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Illuminating India at the Science Museum
Courtesy of Galerie Thomas Zander

Free exhibitions in London

Put your wallet away and head to one of London’s totally free museum and gallery exhibitions

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Time Out London Things To Do
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City life can be expensive, but you can always get your culture fix for free in London. Our city is home to countless world-class and totally free museums, with incredible exhibitions that don’t cost a single penny. From shows at some of the top ten museums in London to alternative exhibitions in the city’s weird and wonderful museums, here’s our guide to free art and musuem exhibitions in London all year round. 

RECOMMENDED: More budget-friendly culture in our guide to free London.

Free exhibitions in London

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  • South Bank
Everyone’s favourite riverside culture hotspot Southbank Centre will once again be aglow with festive illuminations. Winter Light is a free, open-air exhibition featuring no fewer than ten lightworks (which is what we’re calling these now) from properly famous and talented artists from around the world. All of them make mind-bending use of light, colour and even boundary-pushing film to deal with issues and topics surrounding nature, technology, urban life and spirituality. Works featured include: Dichroic Sphere (a light sculpture powered by a single energy-efficient bulb); Car Show (a beautifully glowing ‘graveyard of cars’); Loomin (a lovely neon canopy above the trees of The Queen’s Walk) and Noste (projected layers, pulsating colour onto the Centre’s concrete columns). And that’s just four of them! Why not combine your visit with a trip to Southbank Centre’s Winter Market? Find out all about London’s other massive festive light shows
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  • Hoxton
Semi-literally step into the future to see what our homes could look like in the year 2050. Discover the impact on people's health, the community and the planet in this interactive exhibit 'Tomorrow's Home'. From research at UCL's Institute of Healthcare Engineering and designed by The Liminal Space, this multi-sensory experience at the Museum of the Home allows visitors to witness new technologies like living wallpaper and a talking toilet. Other upcoming activities at the Museum of the Home include the family event Robotic Christmas Carols on December 16 and Cork House Show and Tell on January 6, where you can step inside a plant-based home. See the full in-person event schedule on the UCL website. The online events calendar is also available on the UCL website.
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  • Borough of Bromley
Despite being tremendously popular in his time, artist and illustrator Louis Wain has been somewhat overlooked of late. Luckily enough, he’s soon to receive the Hollywood treatment, being played by Benedict Cumberbatch in an upcoming film, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain. And while that film is sure to invigorate Wain’s legacy with the respect it deserves, you can get ahead of the curve by heading over to the Bethlem Museum of the Mind. Wain is best known for capturing cats in all their various forms, and the Bethlem’s exhibition is a glorious display of some of his finest illustrations. Expect a vibrant, characterful world of felines, ranging from the anthropomorphic to absurd. Animal Therapy: The Cats of Louis Wain is free, but you can still support both the exhibition and the Bethlem Museum of the Mind by buying from their online shop or via direct donations. The Bethlem Museum of the Mind is open Wednesday to Friday and the first and last Saturdays of month, 10am to 5pm. See the museum’s visitor page for more details

Discover the best free museums in London

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