Top 10 Free Galleries in London

Everyone loves free stuff. Especially in London, a city where nothing comes cheap. There are plenty of hotels in London worth a splurge, not to mention restaurants, bars and shopping. So why blow your dough on the arty farty stuff? There’s no need!

Tate Modern
Bankside Power Station, 25 Sumner Street, SE1 9TG

It’s worth a visit just for the building – a former power station transformed into 10,000 m2 of gallery space by architects Hertzog and de Meuron. The Thameside location, on Southbank opposite St Paul’s, is a drawcard too. But art lovers will also go gaga for the masters of modern art on display here: Picasso, Dali, Pollock and Warhol all feature alongside British artists from the 20th century and beyond.

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Tate Britain
Millbank, SW1P 4RG

The original Tate Gallery, founded by sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate, houses a sweet collection of primarily British art from the 15th to the 20th century. Modern artists include Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Francis Bacon and the largest Turner collection in the world. A handy Tate-to-Tate boat service zips along the Thames to the Modern.

The National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE

If portraits are your bag then the National Portrait Gallery will rock your world. Seriously. True, it’s not Damien Hirst headline-grabbing stuff but still, there’s a lot to like within this venerable space. The gallery is home to 160,000 portraits dating from the 16th century on. From William Shakespeare to Sir Paul McCartney, and Queen Elizabeth II (as seen through the eyes of Andy Warhol), the portraits are a who’s who of Notable Brits.

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Whitechapel Gallery
80 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX

Britain’s first purpose-built arts gallery, the Whitechapel has become an East End institution. Renowned both for its beautiful cathedral-like space and embrace of the local community, the gallery constantly rotates free exhibits. Many now-famous artists, such as David Hockney and Rachel Whiteread, had their first shows here.

National Gallery
Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

Taking pride of place on the north side of Trafalagar Square, the National Gallery houses one of the finest collections of Western European paintings in the world.  The lineup of masters on display isn’t too shabby. Maybe you’re familiar with Messrs Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Cezanne? The gallery is committed to its free admission policy, with a super convenient central location.

White Cube Gallery
48 Hoxton Square, N1 6PB

Yes, you’ll see as many lens-free glasses and skinny jeans on display here as actual art, but the hipsters are on to something. This, the original White Cube gallery (there’s a second space at Piccadilly) houses one of the world’s best (and most challenging) collections of contemporary art. Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Jake, Dinos Chapman and Antony Gormley – basically all the former YBAs – are all featured. Head here on opening nights for the added bonus of free beer.

Saatchi Gallery
Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, SW3 4SQ

The Saatchi Gallery moved to its new home in Chelsea in 2008. The 70,000 square foot space offers free admission to all shows as part of the Saatchi Gallery’s aim to bring contemporary art to the widest audience possible. Plus you’re allowed to take photos everywhere in the building. The exhibitions change 3 to 4 times a year so do visit regularly.

South London Gallery
65 Peckham Road, London, SE5 8UH

As a ‘gallery for the people of south London open to the public free, and on Sundays’, as the original 1891 mission statement states, the South London Gallery is a classic. The facility opened additional buildings in 2010 with new small-scale galleries, an artists’ flat, a café and gardens. Exhibitions here are first-class, free, and feature renowned international artists alongside younger British artists – Tracey Emin’s famous tent was first commissioned by the gallery.

Photographers’ Gallery
16-18 Ramillies Street, W1F 7LW

London’s largest public gallery of photography, the Photographers’ Gallery features a core collection of classic and contemporary photographs, alongside an eclectic selection of work by emerging stars. The gallery is currently undergoing renovations but you can find current events on their website. The new space is due to open in late 2011.

Banksy in London

While not technically a gallery, the streets of London are home to some of the world’s most iconic street art, most famously graffiti artist and political activist, Banksy. While much of the work has been – ironically – defaced, or removed, many partial works still remain, particularly in East and North London. Art of the Estate have an online gallery and location map that is regularly updated.

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  5. Top 10 Art Galleries of the World :: Gaia Gallery

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