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20 of the Best Free Museums in the UK

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A museum trip is the ultimate day trip adventure! With so many around the country, you can easily find the perfect one for you to learn something new about the world around us. And the best thing is many them are free, meaning you can bring out your archaeological side without it costing a penny!

1. The Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood

The V&A Museum of Childhood offers families a wonderful day out for free. The museum includes the UK’s national collection of childhood objects, dating as far back as the 1600s up to the present day. From rare handmade items to modern day icons, it’s a great chance to see how toys have evolved over the years, and travel back in time to the toys of your childhood. 

Find a map to the museum here.

2. Fitzwilliam Museum

The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is somewhere you’ll want to visit time and time again. In part, to do the range of exhibitions justice, you’ll need to visit several times.  Exhibitions include an extensive collection of ceramics and paintings, as well as artefacts from Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Kids can download and print their own ‘Kids’ Map’ of the exhibitions and visit child-friendly favourites like the Armour Room.

The collection is vast, and you can find a map to the museum here.

3. Stalham Old Firehouse Museum

Believed to be the location of one of the oldest organised Fire Brigades in the UK, Stalham Firehouse lives on as a museum for everything fire brigade-related. What’s more, this is a museum where the kids can get stuck in – trying on helmets and even ringing firebells.  The whole family can interact with exhibits while learning about the evolution of the modern fire brigade. What’s not to love?

Find a map to the museum here.

4. Natural History Museum at Tring

If you’re into nature, the Natural History Museum at Tring is worth a visit. It’s the sister museum to the London’s famous Natural History Museum and stocks an impressive range of wildlife exhibits. It’s home to the first Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever discovered. A blue whale skeleton furthermore promises to leave both nature enthusiasts and would-be explorers fascinated.

Find a map to the museum here.

5. Chelmsford Museum

This museum, set in a Victorian house, welcomes families with interactive displays and a free quiz sure to keep your little ones entertained whilst they learn! The building contains a range of different artefacts, from the geological to the military. For those interested in local history, the Bright Sparks exhibition additionally documents the evolution of industry in Chelmsford.

Find a map to the museum here.

6. The Dock Museum

This museum has a variety of exhibits documenting the industrial and social history of the area. They range from Viking treasure to model ships and musical instruments, so there’s something for the whole family. The museum has existed since 1907 – one of its first exhibits was a stuffed alligator donated by a local! The building was constructed in a 19th Century dock, a fitting location as the museum also documents Barrow-in-Furness’s production of submarines, airships and liners over the years.

7. Blackburn Museum

Opened in 1874, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery has a wealth of history within its walls. From manuscripts and coins to natural history, art and Egyptology, the building plays home to an eclectic mix of artefacts. Kids will be fascinated by the beetles lurking in the natural history exhibition, and literary lovers will enjoy viewing books from Kelscott Press’s edition of Canterbury Tales and some early examples of books printed by William Caxton.

Find a map to the museum here.

Seaside

8. Penryn Museum

Penryn Museum contains an eclectic mix of local treasures documenting the history of this small Cornish town.

As well as items from the town’s domestic history – such as old cookers, appliances and tools – the museum is home to artifacts found during an archaeological dig in 2003 when volunteers excavated what’s believed to be the site of medieval learning institution, Glasney College.

Find a map to the museum here.

9. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery

This museum hosts a rich variety of items, of local and international importance. More traditional items include the display of West Country silver, and local archaeological finds, but the museum also hosts a variety of artefacts from around the world – from hats and accessories to jewellery and even a small collection of human remains. The museum also has three exhibition spaces where temporary collections can be displayed, meaning each visit is likely to reveal something new.

Find a map to the museum here.

10. Poole Museum

The maritime history of Poole is documented in this Victorian warehouse set on the town’s famous quay. Highlights include the Poole Longboat dating back to 295BC, exquisite examples of Poole Pottery and a collection of fine art. The museum also runs free family activities during the school holidays and has an arts and crafts area for kids on the third floor. So it’s perfect for the whole family!

Find a map to the museum here.

11. Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum

Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum hosts an extensive range of items, from archaeological to costume and decorative arts. There are also a great many objects relating to Cheltenham’s more local history, including Edward Wilson and his part in Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic Expedition

Without a map, you could get lost, but don’t worry, you can find a map to the museum here.

Whatever you’re interested in and wherever you’re going, there’s a museum for everyone. So, head back in time and enjoy a fun and fascinating day out without spending a penny!

Couple Looking at Modern Art in Museum

12. Museum and Art Gallery, Derby

The Museum and Art Gallery in Derby plays host to an impressive range of artefacts, ranging from the ancient Egyptian to more locally sourced exhibits. The collection of military objects and weaponry are sure to spark imagination, and the archaeology gallery contains exhibits dating back thousands of years. The gallery also displays a collection of Joseph Wright paintings, a must for art lovers.

Find a map to the museum here.

13. Newarke Houses Museum

Leicester, Leicestershire
If you love toys, you’ll love Newarke Houses Museum, which has a fantastic collection of toys dating right back to Tudor times. There’s also a chance to learn the story of Daniel Lambert – once the biggest man in England – whose over-sized furniture and clothing is on display for all to see. Finally, there’s also a 1950s street scene to explore and even a children’s play area, where the little ones can try out a range of different games. So this museum is a must for families!

Find a map to the museum here.

14. Irchester Narrow Gauge Railway Museum

Wellingborough, Northampton
If trains are your thing, look no further than the Irchester Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Wellingborough. Home to a variety of exhibits documenting the history of the railway industry, visitors to the museum can enjoy over 30 items of rolling stock, including both steam and diesel trains.

Find a map to the museum here.

15. Market Hall Museum

Market Hall is a 17th century building in the centre of Warwick. The museum looks at the history of Warwickshire, its residents and natural history. Highlights include The Warwickshire Bear – a full-sized stuffed bear, a selection of toys, some of which date back to the 18th century, and archaeological artefacts dating back to the Stone Age.

Find a map to the museum here.

16. Royal Armouries

Fareham, Hampshire
If weapons and armour are your thing, you should check out the Royal Armouries in Fareham. The museum boasts 700 artefacts from a range of countries, dating as far back as six centuries ago. As well as providing an insight into the history of combat, this museum also pays homage to the fact that Fort Nelson was part of a large-scale project to ensure that Portsmouth was defended from all potential enemy attack in the 19th Century. So this location is perfect for anyone interested in warfare.

Find a map to the museum here.

Knight in armour and helmet

17. Maidstone Museum

The diverse range of exhibits in this enormous museum cannot fail to impress. Maidstone Museum has been in existence for over 160 years and holds over 600,000 items for history lovers to enjoy. The artefacts on display – in categories including fine art and natural history – are extensive and the museum also hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions meaning each visit will turn up something new!

Find a map to the museum here.

18. Bourne Hall Museum

With a range of exhibits, the Bourne Hall Museum displays artefacts documenting the history of the local area. From fine art to fashion, the Romans to Lord Rosebery, the museum offers visitors the chance to glimpse into Surrey’s past. Some of the most memorable exhibits include a hansom cab and a fire engine dating back to the 19th century. So there is something for everyone!

Find a map to the museum here.

19. The Museum of Natural History

Famed as a centre of learning, Oxford is the ideal location for this impressive Museum of Natural History. Containing a wealth of collections, both geological and zoological, highlights include the only soft-tissue remains of the Dodo, as well as the Skeleton parade – a collection of mammal skeletons, which encourages visitors to compare the make-up of different mammals and consider how evolution has shaped each one for specific needs.

Find a map to the museum here.

20. Bucks County Museum

If you enjoy your history ‘hands on’ then you’ll love Bucks County Museum, which documents the natural and social history of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes including displays that visitors are encouraged to touch. With a collection of over 100,000 items, the museum contains a range of exhibits from archaeology to British studio pottery and costume.

Find a map to the museum here.

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