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
See exciting work from emerging artists and designers as they take over four sprawling floors of Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf’s atmospheric space in the Southbank. This free showcase sees work from graduates and post-graduates in everything from sonic art to graphic art and illustration. Expect workshops and live music as part of some shows. See a full programme of the events here.
The Royal Institution was founded in 1799 for ‘diffusing the knowledge… and application of science to the common purposes of life’; from behind its neoclassical façade, it’s been at the forefront of London’s scientific achievements ever since. In 2008, Sir Terry Farrell completed a £22m rebuild, inside and out, with the brief of improving accessibility and finding ways to lure people inside. The result is a more open frontage, a restaurant, a bar and a café. The Michael Faraday Laboratory, a complete replica of Faraday’s former workspace, is in the basement, alongside a working laboratory in which RI scientists can be observed researching their current projects. Some 1,000 of the RI’s 7,000-odd scientific objects are on display, including the world’s first electric transformer, a prototype Davy lamp and, from 1858, a print of the first transatlantic telegraph signal. The RI also holds a terrific rolling programme of talks and demonstrations in its lecture theatre, most famously at Christmas.
Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty explores gay lives through personal testimony, cultural expression and legal reform, from the 1895 trial of Oscar Wilde to the posthumous pardoning of historical homosexual offences this year. See original campaign material, journals and posters from groups the Gay Liberation Front, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and Outrage!, Sarah Waters’ notebook she used while writing 'Tipping the Velvet' and a first edition of Virginia Woolf’s 'Orlando' alongside a sound recording of Vita Sackville-West from 1954 talking about the inspiration for the book. This is the first time these items have been on display together and there'll also be a number of special events throughout the exhibition, including a panel discussion about the history of queer culture and a discussion about David Bowie's influence on LGBTQ culture. 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.
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.
Get up close and personal with the luxury French watchmakers Cartier at 'Cartier in Motion'. There are over 170 exhibits to ogle at alongside rare insights into the research and work of the designers at Cartier, through extracts from material found in the Cartier Archives. While your immersed in the story of Cartier watch-smithery and the invention of the modern wristwatch, you might just learn something about upheavals in art, architecture, travel and lifestyles in the 20th century too. See here for more information.
Black Sound attempts to tell the story of 100 years of innovation in black music through three key phases: Original Imports, D.I.Y Culture and Re-mastering the Mainstream. Using the material available to the Black Cultural Archives in Windrush Square, the exhibition combines moving images, photographs, vinyl and cassettes to explore the talent and impact of black musicians.