Made it your New Year’s resolution to absorb more of London’s cultural scene, but your bank balance begs to differ? Fortunately, many of the capital’s iconic venues run regular ‘late’ events aimed at those who are strapped for cash. From the National Portrait Gallery to the Natural History Museum, here’s our guide to the best free London late museum openings. Looking for more cheap and free things to do? Check out our top events this month.

Science Museum

Science Museum in London
Photo by

Got your Bunsen burner and lab coat at the ready? Head to South Kensington on the last Wednesday of the month for a Science Museum Late—an 18+, after-hours event centred around the field of science. Past themes have included sexuality (in collaboration with Pride in London), the 50th anniversary of the moon landings and the science behind Halloween.

Timing: The last Wednesday of the month. Open until 10 pm.

Wellcome Collection

London late museum openings Wellcome
Photo by Kate Samuelson

The Wellcome Collection, the free museum “for the incurably curious”, extends its opening time until 9 pm on Thursdays. It often hosts special tours and evening performances then too. It’s also worth checking out one of the collection’s Friday Late Spectaculars—a one-off programme of shows, workshops, lectures and (on occasion) specially-concocted cocktails themed around one of the temporary exhibitions.

Timing: Every Thursday. Open until 9 pm.

National Portrait Gallery

Impress a date, friend or colleague with your cultural prowess by escorting them to a classy NPG Friday Late event. There, you can participate in an artist-led drawing session (with life drawing on the final Friday of the month). Or you can unwind to music from the gallery’s resident DJs, who create sets which reflect the works on display.

Timing: Every Friday. Open until 9 pm.

British Museum

British Museum at night
Photo by Kate Samuelson

On Friday evenings the British Museum stays open until 8.30pm. This gives culture vultures an opportunity to peruse the gallery spaces, attend lectures, film screenings or performances, and enjoy a free 20-minute guided tour of the collections. British Museum Lates are also a great chance to browse the exhibitions without having to navigate the notorious chaos of school trips.

Timing: Every Friday. Open until 8:30 pm (most galleries).

Natural History Museum

natural history museum london
Photo by

Geek out at the Natural History Museum after-hours! On the last Friday of the month, the museum stays open late for a night of special science demos, talks and a silent disco (yes, really). Each late event is themed; a recent one involved the Doctor Who special effects team and even the iconic TARDIS. Possibly the nerdiest Instagram opportunity of all time?

Timing: The last Friday of the month. Open until 9:30 pm.

Victoria & Albert Museum

V&A in the evening
New entrance to the Henry Cole wing of the Victoria and Albert Museum from Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, England, UK | Photo by

V&A Lates, which also take place on the final Friday of each month, are your opportunity to sample the best of the magnificent Kensington museum for free. Each after-dark event is themed; previous lates have explored the dynamics of human/animal relations, how food can both sustain while being sustainable, and the blurring of the boundaries between sound, noise and music.

Timing: The last Friday of the month. Open until 10 pm.

Tate Modern

London late museum openings Tate Modern
Photo by Kate Samuelson

Like the Natural History Museum and the V&A, the Uniqlo-sponsored Tate Lates take place on the last Friday of the month. Likely the UK’s most famous museum late programme, these free night-time bonanzas at the Tate Modern celebrate creativity through drop-in workshops, performances and exclusive screenings. They also showcase emerging talent alongside household-name DJs and world-famous artists. It’s worth grabbing a two-for-one cocktail at the bar too.

Timing: The last Friday of the month. Open until 10 pm.

Design Museum

London Museum-late-open-design
Photo by

While most exhibitions at the Design Museum will set you back a pretty penny (exhibition prices start at around £14.50 for an adult ticket), on the first Friday of the month you can experience the museum for, you guessed it, free. Show off your sketching skills in a drawing workshop, watch eclectic musical performances which vary month by month and browse the tantalising gift shop after-hours.

Timing: The first Friday of the month. Open until 8 pm or 9 pm.

Tate Britain

London Museum Late Openings Tate
Photo by

Not to be confused with the Uniqlo Tate Lates, Late at Tate Britain events take place on the first Friday of the month. The nights are curated by Tate Collective Producers, a group of worryingly talented 15 to 25-year-olds who produce events and workshops exclusively for young people. Last year’s series was inspired by artwork in the gallery’s collection and 2020 looks likely to follow the same creative direction.

Timing: The first Friday of the month. Open until 9 pm or 10 pm.

Science Gallery

Science Gallery London
Photo by Felix Wilson

Friday Lates at the Science Gallery are sporadic affairs – so it’s worth following the gallery on social media for updates about when one is due to take place. These one-off events give science fans the chance to explore the free gallery after-hours, enjoy a drink at the bar, attend talks or workshops and watch music and drama performances themed around the gallery’s temporary exhibitions.

Timing: Occasional Fridays. Open until 10 pm.

Written by:
BIO: Kate is a freelance journalist and the founder of the CHEAPSKATE London newsletter.
Filed under: Things to Do

Get all the info on what's on in London direct to your inbox every month

Recommended hotels located nearby