ALL TOGETHER NOW! LONDON MUSEUM MEMBERSHIP

Do you love museums?  Do you want a nice place to meet friends for a drink?  Want to see Dior Designer of Dreams at the V&A?  If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’ then a London museum membership might be 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.

LONDON MUSEUM MEMBERSHIP

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: £80 a year individual or £120 joint
  • MEMBERS ROOM: Yes
  • MAGAZINE: No, but you do get a free book when you join
  • 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 mind the only thing that lets the British Museum down is the cafes.  Not that it worried 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: £74 a year individual or £98 joint
  • MEMBERS ROOM: Yes
  • MAGAZINE: No
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes for an additional £25 you can bring a friend with you
  • 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.

  • COST: £53 a year individual, £82 joint, £108 family
  • MEMBERS ROOM: Yes at Hampton Court only.
  • MAGAZINE: Yes three times a year
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes and to each palace
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in shops and restaurants

NATIONAL GALLERY

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.

  • COST: £68 a year or £107 member plus guest
  • MEMBERS ROOM: No
  • MAGAZINE: No but a special website
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes, if you want to bring a friend pay an extra £28 a year
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in shops and restaurants

NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

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: £55 a year individual or £80 plus guest
  • MEMBERS ROOM: No, but I think that The Portrait Restaurant is one of the finest places in London to drink coffee
  • MAGAZINE: Yes
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes
  • DISCOUNT: 10% in shops and restaurants

ROYAL ACADEMY

You don’t join the Royal Academy, you become its friend.  Boy, is it generous to its friends.  You don’t only get a special Friends’ room but also a series of bars, gardens and fully fledged restaurant.  I have been a Friend since I first came to London and have been known to pop in just to use the Friends’ room.

  • COST: £138 per year
  • 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

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 £10 each.

  • COST: £86 a year or £130 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: Pay an extra £44 a year to be invited
  • LIVERPOOL and ST IVES: Pay an extra £10 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 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(at the Cutty Sark you get fast track entry too).  Whilst you are in Greenwich you can visit the Queen’s House for free.

  • COST: £49 a year or £70 joint or £80 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

Want to see Dior and don’t already have a ticket? Then your options are to queue very early in the morning on the off chance that you get one of the very limited number of on the day tickets OR become a member. 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: £79 a year individual, plus guest £109, extra card £161
  • MEMBERS ROOM: Yes
  • MAGAZINE: Yes 3 times a year
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes
  • MEMBERS PREVIEWS: Yes

CHILDREN’S 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.  They also get a special magazine, a birthday card and range of activities tailored especially for children.

  • COST: £30 a year (sleepover cost £45 a time)
  • MAGAZINE: Yes
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes but children go free anyway

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

You can belong to the Natural History Museum as just an adult but the BIG benefit is being 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, £95 joint, £102 family
  • MEMBERS ROOM: Yes
  • MAGAZINE: Yes
  • FREE & UNLIMITED ENTRY TO SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS: Yes
  • DISCOUNTS: 10% in shops, cafes and special events.

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: £29 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

NATIONWIDE 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: £70 adult, £115 family
  • 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: £72 Adult, £126 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. 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: £60 Adult, £105 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.

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

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

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