Top 20 Free Museums Around the World

“If I walked down by different streets to the Jardin du Luxembourg in the afternoon I could walk through the gardens and then go to the Musée du Luxembourg where the great paintings were that have now mostly been transferred to the Louvre and the Jeu de Paume. I went there nearly every day for the Cézannes and to see the Manets and the Monets and the other Impressionists that I had first come to know about in the Art Institute at Chicago. I was learning something from the painting of Cézanne that made writing simple true sentences far from enough to make the stories have the dimensions that I was trying to put in them. I was learning very much from him but I was not articulate enough to explain it to anyone. Besides it was a secret. But if the light was gone in the Luxembourg I would walk up through the gardens and stop in at the studio apartment where Gertrude Stein lived at 27 rue de Fleurus.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast,

Imagine the luxury of knowing a Gertrude Stein or the luxury of popping into a world-class art museum and observing the masterworks, unencumbered with a hefty entrance fee. Perhaps we should leave Stein out of the equation but we certainly don’t need to imagine stepping into an art museum for free.

Here is a comprehensive list of some of the world’s top art museums that you can pop into for absolutely free, near to free or are free for limited hours or days of the week.

1) The National Gallery, London:

Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

Timings: Daily 10am–6pm, Friday 10am–9pm

Cost: Free at all times.

Highlights: This is a behemoth of an art gallery with a formidable collection of world-class art. It might just be that you would want to see everything on display. If however, this is not possible, the Gallery itself has thoughtfully listed 30 of the top must-see paintings on their website including: Johannes Vermeer’s ‘A Young Woman standing at a Virginal’, Van Gogh’s ‘The Sunflowers’, Ingres’s ‘Madame Moitessier’, van Eyck’s ‘The Arnolfini Portrait and Turner’s ‘The Fighting Temeraire’.


2) Smithsonian Museums Washington DC

Address (Natural History Museum): 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560, United States

Timings: Daily 10am–5.30pm

Cost: Free at all times.

Highlights: The Smithsonian Institute has a number of museums underneath its very wide umbrella, in fact a staggering nineteen museums! Notable among them are The Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum. The National Zoo also falls under its aegis. Outstanding highlights from the collections include The Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals including the famous Hope Diamond, Dinosaurs, history and culture of Africa at the Natural History Museum; the 1903 Wright Flyer, Spirit of St Louis and SpaceShipOne from the Air and Space Museum.


This photo was licensed under the Creative Commons License courtesy of Phil Roeder

3) Metropolitan Museum of Art New York

Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028, United States

Timings: Daily 10am–5.30pm; Fri, Sat 10am–9pm

Cost: Pay as you wish.

Highlights: Situated at the junction of where Central Park East meets Fifth Avenue this is an imposing museum housing about five thousand years of human history, through a collection of over 2 million objects of art. Highlights from the museum include the Impressionist and European Galleries, Galleries displaying Modern Art and the Egyptian collection.

Top Tip: Don’t miss the opportunity of visiting the Rooftop Bar for a drink and unparalleled views of Central Park!

This photo was licensed under the Creative Commons License courtesy of Mathieu Marquer

This photo was licensed under the Creative Commons License courtesy of Mathieu Marquer

4) Museo del Prado

Address: Paseo del Prado, s/n, 28014 Madrid, Spain

Timings: Daily 10am–8pm, Sunday 10am–7pm

Cost: Free at all times between 6-8 pm, Sun: 5-7 pm

Highlights: The two hundred year old Museo del Prado boasts an impressive collection of artworks whose origins are found in the personal art collections of the Spanish monarchy of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. There is a good concentration of artworks by Titian, Velasquez, Goya, El Greco and Rubens. This museum provides one with an in-depth view of the development of art history through the works of several painters.



This photo was licensed under the Creative Commons License courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simoes


5) Berardo Collection Museum, Lisbon

Address: Praça do Império, 1449-003 Lisboa, Portugal

Timings: Open Tues-Sun: 10am–7pm

Cost: Free

Highlights: Located in the Belém district of Lisbon, this modern and contemporary art museum packs a lot of punch. The museum was inaugurated in 2007 and is named after José Berardo and his collection. The list of artistic movements covered by the collection stretch to Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop-Art, Surrealism (Picasso, Man Ray, Dali) and Photography to name a few.


6) Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris

Address: 11, av. du Président Wilson
75116 Paris

Cost: Free

Timings: Tues-Sun: 10am-6pm

Highlights: Located in the 16th arrondissement, this is one of the city of Paris’ museums. This municipal museum is dedicated to modern and contemporary art of the 20th and 21st century. The museum’s permanent collection includes works by Picasso, Braque, Chagall, Matisse, Bonnard and Vuillard.


7) Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen

Address: Ny Vestergade 10, 1471 København K, Denmark

Cost: Free at all times

Timings: Tuesday-Sunday: 10am-5pm

Highlights: This is a wonderful museum to visit. The many delights of this collection include a recreation of a Copenhagen dwelling from the 18th century revealing detailed interiors, a large collection of dollhouses and Stone Age artifacts from antiquity found on Dutch soil.


8) National Museum of China, Beijing

Address: 16 E Chang’an Ave, Dongcheng, Beijing, China

Cost: Free at all times

Timings: Tuesday-Sunday: 10am-4.30pm

Highlights: Did you know that this is one of the world’s most visited museums? It borders Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City and carries a collection of objects that aim to educate about the art and history of China. Galleries display antiques related to Buddhist Sculpture, Chinese Calligraphy, Coins, Porcelain, Jade and much more. An overlooked museum that is definitely worth a visit!


9) Nicholson Museum, Sydney

Address: Manning Rd, Camperdown NSW, Australia

Cost: Free at all times

Timings: Mon-Fri: 10am-4.30pm

Highlights: This old university museum is the largest repository of historical objects of interest in the Southern Hemisphere. The museum lies in the heart of the University of Sydney. The collection itself was donated by the second chancellor of the University, Sir Charles Nicholson and consists of his private collection of antiquities. There are artifacts from Egypt, Greece, Cyprus and the Near East. This is definitely a museum for the person fascinated with archaeology.


This photo was licensed under the Creative Commons License courtesy of Neil Willsey

10) Getty Center, Los Angeles

Address: 1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049, United States

Cost: Free at all times

Timings: Tues-Sun: 10am-5.30pm, Sat: 10am-9pm

Highlights: Unmissable stops on your museum tour should consist of: Rembrandt’s ‘An Old Man in Military Costume’, van Gogh’s ‘Irises’, Marino Marini’s ‘Angel of the Citadel’ sculpture and Monet’s ‘The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light’.


11) National Museum of Korea, Seoul

Address: 137 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Cost: Free for permanent exhibits

Timings: Tues, Thurs, Fri: 9am-6pm; Wed, Sat: 9am-9pm; Sun: 9am-7pm

Highlights: If you would like to know everything there is to know about Korean art and culture then this is the museum for you. Highlights include the Paleolithic, Neolithic Rooms, the Bronze Age Room, and subsequent age rooms containing everything from ancient artifacts to royal treasures. Other rooms of interest include a display of Buddhist Painting, Calligraphy and also the Asian Arts Gallery.


12) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Address: Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom

Cost: Free at all times

Timings: Sat-Thurs: 10am-5.45pm; Fri: 10am-10pm

Highlights: When visiting the V&A you are stepping into a treasure trove of several thousands of years of decorative art and design history. The building itself is a triumph of Victorian architectural design. Definitely see Cecil Beaton’s collection of Royal Portraits, ‘Trees at Hampstead’ by Constable, ‘Tipoo’s Tiger’- a life size wooden sculpture of a man being attacked by a tiger from Mysore India and the Unicorn Tapestries if stretched for time.


This photo of the painting ‘Ophelia’ , Sir John Everett Millais, was licensed under the Creative Commons License courtesy of Michela Simoncini

13) Tate Britain, London

Address: Millbank, London SW1P 4RG, United Kingdom

Cost: Free at all times

Timings: 10am-6pm daily

Highlights: With only an hour or less on hand, a good idea would be to check out the Constable and Pre-Raphaelite paintings on display, notably Constable’s ‘Flatford Mill’ and Sir John Everett Millais’ ‘Ophelia 1851-2’. Painter Francis Bacon and also the sculptor, Henry Moore also have masterworks on display.


14) Museu Afro Brasil
Sao Paulo, Brazil

Address: Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral, Portão 10 – Parque Ibirapuera, São Paulo – SP, 04094-050, Brazil

Cost: Free on Thursday and Saturday; very small entry fee at other times (50 cents)

Timings: Tues-Sun: 10am-5pm

Highlights: This is a unique museum dedicated to celebrating the rich Afro-Brazilian heritage of Brazil. Oscar Niemeyer designed the rectangular eye-catching building. The museum features frequent temporary exhibitions by Brazilian or international artists. Permanent exhibitions feature Afro-Brazilian folklore, music and culture.


15) Te Papa, Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand


Address: 55 Cable St, Wellington 6011, New Zealand

Cost: Free

Timings: Mon-Sun: 10am-6pm

Highlights: This is New Zealand’s National Museum. The meaning of ‘Te Papa Tongarewa’ aptly translates to ‘treasure-box’. In this treasure trove of a building you will happen upon Maori artifacts, New Zealand and Pacific history galleries, the National Art collection and discovery interactive centres for children.


16) Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh.

Address: The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL, United Kingdom

Cost: Free

Timings: Fri-Wed: 10am-5pm; Thurs: 10am-7pm

Highlights: This museum has a good collection of Dutch-Flemish and Scottish paintings. Remarkable among them are: Raeburn’s portrait of ‘Mrs Robert Scott Moncrieff, the ‘Lomellini Family’ by van Dyck, Vermeer’s ‘Christ in the House of Martha and Mary’, Velazquez’s ‘Woman with Eggs’ and Impressionist painting by Gaugin, Cézanne and Monet.


17) Deutsche Bank KunstHalle (formerly known as Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin)

Address: Unter den Linden 13/15 10117 Berlin

Cost: Free every Monday

Timings: Daily 10am-8pm

Highlights: This is a large contemporary art exhibition space. The Deutsche Guggenheim closed its doors in 2013 and in its place the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle emerged. Designed by American architect Richard Gluckman, this art complex is a unique collaboration between an art facility and a Bank. Housing more than 50,000 works of art, this is a museum not to be missed.


18) Museum of Modern Art New York

Address: 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, United States

Cost: Free every Friday 4pm-8pm

Timings: Sat-Thurs: 10.30am-5.30pm

Highlights: A few steps away from the hustle and bustle of Fifth Avenue is the modern building of the MOMA. Highlights of a visit include veritable works by Picasso, Dali, Miró and Kandinsky, not to mention Klimt and Chagall. This is a more compact museum than the Met or the Louvre, but nevertheless, there is a lot to take in and enjoy.


This photo was licensed under the Creative Commons License courtesy of Paulo Horta

19) Louvre, Paris (same applies for many museums in Paris)

Address: 75001 Paris, France

Cost: From October to March, access to the permanent collections is free for all visitors on the first Sunday of each month.


Timings: Sat-Mon: 9am-6pm; Tues: closed; Thurs: 9am-6pm; Wed and Fri: 9am-10pm.

Highlights: The Louvre with its 35,000 objects of art in 300 rooms can easily overwhelm the unprepared visitor. Given a short time to visit some of the must see highlights are of course the ‘Mona Lisa’, the ‘Venus de Milo’, Vermeer’s ‘The Lacemaker’ and a number of Raphaels. The museum is formed from the conjoining of two former royal palaces: the Tuileries and the Louvre.



This photo was licensed under the Creative Commons License courtesy of Matito


20) Reykjavik Museum of Photography


Address: Grófarhús, Tryggvagata 15, Iceland


Timings: Mondays to Thursdays from 12pm-7pm, Fridays: 12pm-6pm,
Weekends: 1pm-5pm

Cost: Free at all times.

Highlights: This is an impressive modern building housing over photographs dedicated to the topic of Icelandic photography shot by artists from around the world. The themes of the photographs are quite diverse, ranging from solo portraits, family photographs, landscapes and industrial photos.



Creative Commons License Attribution

Museo del Prado photograph was licensed  under Creative Commons License  courtesy of  Mathieu Marquer; the Louvre photograph was licensed under Creative Commons License courtesy of Paulo Horta; the Metropolitan Museum of Art photograph was licensed under Creative Commons License courtesy of Phil Roeder; Reykjavik Museum of Photography picture was licensed  under Creative Commons License  courtesy of  Matito; Berardo Collection photograph was licensed  under Creative Commons License  courtesy of  Pedro Ribeiro Simões; Getty Center photograph was licensed  under Creative Commons License  courtesy of Neil Willsey; this photo of the painting ‘Ophelia’ , Sir John Everett Millais, was licensed under the Creative Commons License courtesy of Michela Simoncini.

top 20 free museums


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