be used as a common language between cultures.

Polly Braden Is Documenting the Result of Ukrainian Displacement

15th March - 1st September 2024
Foundling Museum, Brunswick Square, London

Around six million Ukrainians are now displaced as a result of the Russian invasion of the country on 24th February 2024. Photographer Polly Braden has been documenting the lives of some of the women and children who have now been scattered across Europe and you can see her work at the Foundling Museum. Leaving Ukraine showcases the journeys that these women have had to undertake, the care they still have to provide for their families, the impact that the war has had on their lives and the way it is shaping their futures through photos, film and aural testimonies.

Explore the History of the Barking Abbey Community at the Women's Museum

9th March - 21st December 2024
Women's Museum, Barking Wharf Square, Barking

Female artists Meera Shakti Osborne, Lesley Asare, and Sarina Mantle are featured in An Idea of a Life exhibit at the Women’s Museum. The exhibit showcases the history of communities led by the Abbess and nuns from c.666AD to the early 16th Century near Barking Abbey and will show their everyday history. It will also include objects excavated from the area that demonstrated how women were connected to significant historic places.

Frank Auberbach's Charcoal Head Portraits Are Being Displayed as a Group for the First Time

9th February - 27th May 2024
Courtauld Gallery, Strand, London

Frank Auerbach: The Charcoal Heads at The Courtauld Gallery marks the first time that the artist’s post-war portrait heads drawn in charcoal have been displayed together as a group. The large-scale drawings are from early in Auerbach’s career, produced in the 1950s and early 1960s, with his process of working and reworking, breaking and patching the pieces reflecting the time period, where people were remaking their lives after the destruction wrought by the war. In the exhibition, the charcoal drawings will be presented alongside the paintings he produced of the same sitters.

Chinese Clockwork Treasures Are on Show at the Science Museum

1st February – 2nd June 2024   
Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London

More than 20 clockwork treasures collected by Chinese emperors in the 1700s are coming to the Science Museum from the Palace Museum in Beijing. The Zimingzhong 凝时聚珍 : Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City  exhibition will explore the luxury goods trade and the early cultural exchanges between London, Guangzhou and Beijing and spotlight the intricate craftsmanship required to make such ornate and technical clocks. This show marks the first time these pieces have been displayed together in the UK, with most of them never having been outside of China before, and with a pay-what-you-can ticket price, you could see them for as little as a quid.

Dive Into Croydon's Musical Heritage at This Exhibition

8th February - 8th September 2024
Museum of Croydon, Katharine Street, Croydon

To celebrate Croydon’s time as the London Borough of Culture, the Museum of Croydon is hosting the Rewind: This is Croydon’s Music exhibition. Croydon has a rich musical heritage, with dubstep icons Skream and Benga hailing from the area, as do The Damned’s Captain Sensible, Desmond Dekker, Kirsty MacColl and Nadia Rose. The show will explore this musical diversity with objects, photographs, stories and more relating to record stores, music shops and venues in the borough and the artists and producers who created and performed music in Croydon.

The Barbican Is Investigating the Power and Politics of Textiles

13th February - 26th May 2024
Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London

Stitching, weaving, braiding, beading; who doesn’t love the magical world of textiles? That’s why we can’t wait to see the Barbican’s next landmark exhibition, Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art, that looks at the transformative and subversive potential of textiles. Bringing together over 100 works by 50 international, intergenerational artists, the exhibition explores the various ways in which artists have used textiles to tell stories that challenge power structures, transgress boundaries and reimagine the world around them. Expect to see works from textile art powerhouse Sheila Hicks, a leader of the fibre art movement in the 1960s; Igshaan Adams, who explores themes such as race, religion and sexuality in his intensely crafted work; and Feliciano Centurión, who embroidered poetic reflections onto found fabrics to process his HIV diagnosis in 1993. Yinka Shonibare CBE RA’s figurative sculpture ‘Boy On A Globe’, Cecilia Vicuña’s spatial installation ‘Quipu Austral’ and Harmony Hammond’s large-scale work ‘Bandaged Grid #9’ are on show, alongside eye-catching pieces by Tracey Emin, Tschabalala Self, Jeffrey Gibson, Mounira Al Solh and the late Mrinalini Mukherjee.

Journey to the Moon with Tom Hanks

Until 13th October 2024
12 Lewis Cubitt Walk, London N1C 4DY

Immersive gallery Lightroom is following David Hockney with Tom Hanks. The Moonwalkers: A Journey With Tom Hanks, which tells the story of humankind’s exploration of the moon, is being narrated by the Oscar-winning actor, with an original score by Anne Nikitin. Hanks, who is a big space fan (pretty fitting that he starred in Apollo 13 then) has co-written the script with BAFTA-nominated writer-director Christopher Riley. As well as footage from the previous Apollo missions, the experience will feature interviews with Hanks and astronauts on the Artemis programme, which is preparing for the return of crewed surface missions to the moon. And all of that is gonna be projected using Lightroom’s cutting-edge tech.

Step Inside the World of Accidentally Wes Anderson

Until 30th June 2024
85 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington, London SW7 3LD

Accidentally Wes Anderson is coming back to London IRL with an exhibition featuring over 200 photos of buildings and landscapes from around the world that look as though they could be backdrops in a Wes Anderson flick. The show will be spread out across seven themed rooms, including ‘Classic Facades’ ‘Transport’, ‘Maritime’ and ‘Hotels/Motels’, each filled with photographs that evoke Wes Anderson’s distinct style in different ways, whether through Art Nouveau exteriors, pastel hues, vintage modes of transportation or an abundance of symmetry. The second to last room – ‘The London Room’ – will centre around Accidentally Wes Anderson photos of the city and guests will be able to submit their own photos for the chance to be featured.

The London Transport Museum is Showcasing the History of Poster Art and Design

20th October 2023 - 2025
London Transport Museum, London

The London Transport Museum is opening its Global Poster Gallery, its first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of poster art and design, with the How to Make a Poster exhibition. The inaugural display will explore poster commissioning and creativity in the pre-digital age, with more than 110 pieces on show. The Underground’s first ever pictorial poster, John Hassall’s 1908 work ‘No need to ask a p’liceman’ by John Hassall alongside posters by designers and artists like Edward McKnight Kauffer, Man Ray, Hans Unger, Abram Games, Tom Eckersley, Paul Catherall, and Dora M Batty. The various techniques used in poster production will also be showcased in the exhibition as well as the way the posters were displayed and the reception they received from both London travellers and the art world.

The Design Museum Is Investigating the History of Skateboard Design

20th October 2023 - 2nd June 2024
224-238 Kensington High St, Kensington, London W8 6AG

All you skaters will wanna roll down to the Design Museum to catch Skateboard, the first major UK exhibition to explore the history of skateboard design from the 50s to today. Author, designer and skater Jonathan Olivares is curating the show, which’ll chart the evolution of the skateboard from its homemade beginnings to professional advancements and its acceptance into wider culture. Over 90 rare and unique boards will be on display, including Laura Thornhill’s Logan Earth Ski 1970s pro model, Tony Hawk’s first ever professional model skateboard, and Sky Brown’s first pro model, alongside hardware, safety equipment, VHS tapes, mags and DVDs.

Marvel at the Diversity of the Natural World at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition

13th October 2023 - 30th June 2024
Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London

The 59th Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is being hosted at the Natural History Museum. The display features awarded images selected around 50,000 entries and it showcases the beauty and diversity of the natural world, with everything from snow leopards hunting in China to seals in Greece to snow bisons in the US depicted in the photographs.

Step Inside a Botanical Garden With The Butterfly Trail at Outernet

Until summer 2024
Outernet London, Charing Cross Rd, London

Hold a butterfly on the tip of your finger at this immersive botanical garden at Outernet London. Created in collaboration with Pixel Artworks, The Butterfly Trail is the world’s first mixed reality experience and it’s running on Outernet’s four-storey high, 16k wraparound screen. Using cutting-edge exhibition tech, The Butterfly Trail will take you through explorer Professor Peter Pelgrin’s Botanical workshop and inside his Glass House where you can interact with the space, release AR butterflies and trigger real-time animations using your smartphone.

Immerse Yourself in Seoul Without Leaving London

Until 10th June 2024
Borough Yards, Stoney St, London SE1 9AD

A slice of Seoul is landing in London with Delight, an exhibition about the city’s heritage and culture. The show has been produced by Seoul-based artist Gyoungtae Hong and director Younsook Im, and curated by Daehyung Lee, as a way for Londoners to experience Seoul in a new way – or for the first time. The exhibition is designed to be fully immersive and is presented as a series of multimedia installations. Expect to see 12 large-scale pieces that represent Korean deities, distinctive landmarks (such as Gwanghwamun, the main gate of Gyeongbok Palace), and contemporary cultural hubs. The works exhibited include major digital displays, including one comprising 631 glowing lights, but there are also excerpts from works of literature that tell stories of the city’s history, life, and identity.

Soak Up Vincent Van Gogh's Masterpieces From All Angles

Until 9th June 2024
Commercial Street, London E1 6LZ

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience has been a hit in the States and in Europe and now it has come to Spitalfields. The exhibition sees more than 300 of Van Gogh’s works projected across a floor-to-ceiling two-storey space so you’ll be able to soak up the art from all angles. There’s also a drawing studio and a VR experience that takes you through a day in the life of the artist and explores the inspiration behind some of his most iconic paintings.