London is a notoriously creative city, having championed some of the best artists around the globe for centuries. The city has a wide array of great art galleries where you can see a world of artistic treasures, and in many of these spaces you can see the art without paying a fee.
While there are 33 boroughs in London (and not all of them feature galleries) we've compiled this list of the best free art galleries to see in some of London's top artistic spots, situated in a few of the 'Inner London' boroughs you'll be close to while staying in the capital. Whether you're intrigued by modern art or seek something more classical, there's sure to be a venue for you...
As a trendy part of the city, Camden is packed with great art galleries ideal for a visit while staying at the Montcalm Royal London House. One of our favourites in this region is the Camden Arts Centre, which hosts a regular selection of events throughout the year, including a wide array of free art exhibitions. The centre is noted for championing new and emerging talent, as well as a real avant garde flair which matches Camden's local art scene.
In addition to its exhibitions, the Camden Art Centre also features regular events including everything from talks to outreach programs and film screening, helping to get Camden locals and visitors alike inspired and involved in creating and championing the very best of the creative arts.
One of the busiest parts of the city, Westminster is filled with fabulous museums and art galleries, which regularly draw in visitors from around London and beyond. Your stay at a hotel in Finsbury Square provides the ideal excuse to head for the National Gallery, which is home to some of the world's finest artworks. During your visit you'll see pieces by the likes of Vermeer, Titian and Monet, as well as infamous paintings such as Vincent Gan Gogh's Sunflowers and many other stunning works by everyone from Rembrandt to Michelangelo. If you want to take a trip through the real history of art, this is a great place to start.
Elsewhere in the borough, you’ll find The Institute of Contemporary Arts, which is a fascinating modern space founded by a collective of artists and poets in 1946. Located close to 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, this gallery has presented groundbreaking exhibitions since its inception and continues to blaze a trail for modern art today.
Its shows feature written, spoken and performed work and you’ll usually find UK first exhibitions from a wealth of pioneering international artists. Previous shows have included a survey exhibition from the independent research agency, Forensic Architecture. Earlier this year, it hosted the first solo exhibition of Scottish artist Morag Keill. Entrance is free to members.
Kensington & Chelsea
The borough of Kensington & Chelsea is known for its luxury property and array of local attractions. Kensington Gardens are located in what was formerly part of Kensington Palace's sprawling private garden, but is now open to the public as one of the Royal Parks located throughout the city.
Kensington Gardens includes two art galleries, known collectively as the Serpentine Galleries. They are open each day, and were first developed in 1970 as the Serpentine Gallery and the Serpentine Sackler Gallery. In addition to showcasing a world of beautiful art, the galleries are known for showing off the latest international architecture.
A green and pleasant area of London, Greenwich includes an array of lovely places to walk, as well as lots for fans of museums and galleries to explore. One of the finest free art galleries is located here, on Greenwich Peninsula.
NOW Gallery includes work by new and established talent from fields such as art, design and the creative industries, and one of the major selling points of the space is its emphasis on immersive art.
For art fans seeking something a little unusual while enjoying London city hotel deals, the gallery offers three solo shows every year, commissioned by NOW Gallery and exploring intriguing themes as well as providing a window on the local arts scene. Many of the works on display blur the lines between art and design, helping to bring the gallery to life for both local and visiting art fans.
While not strictly speaking an art gallery in its own right, the Old Royal Navy College in Greenwich is another highly recommended addition to any art lover’s itinerary. While it became a naval training facility for offices in 1874 and is packed with naval artefacts, the standout feature of this UNESCO World Heritage Site for art fans will undoubtedly be the college’s Painted Hall. This space is considered to be home to the leading piece of decorative art in the whole of the United Kingdom with some describing it as the UK’s answer to the Sistine Chapel.
This borough of London has long been associated with the city's artistic scene, and though many of the galleries here only offer access to exhibitions following payment of a fee, there are some notable exceptions – such as the Hundred Years Gallery. Billing itself as a non profit organisation, the gallery showcases contemporary art from its impressive Hoxton studio, and visitors are sure to be impressed by the sheer variety of artwork on display.
The Hundred Years Gallery has become particularly renowned for its support of new and emerging artists who seek to push the boundaries of the contemporary art scene, ensuring a swift turnover of exciting new pieces to explore during your trip to London.
In addition to exploring and showcasing new art, the space also offers plentiful workshops and creative opportunities, seeking to engage the local community in creativity, regardless of their background or experience. This lends an edgy DIY sensibility to the gallery, which is in sharp contrast with some of the slicker offerings in the surrounding area.