These stalwarts of London’s art scene offer a constant stream of innovative talks, late night openings and film screenings as well as blockbuster exhibitions. Their core collections are free to browse, so take your sketch pad and spend the afternoon in the company of world-famous artists.
In the heart of Bloomsbury lies one of the biggest international collections of world art and artefacts. Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in the glories of ancient Greece and Rome or want to find out more about Britain’s bronze age, the British Museum is the place to be – plus permanent collections are free to explore.
One of the city’s most spectacular and well-loved spaces, Somerset House offers a dynamic public programme of contemporary arts and culture. In the winter, the courtyard transforms into a romantic ice-skating rink, while the summer months see children splashing in the fountains, outdoor film screenings and live gigs galore.
Barbican is a world-class arts and learning centre set in one of the most unique architectural spaces in the city (you’ll either love it or hate it). Most recently they’ve opened Level G, with a rolling programme of free installations, commissions and events. Sign up to the Young Barbican scheme for discounted tickets and Creative Learning Programmes.
This buzzy brutalist hub encompasses the National Theatre, Hayward Gallery, British Film Institute and Royal Festival Hall to name a few. Most organisations offer specialist programmes for young people meaning you can see world-class performances and artworks without breaking the bank (these include Southbank under-30s, BFI 25 & under, National Theatre Entry Pass).
A completely unique institution, the Wellcome Collection is a free museum and library that aims to challenge how we all think and feel about health. With an innovative programme and incredible displays, Wellcome is a place made for pondering big questions around science, medicine, life and art.
Natural History Museum
Caring for 80 million specimens spanning billions of years, the Natural History Museum is a fascinating place to discover the history of life on Earth. On entry you’ll meet Hope the blue whale, a relatively new addition to the collection who makes a big impression. Core collections free to view.
The Victoria and Albert Museum
The V&A is a treasure trove of the world’s best art and design. With collections spanning popular music, jewellery, fashion, theatre, photography and much more, you’re bound to find something that takes your fancy. If you’re looking for a break from the material world, the Sackler courtyard is an excellent spot, plus the café is one of the most ornate in London. Core collections free to view.
Just a stroll away from the Strand Campus, the National Gallery (and the National Portrait Gallery next door) has an exceptional collection of works from the Western Art Historical Canon. Its core collections are free to view so there’s no excuse to take a cultured study break with Michelangelo, Botticelli, Vermeer, Van Gogh – the list goes on. Close by you’ll find the famous fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, which hosts a number of public art commissions.
Royal Opera House
Home to the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet, watching a performance in the opulent amphitheatre is something special. BUT that doesn’t mean it’s expensive, especially if you’re a student. Sign up to ROH Student for free and get access to tickets from as little as £1!