I love coming across free art galleries in London – the city is actually scattered with them. By galleries, I mean all those little independent free showrooms in London where indie artists exhibit paintings, sculptures, and other amazing thought-provoking art. The best art galleries in London showcase contemporary art that hits the brain and lingers in our thoughts.
Art in London: 8 Trendiest London Art Galleries
When you’re in London, you are never too far from an art gallery. I don’t remember where I heard this from, but every time I think of London, I think of art galleries. Some time ago, I used to go to popular art galleries all the time just to sit for hours and stare at paintings that resonated with me.
From Banksy to free galleries in East London, there’s much more to see than just the Tate Modern or the Science Museum (which are both free museums in London, by the way). I won’t talk about the Banksy exhibition in this article about the best free London art galleries – although his masterpieces are unforgettable, the exhibition is not free. Today, we only want to discover the best free stuff, don’t we? Okay, I have included one art gallery whose entrance you have to pay for, but it’s really worthwhile.
Since I have started working from home full time, I miss going to see art in London all the time. I used to be out all day, discovering the best street art and amazing things to do in every area of London. Oh well – here are the 8 best art galleries in London that are really worth a visit. Let me know your own favorites!
Best Free Art Galleries in London: The National Gallery
The National Gallery was the first on my list of must-visits in London, not only for the free entry but also for its great location. It’s located right on Trafalgar Square, and near Chinatown where you can find some of the best Asian restaurants in London.
The National Gallery offers some of the best art exhibitions in London, and we’re far from contemporary art in this one. There, you can find some of the greatest painting collections in the world by famous artists like Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, and Monet. The magnificent architecture proves the gallery’s timelessness as it never fails to make me feel like traveling back in time to the golden age of art.
The National Gallery can sometimes get crowded – let’s not forget it’s located in Central London, and that admission is free. However, the walking routes are clear, so you won’t miss anything on your visit. You can come here with a friend and sit for hours on a sofa looking at paintings. I’m not particularly fond of the past centuries’ artforms, to be honest.
Art takes many forms, and I prefer contemporary, almost avant-garde art galleries in London rather than classic museums and art pieces. Still, I go back to this wonderful place once in a while to enjoy its beautiful sense of past and history. Let’s not forget that everything we’re building today takes from the past, and we need to be grateful for art galleries in London that remind us of the techniques of the past.
Free Art Galleries in London: Tate Modern
For modern art lovers, I definitely recommend visiting Tate Modern. This free London museum is ranked in the top ten most visited museums and galleries in the world, with an amazing collection of modern art from 1900 to the present day. One special thing about this museum in London is its frequent changes of displays and themes. As such, some artworks will only be available at the time of your visit, making the gallery always fresh and exciting.
Contemporary art galleries in London might showcase independent artists, but the Tate Modern is huge, and its impact is too – there, you can find masterpieces from some of the greatest artists, like Yayoi Kusama, or Van Gogh.
Apart from Picasso and classical painting, there are many strange and quirky art installations in the Tate Modern museum, and I really enjoyed looking at them and trying to guess the meaning or the message the artist wanted to deliver. It’s wonderful how one piece of art could be interpreted in millions of different ways. Also, I absolutely love the view from the top of the Switch House, and there’s also a bookshop for you to browse at the end of your visit.
When I was here last, the museum was quite crowded, so even though entry is free for everyone (with a charge for some exhibitions), you should pre-book your tickets before coming. What’s cool is that the Tate Modern is located on the riverside, so you can include it in your schedule if you’re looking for the best things to do around London Bridge. I also recommend getting a fresh artisan doughnut from Bread Ahead Bakery once you’re done with your visit.
Best London Museums: Victoria and Albert Museum
Third on this list is Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A). It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. This is the world’s largest museum of applied arts, decorative arts, and design, with a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects in the span of 5000 years from ancient times to the present day.
I made the mistake of wearing the wrong shoes when I first came here, and my feet were very sore after the visit. So if you’re going to spend the whole day in this gallery (which I recommend), make sure to wear your comfiest shoes!
There’s one reason why the Victoria and Albert Museum owns my heart: the Fashion section. Whenever there’s fashion involved, I’m always going to travel to any of the coolest art galleries in London. No matter how far it is. In the fashion section, you can see clothes from high-end designers that were designed sometimes several centuries ago. Yves Saint-Laurent, Yohji Yamamoto, Christian Dior – all here, providing what I could call the best art exhibition in London. If you’re a fashion lover, that’s one to mark down.
Entry is free for everyone with a charge for some exhibitions. Right now, you can book a ticket to see the Alice: Curiouser & Curiouser exhibition. I haven’t been yet, but I’ve watched many videos and looked at many blogs talking about this Lewis Caroll exhibition. The special effects seem to be outstanding and magical, making you feel like you’re in the actual Alice in Wonderland. So whether you’re an adult or bringing children, you will definitely have an amazing time.
Best Art Galleries in London: Dulwich Picture Gallery
This hidden gem in South London suburbia was designed and built by Sir Soane and became the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery in the 1830s. I’ve chosen to mention this art gallery even if it’s not free because I feel it’s very much worth a visit. Dulwich picture gallery houses a huge permanent collection of Italian, Dutch, French, and English Old Masters with temporary visiting exhibitions. Basically, if you love classic arts, that’s the place to go.
The entrance fee to the Dulwich Picture Gallery is very reasonable, and the audio guide is clear, concise, and informative. All the staff is very welcoming and the coffee shop provides welcome refreshments to finish off your visit. The building itself is conveniently situated in the quaint village of Dulwich and is easily accessible by public transport.
The Dulwich Picture Gallery is a lovely place to meet friends for a meal or a light snack and a relaxing and cheerful artistic experience. Also, it’s definitely a destination if you’re feeling like getting away from the hustle and bustle of Central London. Just one of the most underrated art galleries in London, and very much worth a visit.
Free Art Galleries London: Whitechapel Gallery
Whitechapel Gallery is an East London art gallery that you can pass by and not even notice if you don’t pay attention. It’s much less out there than other art galleries in London like the National Gallery, for instance. Still, you just need to stop at Aldgate East and, the Whitechapel Gallery is just a stone’s throw away. If you’d like to get breakfast or brunch before your visit, there are two of my favorite halal restaurants in East London nearby – Grounded Coffee Company, and Dulce Coffee. Pay either a visit and you’re in for a treat before an enlightening artistic moment.
The Whitechapel Gallery was founded in 1901 and doubled in size in 2009 when it incorporated the Passmore Edwards library next door. The increase in gallery space allows the gallery to run a stimulating and enjoyable series of art exhibitions, mostly on contemporary art. Out of all the art galleries in London, I feel like the time I have spent at the Whitechapel Gallery lingered in my mind the longest.
I love art exhibitions, and I love art that really brings something to the table. Art for art, okay – but I love to think when I see a sculpture, painting, or art installation. The exhibitions at this East London art gallery cover many difficult themes in the modern world, such as persecution, power, culture, gender, sexuality, and religion.
There’s a lot to see in one visit. I can easily spend a few hours in this gallery, even if it’s not the biggest art gallery in London. It’s interesting and informative and features artwork from Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, and Cindy Sherman among other famous names. The Whitechapel Gallery’s displays, commissions, and archive galleries are free and open all year round, six days a week – there are even events, film screenings, and a great bookshop to get a new art book from.
Best Free Art Galleries London: Saatchi Gallery
I love coming across new London art galleries, and I think that out of all 8 I’m telling you about today, the Saatchi Gallery near Sloane Square is my favorite. It just offers the best art exhibitions London has to offer, word. I remember coming here the first time and seeing flags made out of hair and other weird art pieces of the like. I love modern art galleries for the fact that you never truly know what kind of art you’ll find there.
That’s the whole point of independent art galleries, isn’t it? To express your weirdest thoughts. Saatchi Gallery has been open since 1985 and features most often emerging artists. Their collections change pretty regularly, with some temporary exhibitions that you have to pay for, like the Tutankhamon exhibition they held there about a year or two ago. That’s one London art gallery that you need to visit – just do your open-minded self a favor. The Saatchi Gallery is located in West London, where you can find some amazing London fine dining restaurants – a cool way to round up a brilliant day, right?
Guildhall Art Gallery
If you want to see some of the best art exhibitions London has to offer, you’ll love Guildhall Art Gallery. It has something a bit different, and not too many people talk about it – wrongly. If you thought there’s not much to do around the Bank of England and St Paul’s Cathedral, think again. I know lots of independent art galleries in London art located in East London, or around Soho, but this one opened in 1886, and has been thriving ever since.
The Guildhall Art Gallery is very much focused on classic arts and the aim is to “display a Collection of Art Treasures worthy of the capital city”. As such, you can understand pretty easily the theme of the artwork presented in this London art gallery, from 19th-century fashion to oriental sculptures, the majority of which revolves around London. The remains of a Roman amphitheater were also discovered in what is now the basement – and it’s open to the public!
Free London Art Galleries: Fashion Space Gallery
When it comes to the best free art galleries in London, I’ve wondered for the longest time about fashion. I am an ex-makeup artist, and I used to specialize in fashion and beauty photoshoots. Aside from the Fashion and Design Museum near London Bridge, I had the greatest trouble finding free fashion-related activities in London when I first got interested in fashion. And that’s where the Fashion Space Gallery comes into play.
The London College on Fashion on John Princes Street, just off Oxford Street, has a small gallery open only a handful of hours during the day, but it’s completely free. The contemporary exhibition space opened to the public back in 2010 and since then, it’s offered some of the best fashion and design art exhibitions in London.
I always love to hang around universities and places where you can find emerging faces. I used to do lots of photoshoots with students from the London College of Fashion and UAL, and the great thing about this contemporary gallery is that it’s not only about paintings.
It’s about everything and anything, and most importantly, this free London art gallery features established artists along with emerging talent. The art exhibitions are always changing and they’re always very much engraved in the now – thought-provoking, social, and free-minded. Everything I love in a free art gallery, to be fair.
London Art: 8 Trendiest Art Galleries in London
There you have them, my favorite London art galleries, and the ones I consider to be the very best. You don’t always have to be in the center to find the best free art galleries in London – East London also has some great art to offer, like the Whitechapel Gallery. The amazing thing is that London is so full of contemporary art galleries that you can spend days discovering the best art exhibitions.
However, once you’re done visiting all the coolest free museums and galleries in London, I’d definitely suggest paying a visit to all the street art areas. This includes the colorful houses in Notting Hill, the painted walls in Camden Town, and obviously, Brick Lane and Shoreditch!
I’ll soon write about the best independent art galleries in London – as we’ve seen, I’ve included a few museums in this list and I want to keep the next one all about indie artists! In the meantime, maybe you’d like to take the visit to the next level and do some of the best cheap non touristy things in London! I mean, if we can enjoy London on a budget, why shouldn’t we?