Free Galleries In London


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Free Galleries In London

Ah, the joy of London- if you can take the time to see behind all the overpriced travel, food and accommodation, you can make the joyous discovery that the most important thing is free: the London gallery. It might be big or small, filled with treasures, or stuff so cutting edge you don’t know if you understand it, but each of these free galleries in London is a treasure and won’t cost you a penny.

National Gallery

The National Gallery, London - one the best free galleries in London
Photo credit: Michael Coppins

Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN
020 7747 2885

Nearest Tube Stations:
Charing Cross, Embankment, Leicester Square and Piccadilly.

Visit For:
You can’t get much more iconic that this London gallery. A huge building, right at the top of Trafalgar Square, filled with a star-studded history of Western European art from the 13th to the 19th Centuries. The rooms are arranged by date order, so if you find yourself flagging after a couple of rooms of cherubs and Marys, feel free to just skip ahead a room or two for new subjects to emerge.

Key Exhibits:
The Hay Wain: I’m not a huge fan of Constable, but for overseas visitors, this is a great way to see how the UK likes to envisage itself. Rural, bucolic, peaceful and green. Even those living in the cities will consider this painting a good advert for the UK.

Venice: The Grand Canal: I love Canaletto, and the first time I saw one of his pictures in real life, instead of printed in a book, I was so taken in by it size and clarity, I just wanted to walk right down the street into the picture. This is possibly my favourite, but the National Gallery has several so you can go and pick your own.

The Burlington House Cartoon: While there are several fully-fledged Da Vincis in the gallery, I like this preparatory sketch a lot more. You can see his thought process and I feel a lot closer to the artist and the subjects than I do with his paintings. It’s got a real energy.

Lake Keitele:  This painting doesn’t look like much on the website, but when you first enter the room it’s hanging in, it’s so carefully depicted that it’s easily mistaken for a photograph. It’s very small, but I found myself absorbed by it.

Tate Britain

The Tate Britain in London
Photo credit: Txllxt TxllxT

Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
020 7887 8888

Nearest Tube Stations:
Vauxhall, Pimlico, Westminster and Victoria.

Visit For:
British Art from the 1500’s. This is a slightly confusing gallery. British art isn’t defined by the nationality of the artist, but by how much they contributed to changing and defining British Art, which leads to some surprising inclusions. It’s a goodie anyway.

Key Exhibits:
God Judging Adam: It’s not famous, it’s not really even very good, but I like this. I think it gives an insight into Blake’s terrified and angry version of religion, that ruled his life even while he rejected it.

Waves Breaking On A Shore: Turner, king of seas, skies and shipwrecks. He has a seemingly endless array of pictures in the Tate, but this is my pick. There’s so little detail, but it manages to be so evocative.

The Pond: There is just the one Lowry in the Tate Britain, but it’s a good one. His classic matchstick men march through their city world, and the pond in the title, to me anyway, is the least significant part of it.

Tate Modern

Tate Modern Art Gallery in London
Photo credit: King of Hearts

Bankside, London SE1 9TG
020 7887 8888

Nearest Tube Stations: 
Southwark, Blackfriars and St Paul’s

Visit For:
The best collection of modern art in any London gallery. Hands down. Yes, the temporary exhibitions are world class and priced accordingly, but the permanent exhibitions are free and also riveting, and always interestingly curated. Plus, the newly opened (2016) viewing area is one of the best in London.

Key Exhibits:
Wham!: Roy Lichtenstein in all his cartoon beauty.

Black on Maroon: Go and see if your child really could have done that. Rothko paintings do not have any impact on me at all, until I’m standing right in front of them.

Guerilla Girls: A small section is dedicated to the Guerilla Girls and their straight talking feminist diatribe to the art world, and it’s wonderful.

The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection Art Gallery in London
Photo credit: JRennocks

Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN
020 7563 9500

Nearest Tube Stations:
Bond Street and Baker Street.

Visit For:
A museum feel at an art gallery. This is a historic house, with as much furniture and bric-a-brac as there is art, but I still feel this falls more into galleries than museums.

Key Exhibits:
The Laughing Cavalier: Not an English Cavalier, but a Dutch unknown- that doesn’t stop this painting drawing you into his good mood.

The Rainbow Landscape: I know it’s bad when surrounded by so many genuine works of art, but I love this painting for its sheer audacity at getting through to real art circles when that rainbow has clearly been added by the painters daughter when he wasn’t looking.

Sallet: There is a lot of armour in the Wallace Collection, but to me this rough, painted helmet for a lowly soldier really stands out amongst the  shiny silver helmets. It’s got character, and is a little bit more fearsome for it.

The Whitechapel Gallery

Photo credit: GrindtXX

77-82 Whitechapel High St, London, E1 7QX
020 7522 7888

Nearest Tube Stations:
Aldgate, Algate East and Whitechapel. Liverpool Street is also only fifteen minutes walk away.

Visit For:
The really up-and-coming stuff can be found in this London gallery. These are the artists who will be in the Tate Modern once they’re dead and gone so you don’t want to miss seeing them in their ascendency. The modern nature of the gallery means the shows can be hit and miss at times, but it’s definitely coming for a nose around if you’re in the Tower Hill end of London.

Key Exhibits:
This place is so cutting edge it doesn’t even have a permanent collection, but its temporary exhibitions are free and there’s often three on at once, so there is bound to be something that catches your attention.

This is just a tiny selection of the free galleries in London, but between them these can occupy you for hours! However, if you’re feeling a bit arted out, why not check out our tips for the best free museums in London?