All Together Now! Best Guide to London Museum Membership

Do you love museums?  Do you want a nice place to meet friends for a drink?  Are you looking for the perfect present? If the answer to any of these questions is YES, then a London museum membership is for you.  Over the years I have belonged to many cultural organisations and enjoyed the benefits of the members’ rooms and private views, as well as the warm glow of support. Read on for my guide to the Best London Museum Memberships

London Museum Membership

Museum Membership make the best presents, in my opinion. Who needs more stuff when you can have a card that enables you to get out and about to see wonderful things.

London Museum Memberships

Membership comes in all shapes and sizes, do you want access just for you or do you want family membership?  Do you want to be invited to private views?  Do you want to go to special member-only talks?  Would you like your child to have a museum sleepover?  So many questions, here is my guide to joining in with London’s museums.

British Library

Members of the British Library get to visit exhibitions as often as they want, get access to a rather swish members’ room that morphs into a bar in the evening.  You and up to three friends can think literary thoughts whilst you quaff cocktails until 10pm each evening.

  • COST: £87 a year individual
  • MEMBERS ROOM: Yes
  • MAGAZINE: No
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes for you and a guest
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes and other special events
  • DISCOUNT: Yes 20% in cafe and shops

British Museum

In my opinion the only thing that lets the British Museum down is the cafes.  Not that that worries members because they get a smart room overlooking the Great Court to relax in and a special members’ cloakroom in which to leave coats and heavy bags.  You are kept informed of special member events via an email.

  • COST: £79 a year individual
  • MEMBERS ROOM: Yes
  • MAGAZINE: Yes, three copies a year
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in shops and restaurants

Historic Royal Palaces

Hampton Court, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, the Banqueting House and  Kew Palace are all covered by membership of the Historic Royal Palaces.  You also get Hillsborough Castle which will be handy when you visit Northern Ireland.  We have had HRP membership for many years and love it.  It means that you can drop into places like the Tower of London without queuing and don’t feel that you have to see every last nook and cranny during one visit to get your money’s worth.  Or you can while away whole afternoons reclining on the beanbags in the Banqueting Hall, when it reopens

  • COST: £65 a year individual or £120 family
  • MEMBERS ROOM: No
  • MAGAZINE: Yes three times a year
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes, some extra special events will be discounted
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in shops and restaurants

Imperial War Museums

But the Imperial War Museum is free to visit I hear you cry. Yes, but the Churchill War Rooms, HMS Belfast and Imperial War Museum Duxford all cost money and you get in for free with your IWM membership. Plus 10% of tickets to the Duxford Airshow

  • COST: £60 adult or £126 family
  • MEMBERS ROOM: No
  • MAGAZINE: Electronic not physical copy
  • FREE AND UNLIMITED ENTRY TO CHURCHILL WAR ROOMS AND HMS BELFAST: Yes
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: NO
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in shops and Duxford Air Show

Members of the National Gallery not only get invited to special previews they also get an exclusive summer party.  I confess that I rather like the idea of sipping a glass of something cooling in the National Gallery rooms.  There is also a free members’ cloakroom in which to leave cumbersome coats and the like.

Disclosure: This is an affiliate link, if you click and join the National Gallery members scheme from this I will get a small amount of money 
  • COST: £75 a year or £119 member plus guest
  • MEMBERS ROOM: No but one is planned
  • MAGAZINE: No but a special website
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in shops and restaurants

Natural History Museum

Belonging to the Natural History Museum members is worth it just to able to skip those enormous queues that snake outside every weekend, during school holidays and on inset days.  Not only that, you get a discount on the Dinosnores sleep overs.

  • COST: £73 a year individual, plus £30 to bring a guest, £102 family
  • MEMBERS ROOM: Yes, a whole suite of them
  • MAGAZINE: Yes
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes
  • DISCOUNTS: 10% in shops, cafes and special events.

Wandering around the National Portrait Gallery is like stepping inside a lavishly illustrated history book.  Everybody who was anybody is here.  Read the information notes by each portrait and you will come out equipped to sit a GCSE in History.  Entry to the main galleries is free but you pay for the excellent special exhibitions.

  • COST: £66 a year individual or £90 plus guest
  • MEMBERS ROOM: No, but discounts in the excellent NPG cafe and restaurant
  • MAGAZINE: Yes
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in shops and restaurants

Postal Museum

The Postal Museum tells the fascinating story of the Britain’s postal system AND has the only museum underground train ride in London.

  • COST: £45 individual, £65 joint, £70 family
  • INDIVIDUAL/JOINT PERKS: Unlimited museum entry, 3 mail rail rides per person, priority booking for tunnel walks
  • FAMILY PERKS: Unlimited museum entry, one mail rail ride per person (two adults and up to three children), 10 tickets for Sorted! play area, 10% discount on birthday parties
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in cafe and shop

Royal Academy

There are many layers of membership at the Royal Academy. Regular membership gets you and a friend entry into exhibitions and the members’ café. Go up a level to Bar and Garden member and you have access to a whole warren of bars, a garden and a restaurant. If you are feeling really fancy and have deep pockets House membership gets you into an even more exclusive room, this is so exclusive that just paying is not enough, you need to apply.

  • COST: Adult £150, Bar & Garden membership £250
  • MEMBERS ROOM: Yes
  • MAGAZINE: Yes
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes for you and a friend
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in shops and restaurants

The Saatchi Gallery is a bit of hybrid it has its own curated exhibitions and also plays host partner exhibitions, being a member gets you into all the Saatchi own brand shows and preferential access to the others. You also get invites to prices views and special lates for the big blockbuster shows.

  • COST: £50 a year individual or £90 family
  • MEMBERS ROOM: No
  • MAGAZINE: Monthy email
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: sort of, yes to Saatchi curated shows and discounts on others.
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in shops and restaurants

Tate

You get two for the price of one with the Tate with access to both Tate Britain and Tate Modern.  Both galleries have members’ rooms, the one at Tate Modern offers the most spectacular views of all the London membership rooms.  Should Tate Liverpool or Tate St Ives be on your itinerary then you can add them for an extra £12 each.

  • COST: £84 a year or £126 for a friend to access too
  • MEMBERS ROOM: Yes in both Tate Britain and Tate Modern
  • MAGAZINE: Yes
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes but you need to pay an extra £42
  • LIVERPOOL and ST IVES: Pay an extra £12 each for these to be included
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in shops and restaurants

Royal Museums Greenwich

Greenwich is a wonderful place, I would go as far to say to out of town visitors that if you only venture out of zone 1 once during your visit to London make it Greenwich. Membership of the Royal Museums Greenwich gets you into the Royal Observatory, the Peter Harrison Planetarium, the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark.  You also get uptown 50% of the Cute Sark rig climb. Whilst you are in Greenwich you can visit the Queen’s House for free.

  • COST: £60 or £75 joint or £85 for a family
  • MEMBERS ROOM: Yes in the National Maritime Museum
  • MAGAZINE: Yes
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in shops and restaurants

Victoria and Albert Museum

Hands up, I am a member of the V&A and I love it.  The Members Room is light and airy and makes a good place to meet for lunch, a special free of charge members cloak room and discounts.  Not only that they have a special members week in May when there all sorts of member only events and a 20% discount in the shop, given that my jewellery comes almost exclusively from the shop I think that pays for my membership!

  • COST: £87 a year individual, plus guest £122
  • MEMBERS ROOM: Yes
  • MAGAZINE: Yes 3 times a year
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes

Children’s London Museum Membership

British Museum

Ever wanted a sleepover in a museum?  I would have given my eye-teeth for this when I was a child, still would!   Young members of the British Museum get the chance to do just that, for a discounted fee.  They also get a special magazine, a birthday card and range of activities tailored especially for children.

Young Members of the British Museum is changing … watch this space for news.

  • COST: Sign up to newsletter for free
  • MAGAZINE: Yes digital newsletter
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes but children go free anyway

Royal Institution

The Royal Institution is the home of British Science.  Down in the basement is a fantastic free museum, this is the place to see the coil that Michael Faraday used in his early electricity experiments.  If you have children that love science the Ri do excellent day courses in the holidays.  Every year since 1825 Christmas Lectures have been delivered by a prominent scientist, the audience is made up of young members of the Ri.

  • COST: £34 per child
  • MEMBERS ROOM: No
  • Exclusive access to the Christmas Lectures ticket ballot
  • FREE tickets to Family Fun Days
  • MAGAZINE:  No, but emails packed with experiments to try at home
  • DISCOUNTS: 10% discount in the Ri Café, discount on selected workshops

UK Cultural Membership

Cultural membership is not restricted to London, most regional museums have membership schemes. If you don’t live in London or like to travel around the country there take a look at the Art Fun, National Trust and English Heritage for nationwide coverage.

Art Fund

The Art Fund National Art Pass is one of the best bargains out there for serial visitor of exhibitions and museums. The card will get you into hundred of galleries all around the UK for free and gets you 50% of entry to many special exhibitions. We have family membership and it pays for itself every year without fail. Being able to walk into Norwich Castle Museum as often as we want with just waving a card is worth it alone!

  • COST: £79 adult, plus £45 for a plus one, plus £15 for children. Under 30’s £36
  • MAGAZINE: Yes, four times a year
  • ART MAP: Actually a book detailing all the places you get free or discounted entry
  • BENEFITS: Free entry into 225 museums, galleries and houses across the UK, discounted entry to many more, 50% off major exhibitions.

National Trust

It is one of my big regrets that I didn’t buy life membership of the National Trust when I was 18. Still family membership is still a great bargain. Although usually associated with stately homes and vast tracts of open countryside the National Trust does have several properties in London and has provides free entry into some houses that are not National Trust. Check out my guide to London Historic Houses for inspiration of London National Trust properties to visit.

  • COST: £84 Adult, £146.40 Family
  • MAGAZINE: YES, Three times a year
  • HANDBOOK: Yes, details all properties and opening times
  • BENEFITS: Free entry into over 500 places, free car parking in most National Trust Car Parks

English Heritage

In my mind English Heritage is all about castles and ruins and indeed it does have lots of these and lots more. In London English Heritage cares for nearly 50 statues and monuments, which of course you can look at without paying. We have enjoyed visits to Apsley House, Wellington Arch, Kenwood House and Eltham Palace over the years.

  • COST: £69 Adult, £120 Family
  • MAGAZINE: Yes, four times a year
  • HANDBOOK: Yes, detailing all properties and opening times
  • BENEFITS: Free entry to all properties and car parking at English Heritage managed sites.
Disclosure: If you click on this link and buy English Heritage Membership I will get a small amount of money

If you fancy visiting a exhibition here is my handy guide London’s Best Museum Exhibitions or how about relaxing in a beautiful museum cafe or browsing London’s Museum Shops?

Do you have a London museum membership?  Which are your favourites?  More importantly which London Museum Memberships have I missed!

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25 Comments

  1. helenvicjo
    October 25, 2017 / 10:41 am

    That was really useful, and comprehensive. This year I joined V&A specially to be able to take various friends to the Opera exhibition ( though I know they might also get diverted to Balenciaga etc). Over the years, I’ve joined many for just a year – British Museum, Tate Modern, and my friends and I try to share it around, so we can be each other’s +1 – this year I’ve been to a lot of RA events as a friend of a Friend.
    Also I’ve joined Dulwich Picture Gallery, as it’s quite local.
    Apart from that, I make good use of my Art Pass. Aren’t we lucky?

    • October 25, 2017 / 12:00 pm

      We are! I have an Art Pass too such good value ….. thinks should I include it here

  2. October 25, 2017 / 8:22 pm

    Such a useful post! Like the sound of the children’s museum membership, perfect xmas present idea for a number of kids I know!

    • October 25, 2017 / 8:30 pm

      I would have loved one when I was a child

  3. October 31, 2017 / 11:15 am

    Great information about the London Museums. Very handy for all ages. #CityTripping

  4. October 31, 2017 / 5:09 pm

    Wonderful! And I’d like to add, that even if you don’t live in London its worth joining just for a visit as you’ll often save money, and you get the fun perks too! We joined the HRP a few years ago, and visited 3 places for basically the price of one! #citytripping

    • October 31, 2017 / 5:17 pm

      Good point Hilary! I’ve never thought of becoming a member when we travel.

  5. October 31, 2017 / 9:43 pm

    I hadn’t realised quite how many of the museums have membership – I’ve toyed with the idea of the HRP one (love the Tower and Hampton Court especially) and would love to do one of the overnights with my daughter when she’s older. Definitely making a note of this… Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • October 31, 2017 / 9:44 pm

      We have got such good value out of the HRP membership, they have excellent member only events as well

  6. October 31, 2017 / 11:45 pm

    What a great idea. If we lived closer to London I can see us definitely having passes to the Royal Palaces! #citytripping

  7. Clare Thomson
    November 1, 2017 / 3:08 pm

    What an absolutely brilliant idea for a post, Catherine! It’s so great to see all the prices and perks all in one place. I’ve been a member of the RA for at least 25 years now – they really should give me a discount! I think of it as my own private club actually. I love coming into London and heading straight there. I love the Friends’ Room and it’s so great to visit all the exhibitions with your own guests.

    • November 1, 2017 / 4:43 pm

      I’ll keep an eye out for you next time!

      • Clare Thomson
        November 2, 2017 / 10:17 am

        I bet we’ve both been there at the same time at least once!

  8. November 14, 2017 / 8:18 am

    If we were still in London, I would be seriously considering the Historic Palaces one right now – that’s very good value. In fact, it’s good value if you are just thinking about going to all of them in one trip. Hmmmmmmm. Temptng. I think the others would be a bit of a luxury for me really as all my museum going is with kids, and I’d imagine the fun of the members rooms is to escape the hurly burly. But the kids won’t be kids forever…

    • November 14, 2017 / 8:38 am

      I concede that we had the Historic Royal Palaces when the children were small and once they were at school membership with a calm members room was my first Christmas present!

  9. March 15, 2018 / 11:37 am

    Ok, well I definitely do think I would ever get a membership, especially since I thought all London museums were free, but I do hope to try to visit the Natural History Museum next week! #FarawayFiles

    • March 15, 2018 / 4:15 pm

      You are right the big London museums are all free for the main collections but for special shows you pay 💰

  10. March 15, 2018 / 8:42 pm

    great post, thanks for gathering all that information in one place. Isn’t London Fabulous??

  11. March 16, 2018 / 3:19 pm

    Love this! Great idea for a post! So helpful to those who live in London. I used to run a membership group at MoMA and the perks were amazing. This is a reminder I have to renew a few memberships! Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    • March 16, 2018 / 3:23 pm

      Thank you, I confess that I have a wallet full of museum membership cards!

  12. Wherejogoes
    March 18, 2018 / 6:27 pm

    What a hugely useful round up of all the London museum memberships – great idea! #FarawayFiles

  13. March 19, 2018 / 2:05 pm

    Great idea Catherine! I’m sure in a town like London there are so many options of where to commit your membership monies to each year – a perfect post to compare them all in one place. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles

    • March 22, 2018 / 7:27 pm

      Thank you, you will pleased to hear that I have road tested most of them over the years!

  14. Anisa
    December 29, 2018 / 6:46 am

    I think museum memberships are a great idea, I would probably join several if I was closer to London. The special member only events sound like a lot of fun! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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