Whatever your taste, there'll be an exhibition to enthrall you in London, and with our guide you can even find your culture fix for free. From shows at some of the top ten museums in London to alternative exhibitions in the city's weird and wonderful museums, there's plenty of free art on offer when you delve into free London.
RECOMMENDED: More budget-friendly culture in our guide to cheap London.
Free exhibitions in London
Built in 2016, the ‘Crick’ is an altar to biomedical research, with a crack team of around 1,500 scientists dedicated to gaining a better understanding of disease. See what they’ve been up to at this exhibition on the future of human health, looking at groundbreaking research on flu, cancer and tuberculosis.
Forget the Crown Jewels; get yourself down to 'Bloomin Jewels', an exhibition celebrating the long and esteemed tradition of depicting flowers and foliage in jewellery while spotlighting cutting-edge, imaginative and technically accomplished modern work incorporating floral motifs. Over 20 respected contemporary jewellers have been invited to offer work using the botanical as a starting point. The results will surprise anyone interested in contemporary jewellery, decorative arts, fashion, design and gardening. Throughout the exhibition there'll also be a series of talks and events, for a full programme and for prices see here.
Two electric chairs are exhibited side by side in the Wellcome’s latest show. The first, a photograph, illustrates the revolutionary form of capital punishment introduced to New York’s Sing Sing Prison in 1890. The second, with two metal handles on its armrests, delivered a type of electrotherapy (not to be confused with still-used shock therapy) believed to cure illness in the late nineteenth century. Invented within a few years of each other, they sum up humankind’s contradictory relationship with electricity: a force never created, merely harnessed, both for good and ill, life and death. The first room ambles through pre-scientific beliefs about electricity – lightning being Zeus in a bad mood – before taking us into the experiments of eighteenth-century pioneers known rather sweetly as ‘electricians’. As usual, the Wellcome gets all intersectional, showing us how the fields of science and spectacle overlap. The Italian physician Luigi Galvani discovered that electricity occurred naturally in the body by zapping countless numbers of unfortunate frogs – but it was his nephew, Giovanni Aldini, who did the same to a convict’s corpse in front of a public audience in London in 1803. If the following rooms – which trace electricity’s pivotal role in the modern world – are less thrilling, that’s because it’s so hard to fully grasp the impact of something so vast and ubiquitous (photos of pylons being erected in the 1920s are a good case in point: we barely notice them any more
An exhibition and emporium celebrating the simplicity of the everyday garden. See original art, textiles, print and sculpture intermingled with planted displays in honour of the window box, balcony and backyard. Join the action after hours at the exhibition's late openings on May 25 and June 1 (11am to 8pm). Part of the Chelsea Fringe.
From the memoirs of a cross-dressing Lesbian in Jane Austen’s era to the day in the life of a UNICEF worker in Yemen, have a nosey through diaries from 1400BC to the present day at ‘Dear Diary’, an exhibition celebrating the ways in which we’ve used diaries to capture the human experience throughout history. Find out more here.
This one-of-a-kind exhibition highlights the importance of children’s rights and their slow but steady historical evolution. Held at London’s Central Family Court this collection of quotes, images and artefacts gives a powerful insight into the court’s work and proceedings. Children’s experiences are brought to the fore, from tying threads in a mill to firing guns on a battleship as well as the work of the progressive activists that brought them into the comparative safety of the Victorian school room and then the era of human rights.
The arts duo who created a series of anti-Brexit custard creams encased in resin last year, are back with a new pop-up art shop and event space. This year Pandora Vaughan and Siân Pattenden are bringing their exhibition ‘Truth Machine’ to Gospel Oak. They’ll be showing art as well as selling it and the exhibition will be accompanied by a real-life Truth Machine and a Truth Machine Hair Salon, film nights and other special events. The duo will be employ lie detectors and scanners on request and all visitors will have to tell the truth while there - so be careful who you take along with you. Join the launch party on Mar 24 from 5pm to 8pm.
Discover the best bits of London's museums
I haven’t seen somewhere look this much like an untouched ’80s wine bar since, well, the ’80s. And while I’m as partial to a trip down memory lane as the next man, the dining room at Hatchetts, a Mayfair restaurant and bar, just looks a bit shabby and dated. But what do I know? Maybe this is the start of a glorious post-Brexit return to the kind of venues we had before mass immigration took hold. Let’s hope not. Thankfully the food is less stuck in the past. My buttery, beautifully al dente celeriac risotto was a doozy, helped in no small part by excellent earthy depth from four plump snails and a drizzle of their braising jus. Lightly pickled red mullet – sharpness balanced brilliantly by punchy salt cod foam – was almost as good, as was a rich but nicely balanced dish of partridge with rainbow chard, bacon and a plum sauce. The only slight dud? My main of chicken-glazed cod, which was wonderfully cooked but then let down by aggressive seasoning. Service was excellent, and tactile to the point of flirty, which is fine by me. Unlike the £2 per person cover charge, which is of course an absolute piss-take.
Venue says: “Fresh British food with the finest, locally sourced produce. Cocktails made with house-infused spirits and an extensive, exciting wine list.”