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Late-night opening hours at London museums and galleries

Forget an evening in front of the television, visit one of the capital's top museums for a more cultural evening

SEX TALK MTG

Too busy to visit museums at the weekend? As most of the capital's museums have late-night opening hours at least once a week, swot up on culture after work instead. Here's our guide to museums in London that stay open late, and on what day.

Museums and galleries open late on Monday

British Library

A copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland is sent to The British Library – an institute that has amassed a collection of more than 150 million items and adds some 3 million new items each year. The public can apply for access to the reading rooms, or simply explore the permanent and temporary exhibits in the John Ritblat Gallery. Here, some of the most famous written and printed items in the world are displayed, and you might see the Lindisfarne Gospels, Shakespeare’s first Folio, Handel’s Messiah, the Gutenberg Bible, drafts of the Magna Carta and the Beatles’ manuscripts.

Open until 8pm; Mon-Thurs.

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Euston
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Museums and galleries open late on Tuesday

British Library

The British Library's exhibition spaces are open late weekly on Tuesdays, from 9.30am-8pm. On show are temporary displays as well as permanent exhibits in the John Ritblat Gallery, which houses some of the most famous written and printed items in the world: the Lindisfarne Gospels, Shakespeare's first Folio, Handel's Messiah, the Gutenberg Bible, drafts of the Magna Carta and The Beatles' lyrics.

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Euston

Christie's South Kensington

Yes, it’s technically a saleroom yet on the first Tuesday of the month Christie’s South Kensington opens late from 6pm-8.30pm, allowing visitors to view auction pieces, special exhibitions, peek behind-the-scenes and listen as experts discuss collecting, art, antiques and interior design. 

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South Kensington

Sir John Soane's Museum

Designed by architect Sir John Soane to house his own collection of paintings and architectural salvage, the museum is a tranquil place full of unexpected treasures. On the first Tuesday of each month, the museum stays opens late (6-9pm, last entry 8pm), and the atmospheric rooms are lit by candles. Visitor numbers are generally high on these evenings and there is frequently a queue, so early arrival is advised.

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Holborn
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Museums and galleries open late on Wednesday

British Library

A copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland is sent to The British Library – an institute that has amassed a collection of more than 150 million items and adds some 3 million new items each year. The public can apply for access to the reading rooms, or simply explore the permanent and temporary exhibits in the John Ritblat Gallery. Here, some of the most famous written and printed items in the world are displayed, and you might see the Lindisfarne Gospels, Shakespeare’s first Folio, Handel’s Messiah, the Gutenberg Bible, drafts of the Magna Carta and the Beatles’ manuscripts.

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Euston

South London Gallery

One of the capital's foremost contemporary art venues, the gallery has exhibited work by shows by established international figures such as Gilbert & George, Anselm Kiefer and Gavin Turk. The SLG also profiles the work of younger and mid-career artists, past exhibitions include Alice Channer, Ryan Gander and Oscar Murillo and group shows bring together works by established and lesser-known British and international artists.
The gallery is open until 9pm on Wednesdays.

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Camberwell

Camden Arts Centre

This north London gallery is in somewhat of a hinterland (it’s nowhere near Camden) but is also well loved for its consistently good galleries, café and bookshop. It's open late weekly on Wednesdays, from 10am-9pm.

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Frognal

Science Museum

Recommended

The Science Museum features seven floors of educational and entertaining exhibits, including the Apollo 10 command module and a flight simulator.
The museum is opened late from 6.45pm-10pm on the last Wednesday of the month.

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Brompton

Charles Dickens Museum

The museum, library and headquarters of the Dickens Fellowship – and the house where Dickens lived from 1837-39 – allows visitors a glimpse of how the writer worked and indeed how people's lived in Victorian London. A mixture of reconstructed rooms and gallery space, the museum features original Victorian furniture and fittings, refurbished attics and kitchens and an education centre at 49 Doughty Street. The museum opens late until 8pm once a month on either a Wednesday or Thursday.

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Holborn
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Museums and galleries open late on Thursday

Barbican Art Gallery

The Barbican Art Gallery, on the third floor of the Barbican Centre, stages exhibitions on design, architecture and pop culture, while on the ground floor, the Curve is a free exhibition space for specially commissioned works and contemporary art. The Barbican Art Gallery is open 11am-10pm on Thursdays, with talks, screenings and other events linked to major exhibitions. And it’s open till 8pm during the rest of the week, too (except Wed: 11am-6pm). The Curve is open 11am-8pm daily and until 10pm Thursdays.

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Barbican

British Library

A copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland is sent to The British Library – an institute that has amassed a collection of more than 150 million items and adds some 3 million new items each year. The public can apply for access to the reading rooms, or simply explore the permanent and temporary exhibits in the John Ritblat Gallery. Here, some of the most famous written and printed items in the world are displayed, and you might see the Lindisfarne Gospels, Shakespeare’s first Folio, Handel’s Messiah, the Gutenberg Bible, drafts of the Magna Carta and the Beatles’ manuscripts.

Read more
Euston

Charles Dickens Museum

The museum, library and headquarters of the Dickens Fellowship – and the house where Dickens lived from 1837-39 – allows visitors a glimpse of how the writer worked and indeed how people's lived in Victorian London. A mixture of reconstructed rooms and gallery space, the museum features original Victorian furniture and fittings, refurbished attics and kitchens and an education centre at 49 Doughty Street. The museum opens late until 8pm once a month on either a Wednesday or Thursday.

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Holborn
Fashion and Textile Museum

Fashion and Textile Museum

Founded by Zandra Rhodes in 2003, this centre for contemporary fashion, textiles and jewellery is now operated by Newham College and offers courses for creative students and businesses, as well as a programme of changing exhibitions. There's an admission charge for exhibitions, but entry to the café and shop is free, as is admiring the converted warehouse's colourful exterior. The gallery is open late until 8pm on Thursdays.

London Bridge

Brunei Gallery

This gallery is part of SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) and displays contemporary and historical exhibitions from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The gallery is open until 8pm on Thursdays.

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Bloomsbury

ICA

Located on The Mall since 1968, the ICA programmes arthouse cinema, performance art, philosophical debates, art-themed club nights, cutting-edge bands and anything else that might challenge accepted notions. There's also an excellent bookshop and sunlit café/bar. The galleries are open 11am-9pm on Thursdays during exhibitions. The bookshop is open Tue-Sun 11am-9pm. The bar is open Tue-Sun 11am-11pm. The entire building is closed Mondays.

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St James'

National Portrait Gallery

Portraits don't have to be stuffy. The National Portrait Gallery has everything from oil paintings of stiff-backed royals to photos of soccer stars and gloriously unflattering political caricatures. The portraits of musicians, scientists, artists, philanthropists and celebrities are arranged in chronological order from the top to the bottom of the building. The NPG is open until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays.

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Leicester Square

Somerset House

Somerset House features a formidable art gallery (the wonderful Courtauld), a beautiful fountain court, a terraced café and a classy restaurant. In summer, children never tire of running through the choreographed fountains. In recent years the venue has hosted an outdoor film screen in summer and a wonderfully atmospheric ice-rink in winter. The courtyard and fountains are open until 11pm in in summer.

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Temple

The View from the Shard

The View from the Shard is a two-level deck (the first enclosed, the second partially open to the elements) on floors 68 to 72 of the Shard, offering Londoners and visitors with a good head for heights panoramic, 360-degree views across the capital and beyond (up to 64 kilometres, or 40 miles in old money, on a clear day) from 244 metres (800 feet) up; almost twice the height of any other viewing point in London.
Open 10am-10pm daily April-October; open 10am-10pm Thurs-Sat in winter months.

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London Bridge

Wellcome Collection

This swanky little museum houses a fascinating and often grisly medical collection – used guillotine blades, Napoleon's toothbrush – as well as several serious (and sometimes disturbing) works of modern art. The Wellcome's temporary exhibitions are usually wonderfully interesting. The galleries are open till 10pm on Thursday evenings and the first Friday of the month.

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Bloomsbury
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Museums and galleries open late on Friday

Barbican Art Gallery

The Barbican Art Gallery, on the third floor of the Barbican Centre, stages exhibitions on design, architecture and pop culture, while on the ground floor, the Curve is a free exhibition space for specially commissioned works and contemporary art. The Barbican Art Gallery is open 11am-10pm on Thursdays, with talks, screenings and other events linked to major exhibitions. And it’s open till 8pm during the rest of the week, too (except Wed: 11am-6pm). The Curve is open 11am-8pm daily and until 10pm Thursdays.

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Barbican

British Museum

One of the world's oldest museums, the BM is vast and its collections comprise millions of objects. First-time visitors generally head for the mummies, the Rosetta Stone, Lindow Man, the Lewis Chessmen and the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial. Selected galleries of the museum are open until 8.30pm every Friday evening, augmented by tours, special events and food and drink.

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Bloomsbury

Handel & Hendrix in London

The house that was Handel's home between 1723 and his death in 1759, where he composed his 'Messiah', is now a museum devoted to the composer's life and work. 23 Brook Street, the upper floors of which were home to rock legend Jimi Hendrix in 1968 and 1969, provides a space for changing exhibitions and events. The candles come out for a late opening until 9pm on the first Friday of the month.

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Mayfair

National Gallery

The National Gallery is home to more than 2,000 works, with masterpieces from virtually every European school of art. In the East Wing are some of the gallery's most popular paintings, including one of Monet's water lily paintings and one of Van Gogh's sunflowers series. There's also a wonderfully atmospheric café and a fine-dining restaurant. Weekly late-night opening is on Fridays until 9pm, with tours, talks and music events.

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Trafalgar Square

London Transport Museum

Recommended

This extremely popular museum has interactive exhibits that are a treat for all ages. For adult transport lovers the museum opens late on selected Fridays until 10pm. 

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Covent Garden

National Portrait Gallery

Portraits don't have to be stuffy. The National Portrait Gallery has everything from oil paintings of stiff-backed royals to photos of soccer stars and gloriously unflattering political caricatures. The portraits are arranged in chronological order from the top to the bottom of the building. The NPG is open until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays.

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Leicester Square

Wellcome Collection

Recommended

This swanky little museum houses a fascinating and often grisly medical collection – used guillotine blades, Napoleon's toothbrush – as well as several serious (and sometimes disturbing) works of modern art. The Wellcome's temporary exhibitions are usually wonderfully interesting. The galleries are open till 10pm on Thursday evenings and the first Friday of the month.

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Bloomsbury

Leighton House Museum

Recommended

Leighton House reopened in April 2010 after a £1.6 million refurbishment which has uncovered and restored many of the decorative schemes and features of the house, as well as a previously unseen staircase. In the 1860s the artist Frederic Leighton commissioned his friend, the architect George Aitcheson, to build him a showpiece house in Holland Park, which he filled with classical treasures from all over the world, as well as his own works and those of his contemporaries.
The museum opens late until 9pm on occasional Fridays and includes a complimentary drink.

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Kensington

Natural History Museum

Recommended

The splendid façade of the original building just about prepares you for the natural wonders within, not least the cast of a Diplodocus skeleton taking up the full length of the vast entrance hall.
The museum is open from 6pm-10pm on the last Friday of the month.

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Brompton

Royal Academy of Arts

Expect to pay for blockbusters in the Sackler Wing or main galleries, while shows in the John Madejski Fine Rooms are drawn from the RA's holdings – ranging from Constable to Hockney – and are free. The Royal Academy's biggest event is the Summer Exhibition. On Fridays the RA stays open until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm).

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Mayfair
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Museums and galleries open late on Saturday

Tate Modern

This powerhouse of modern art is awe-inspiring even before you enter, thanks to its industrial architecture. Inside, the original cavernous turbine hall is used to jaw-dropping effect as the home of large-scale, temporary installations. The permanent collection features heavy-hitters such as Matisse, Rothko, Bacon, Twombly and Beuys. Tate Modern does weekend after-hours gallery-going extremely well, opening until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

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South Bank

The View from the Shard

The View from the Shard is a two-level deck (the first enclosed, the second partially open to the elements) on floors 68 to 72 of the Shard, offering Londoners and visitors with a good head for heights panoramic, 360-degree views across the capital and beyond (up to 64 kilometres, or 40 miles in old money, on a clear day) from 244 metres (800 feet) up; almost twice the height of any other viewing point in London.

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London Bridge
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Museums and galleries always open late

Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Attraction showcasing weird and wonderful items from around the world, such as a 13-foot-long Tower Bridge made out of matchsticks, a piece of the Berlin Wall, shrunken heads and a copy of 'The Last Supper' painted on a grain of rice. It's open 10am-midnight daily (last admission 10.30pm).

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Piccadilly Circus
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Comments

1 comments
serena t
serena t

Natural History museum is open late the last Friday of every month.