10 Great Museum Lates in London for Evening Explorations
Looking for something to do after the sun sets over West London? There is no shortage of fun things to do in London at night – bar hopping, West End shows, taking a stroll along the Thames to enjoy the city lights – there’s also a special kind of experience you might want to have in London, especially if you love museums… or you just love that most of London’s museums are free. It’s called Museum Lates.
If you’ve never heard the term “Museum Late,” that’s okay – it’s a British expression for when a museum stays open late on a specific night. Usually, this is a great opportunity to experience the galleries and exhibits in a different way, but sometimes it means there’s a special event or occasion you can only enjoy at that time – on occasion, it’s also an adults-only experience, which is great fun at some museum which are typically more oriented toward children (like the Science Museum).
So as we consider the best Museum Lates in London, you’ll see a lot of the same museums on this list that you will on my list of the best museums in London. That means you can experience many of London’s best museums by day and by night, depending on your visit dates and travel plans.
Ready to dive into the list of all the Museum Lates you might want to add to your London itinerary? Here are my favorites – though many smaller museums might also hold Lates from time to time, so you can always check as you plan your trip.
1. British Museum
The British Museum boasts two million years of human history, art, and culture. Quite frankly, it’s one of the most incredible London museums to visit at any time of day. It’s also one of the best museum lates in London, open until 8:30 pm (last entry 7:30 pm) on Fridays.
You’ll enjoy an evening filled with lectures, debates, discussions, film screenings, live theater, dance, and music performances in the heart of Britain. Catch a glimpse of the most famous records of human history in their permanent collection, like the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon Sculptures, Akan Drum, and the Aztec serpent.
It’s impossible to see all of their eight-million-piece collection in one day. If you get there early, you may see around 50,000 artifacts. But if you are keen to learn about the evolution of human culture, add the British Museum to every one of your London itineraries each time you visit.
Top Tip: Fridays are great days to visit the museum, as their late openings start at 5 pm.
2. The Barbican
Although not one of the typical museum lates in London, the Barbican is a performance arts center and a melting pot for theater, art, and film. The complex opens daily from 9:30 am to 11 pm, giving you enough time to explore the center’s library, cinema, conservatory, and restaurants.
If you’re an art enthusiast, the Barbican Art Gallery closes late from Thursday to Saturday, opening its doors from 10 am to 8 pm (last entry 7 pm). You’ll find collections from local and international artists, workshops, talks, and guided art tours.
Top Tip: If you’d like to see more art while visiting the city, look at some of these excellent street art tours in London.
3. The London Mithraeum
Located in Bloomberg’s new European headquarters, the London Mithraeum museum is home to more than 400 ancient Roman writing tablets. It’s often referred to as the Temple of Mithras, Walbrook, which is where the tablets were discovered during an excavation in 1954.
The London Mithraeum opens daily, except Mondays and bank holidays. On the first Thursday of the month, the museum stays open until 8 pm. You’ll get an up-close look at ancient Roman history by perusing the fascinating artifacts.
Note: Please be advised that flash photography and video recording are prohibited in the London Mithraeum.
4. London Transport Museum
Looking for a fun way to discover London’s historic public transport system after hours? The London Transport Museum is one of the best museum lates in London. On Fridays, the quirky museum hosts an adults-only event that runs on a theme inspired by one of the collections.
If you’re over 18, you can get a glimpse of the London Transport Museum’s newest exhibitions and enjoy music and drinks from some of the best bars in London. The event runs until 10 pm and is jam-packed with craft workshops and educational talks from expert speakers.
Top Tip: If it’s a family outing you seek, you can visit the museum daily between 10 am and 6 pm.
5. National Gallery
The National Gallery is another popular London museum lates you’ll find in the city. Situated in Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery boasts an impressive collection of over 2,600 paintings from the mid-13th century to 1900.
You can have a sneak peek of this collection for a little longer on Friday, as the museum closes at 9 pm. You’ll enjoy guided tours, talks, art shows, and live music events. End your night with a lovely meal and a refreshing drink at the National Cafe, closing at 11 pm, from Monday to Saturday.
6. Natural History Museum
When it comes to fun and interactive museum lates in London, the Natural History Museum takes the cake. You can enjoy one of the busiest museums in London at quieter times (after hours) on the last Friday of every month.
The Friday event runs until 10 pm and boasts many engaging activities, including talks and special exhibitions. You can even arrange for a sleepover at the museum. Have a go at realistic virtual games and classic board games over special drinks, as well as join a “Mystery at the Museum” event.
7. Science Museum
The Science Museum is the most visited science and technology museum in all of Europe. It’s no surprise considering the museum houses over 300,000 artifacts, all of which are worth exploring. You can enjoy an adults-only themed event every last Wednesday of the month between 6:30 pm and 10 pm.
The museum hosts a range of activities like science talks, comedy shows, interactive exhibits, a pub quiz, and a silent disco. You’ll be happy to know that some of the cafes at the museum are also open until late, so you head there for a nightcap before calling it.
8. Tate Britain
Formerly known as the National Gallery of British Art, now Tate Britain is aimed at showcasing and promoting British art to the world.
Every two months, the gallery hosts one of the best museum lates in the city, featuring live music, 10-minute talks, and workshops.
The late event ends at 9:30 pm and is carefully curated by a young group of artistic individuals who are part of the Tate Collective Producers. They create shows, particularly for young people.
9. Tate Modern
Situated in an ex-power station, Tate Modern boasts a range of internationally acclaimed modern and contemporary art. The museum houses several galleries and the United Kingdom’s national collection of British art.
You can peruse the artworks and sit in talks, workshops, and screenings, all without the crowds, at Tate Modern’s late museum event. The late event happens on the last Friday of every month until 10 pm. There’ll be DJ sets and UNIQLO Tate exhibitions on show.
10. The V&A
The Victoria and Albert Museum is home to the largest museum of design, applied, and decorative arts. You can admire London’s contemporary visual culture and design at the V&A with live music, installations, performances, and film until 10 pm every Friday.
You’ll also find a selection of food and drinks to keep the thirst at bay while jamming to music, engaging in debates, or hosting your own art installation at the museum.
Bonus: Great Non-Museum Lates
If you’re looking for even more late-night activities with a bit of culture thrown in, there are a few other spots I recommend:
- Somerset House – Somerset House is not one of your typical London museum lates. This historic art gallery has taken on several roles over the centuries as home to the Royal Academy of Arts and the Society of Antiquaries, to name a few. You can check out their late shows, performances, workshops, talks, and live music events hosted in the courtyard all year round.
- The London Zoo – Discover animals galore with live music, food, and drinks at the London Zoo. The late event happens from 6 pm until 10 pm every Friday. You’ll also find animal demonstrations and courses on offer.
- Westminster Abbey – Functioning as a working religious site for nearly 1,000 years, Westminster Abbey is known for its luxurious royal weddings, coronations, and burials. You can experience this London bucket list item on Wednesday nights by taking a self-guided tour through the famous 14th-century cellar.
Have questions about any other London museums you plan to visit, or these top Museum Lates in London? Let me know in the comments below!