The British Museum is free – well, sort of. This post is a guide to visiting the museum and it explains which exhibits are free and which require a ticket.
- Free Permanent Exhibits
- Temporary Exhibits
- Family Activities
- Public Tours
- 42 Free London Museums
- Things to Do in London
This section will go into detail about all of the exhibitions and galleries you can see for free at the British Museum.
You won’t need to pay admission for any of these exhibits, but you can make a donation if you want to support the museum’s mission.
Every permanent gallery at the British Museum is entirely free to visit.
This includes exhibition areas covering art, culture and other subjects from Africa, the Americas, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece/Rome, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
There are also a few areas dedicated to specific themes such as money, the enlightenment, life and death, notable collections from around the world and more.
These galleries are open from 10:00 - 17:30 (10 am - 5:30 pm) every day with an extended opening until 20:30 (8:30 pm) on Friday nights.
This is the main court of the museum, and it is where you will find things like the information desk and the collections shop.
The Great Court also has a cafe that you can visit if you get thirsty or hungry during your visit to the museum.
Although there are restrooms in other areas of the building, this is probably the easiest place to find if you need to use a bathroom.
The Great Court is open from 9:00 - 18:00 (9 am - 6 pm) each day with extended openings until 20:30 (8:30 pm) on Friday nights.
Some of the limited exhibits and displays offered at the British Museum are actually free for all visitors.
These attractions change from one year to the next, so it will be important to check what’s on at the British Museum for more details.
As of right now, visitors can expect exhibitions about subjects such as currency in games, postcards, Rembrandt, Captain Cook and more.
Temporary exhibitions at the British Museum change every few months, so it’s best to check their website for the most up-to-date list of what’s on.
Currently, there are two paid exhibitions on offer and 5 free limited displays.
Edvard Munch: Love and Angst
(April 11th - July 21st, 2019)
This is the largest Edvard Munch exhibition that the UK has seen in 45 years, featuring a lot of his most notable work, including displays covering his most influential piece “The Scream.”
The gallery will attempt to give visitors a look into the mind of an intriguing artist, potentially helping guests understand the inspiration for his art.
- Tuesday - Sunday: £17/Adults | £14/Teens, Students, Disabled
- Monday: £14/Adults | £12/Teens, Students, Disabled
- Visitors under the age of 16 get in for free
(May 23rd - August 26th, 2019)
Discover the history of the art form known as manga, a visual narrative art similar to comics that has taken the world by storm.
This is the largest exhibition of manga art to ever be seen outside of Japan.
It includes a lot of notable pieces that tell the story of how this storytelling craft developed into a global phenomenon over the years.
- £19.50/Adults | £16/Teens, Students, Disabled
- Free for visitors under the age of 16
(April 12th - July 18th, 2019)
This free exhibit covers symbolism in art, beginning with the literary movement in France and culminating in visual arts such as the work of Edvard Munch.
Reimagining Captain Cook
(November 29th - August 4th, 2019)
Discover a side of this historical figure that is oft forgotten as the art of Pacific Islanders depicts a very different view of Captain Cook in this free gallery.
The World Exists to be Put on a Postcard
(February 7th - August 4th, 2019)
Find out how the world of postcards has changed over the years to subvert expectations and promote various political/social issues with this free exhibit.
Rembrandt: Thinking on Paper
(February 7th - August 4th, 2019)
The following free exhibition marks the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death, providing a unique look at rarely seen prints and drawings that reveal the artist’s thought process.
Playing with Money
(April 18th - September 29th, 2019)
Take a look into the world of toys, modern board games and even role-playing games to discover the role of money and economics in gaming at this free exhibit.
In addition to all the fantastic artwork on display at the British Museum, there are also some pretty fun things to do with your family.
This section will cover the kid-friendly activities available at this museum.
Samsung Digital Discovery Centre
This area of the museum includes a lot of digital equipment provided by Samsung which breathes new life into the world’s history and cultures.
Visitors can enjoy fun games on tablets, get a full 360-degree digital view of notable historic artifacts, and use technology to create a variety of art.
Although each of these activities are free, some may require a passport, national ID or driver’s license as a deposit.
Learn more about the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre.
The British Museum provides a number of fun activities for families that are available every day.
Parents who are looking for something fun to do with their kids might want to consider an activity trail, gallery backpacks, art materials (crayons, pencils, pads), or a family guide to the museum.
For more information about these activities, make sure to visit the Families Desk in the Great Court.
There are also special museum events aimed at families. Check the British Museum family event schedule for more details.
Below are the regular tours offered by the museum. We also offer our own tour on Fridays.
Daily Eye-Opener Tour
These tours run every 15 minutes between 11:00-15:45 (3:45 pm) from different areas of the museum.
The tours are completely free to follow, are held within one of the free galleries, and typically last 30-40 minutes each.
Because there are so many offered throughout the day these brief, faster tours are perfect to take if you’re short on time and keen on learning more about the artifacts in a specific room.
- Cost: Free
- Length of tour: 30-40 minutes
- Time of tour: Several times, daily
Lunchtime Gallery Talks
The Lunchtime Gallery Talks are held on Tuesdays-Fridays at 13:15 (1:15 pm) in one of the many galleries. They last 45 minutes and range immensely.
For a full list of all the Lunchtime Gallery Talks offered, see their upcoming calendar. The talks are led by one of the museum curators or a guest speaker.
- Cost: Free
- Length of tour: 45 minutes
- Time of tour: Tuesdays-Fridays at 13:15 (1:15 pm)
These tours take place every Friday evening as an accompaniment to the late night open hours. They last 20 minutes each and run on the hour and half hour between 17:00 and 19:30.
The topics change every Friday, but each focuses on a particular time period or theme. Click here for the weekly schedule of Spotlight Tours.
- Cost: Free
- Length of tour: 20 minutes
- Time of tour: Friday evenings
Around the World in 90 Minutes
This signature tour covers several highlights from each of the free galleries.
Learn about the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon frieze, and the Lewis Chessmen, amongst many other things.
The tour aims to educate guests on important artifacts from various cultures around the world.
At 90 minutes long, this is by far the longest tour offered by the museum. It is also the only paid tour, costing £12 per person.
- Cost: £14 per person
- Length of tour: 90 minutes
- Time of tour: 11:30 and 14:00
VIP Early Bird Tour
If you want to visit the British Museum before it opens, this tour offers early bird access which will allow you to avoid all the crowds and see some of the most notable exhibits before everyone else.
VIP guests can expect this tour to cover subjects such as the Rosetta Stone, the Egyptian Sculpture Room, the Parthenon Marbles and many other exhibits in this museum.
Availability is very limited and group sizes are limited to just 20 people, so you should purchase tickets as soon as possible if you're interested in this tour.
- £89/Adults, Students | £79/Children
- Hours: 8:45 am - 11:30 am
- Duration: 2 ½ - 3 hours
- Purchase tickets or learn more.
Finally, the British Museum also offers an audio guide which can be picked up from the audio guide desk in the Great Court.
The guide costs £7 and is available to use until 30 minutes before closing.
Unlike the staff-led tours, the audio guide allows guests the freedom to pick which galleries or specific objects they wish to learn about.
In total, there are 260 expert commentaries that are available in several different languages.
The audio guide also features an interactive map of the museum, making it easy to navigate the many different galleries.
For a free audio tour alternative, check out the excellent Rick Steves audio guide.
If you want to save money on the paid exhibits at the British Museum, there are a few different options to consider.
This section will provide details about each of the discounts available on special and limited exhibits.
2 For 1 Deal
This is one of the best ways to save money on limited exhibitions at the British Museum.
The 2 for 1 program allows visitors who use National Rail to purchase two tickets for the price of one.
All you have to do is use the rail for transportation to the museum and you’ll be eligible for the discount.
Since tickets cost between £17-£19, that is what you can expect to save on admission using this method.
For more information, read our post covering the 2 for 1 deal in London.
National Art Pass
If you live in the UK, you might want to consider getting the National Art Pass for access to special limited exhibits.
Each of the paid exhibitions at the British Museum are included at a 50% discount with this museum pass.
The National Art Pass is valid for an entire year and it is valid at more than 240 museums.
Prices start at £70 for adults, £45 for people under 30 and £115 for families.
Become a Museum Member
Visitors who plan on going to the British Museum more than once over the course of a year may want to think about becoming a museum member.
Membership is valid for an entire year, and it includes admission to all limited and special exhibits for free.
Members also receive access to exclusive lectures, tours, parties, and out-of-hours visits.
Prices start at £64 per year for adults and £44 for anyone under 26.
Come on a Discount Day
Every now and then, the British Museum will offer discounts on their paid exhibits, but only during specific dates and times.
The Edvard Munch exhibition currently offers discounted prices on Mondays, allowing visitors to save at least £3 on tickets.
If you want to take advantage of this deal, make sure to check what’s on at the British Museum for details about the attraction you want to see.
Use a Tourist Pass
Every now and then, some London tourist passes offer discounts on temporary exhibits at the British Museum.
These services allow you to pay one flat price for a variety of different activities. If you plan on going to a lot of popular attractions, this is a great way to save money.
You can also get skip-the-line privileges at some locations, making it both faster and easier to get inside.
For more details about this opportunity, make sure to read our post covering London tourist attraction passes.