A Guide To London's Museum Lates

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 8 months ago
A Guide To London's Museum Lates
Natural History Museum is open late once a month.

London's museum lates are split into two categories. There are museums and galleries that stay open late once a week or once a month, offering a chance to view the exhibits outside of normal hours. Then there are the museum lates which are events in their own right, with talks, workshops and food and drink offerings in these usually peaceful places.

It can be hard keeping track of what's on when, so we've put together this handy day by day guide. Some events are weekly, some monthly, and others are less frequent. Happily, plenty of them are free. Know any we've missed? Let us know in the comments.

Monday

Know of any late openings on a Monday? Let us know in the comments.

Tuesday

Know of any late openings on a Tuesday? Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday

The silent disco is a staple of the Science Museum Lates

CITY OF LONDON POLICE MUSEUM: Not so much an event as a late night opening, this small but impressive Square Mile museum stays open late every Wednesday. It covers subjects such as the Blitz, Jack the Ripper, and the City of London Police's Olympic team. Free entry, just turn up, until 7.30pm every Wednesday

NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM: Chelsea' National Army Museum — which reopened in 2017 after a multi-million pound refurb — stays open late once a month for an extra chance to view the galleries and exhibitions. These late openings sometimes double up as exhibition launches — check the events page to see if anything special is happening. Free entry, just turn up, open until 8pm on the first Wednesday of the month.

SOUTH LONDON GALLERY: This art gallery on the Peckham-Camberwell border specialises in contemporary art, and stays open late every Wednesday. The cafe-restaurant is worth a visit too. The new nearby annexe, built in a former fire station, is due to open in September 2018. Free entry, just turn up, every Wednesday until 9pm (and the last Friday of every month)

SCIENCE MUSEUM: Once a month, this South Kensington behemoth stays open late giving adults a chance to explore the galleries after hours. Every late has a theme, as far-ranging as food, sexuality, circus and medicine, with events such as variety and cabaret shows and quizzes fitting in with theme. Oh, and the silent disco? Legendary. Some of the museum's cafes stay open late too, for light refreshments. Age 18+. Free entry (charge for some events), just turn up, last Wednesday of the month (not December), 6.45pm-10pm

Thursday

A past, Day of the Dead theme late at Horniman Museum

WHITECHAPEL GALLERY: Every Thursday, this east London gallery is open until 9pm, but the best time to visit is First Thursdays. The first Thursday of the month sees special events including talks and film screenings taking place throughout the gallery. On-site restaurant The Refectory stays open until 11pm on these days, transforming into a wine bar as the evening goes on. Free entry, just turn up, every Thursday until 9pm

HORNIMAN MUSEUM: Occasionally, Forest Hill's Horniman Museum hosts a late with a theme — usually tying in with whatever exhibition is currently open. It's adults-only, and can include talks, tours, film screenings and live music taking place throughout the museum, and in the gardens in the summer months. The pop-up food and drink stalls normally adhere to the theme too. Age 18+, £5, book ahead, Thursdays (irregular, but usually every couple of months), 6.30pm-9.30pm

WELLCOME COLLECTION: This bastion of all things scientific (and occasionally squeamish) in Euston stays open late every Thursday, and we've always found it a good time to see the popular exhibitions without the usual crowds. The restaurant and cafe also stay open late on Thursdays, so why not treat yourself to dinner after all that culture? Free entry, just turn up, every Thursday until 10pm.
The Wellcome Collection also holds more structured late events regularly, sometimes on Thursdays, sometimes on Fridays, usually tying in with current exhibitions. Keep an eye on the website for upcoming events.

The Dickens Museum, seen at night

CHARLES DICKENS MUSEUM: This museum, based in the Bloomsbury townhouse where Dickens himself once lived, stays open late once a month. See the rooms as they would have been in Dickens' time, get an insight into his writing inspiration, and see the current temporary exhibition. Normal admission price, book ahead, monthly Thursdays (check here), until 8pm (last admission 7pm)

FASHION & TEXTILE MUSEUM: Bermondsey's Fashion & Textile Museum doesn't have a permanent collection, so is only open at all during exhibitions. At this time, some Thursdays are late-night opening, usually featuring a talk on the theme of the exhibition, followed by a chance to view the exhibition. £15/£12, book ahead, various Thursdays, 6pm-8pm

Friday

Lates at the Natural History Museum

BRITISH MUSEUM: Who knew London got so cultural on a Friday night? The majority of galleries in the museum stay open until 8.30pm every Friday, but once in a while a special event Friday Late happens. Check the events page for upcoming lates — they're usually centred on a particular theme, with talks, films screenings and other events happening throughout the museum. Open until 8.30pm every Friday/occasional Friday lates are £5 and require booking

NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY: Every Friday, National Portrait Gallery offers talks, film screenings, live music and DJs, and drawing classes, all for free as part of the Friday Lates events. Not interested in all that? Just take the opportunity to explore the galleries after hours instead — ideal if the trains are up the spout at nearby Charing Cross. Free, just turn up, every Friday, 6pm-9pm

NATIONAL GALLERY: Not to be outdone by its neighbour, the National Gallery stays open late every Friday too. There's less fanfare here, just a chance to take in the art without the usual crowds. Free, just turn up, every Friday until 9pm

TATE GALLERIES: Once every couple of months, Tate Britain keeps its doors open for Late at Tate Britain. Expect activities including talks, workshops, and live DJs, all aimed at young professionals — although of course, all adults are welcome. Interspersed with this, Tate Modern runs its own, similar Friday night events, Uniqlo Tate Lates — check the programme for upcoming events. Occasional Fridays, free entry, just turn up, 6pm-9.30pm

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM: Visit the dinosaurs, whales and other specimens after hours, get hands-on at the pop-up science stations, and have a drink beneath the blue whale skeleton. Free, just turn up (book for some events), last Friday of the month (except December), 6pm-10pm

V&A: Once you've had a drink at the Natural History Museum, head across the road to the V&A where live performances, installations, debates and DJs all form part of the monthly Friday lates. Free, just turn up, last Friday of the month (except May and December), 6.30pm-10pm

LONDON TRANSPORT MUSEUM: Lates are few and far between at the London Transport Museum. When they do happen, they're usually to mark the launch of a new exhibition. Expect themed talks, screenings, workshops and more, as well as a chance to mingle among those buses after hours. Age 18+. £15/£12, book ahead, occasional Fridays, 6.45pm-10pm

God's Own Junkyard. Photo: Laura Reynolds

GOD'S OWN JUNKYARD: We don't know whether it counts as a museum or a gallery, or just a super-cool place, but this neon paradise in Walthamstow is open until 9pm on both Friday and Saturday nights. Take in the impressive neon artworks as you enjoy a beer at the Rolling Scones Cafe. Free entry, just turn up, until 9pm every Friday and Saturday

HENDRIX: From time to time, the Handel & Hendrix Museum holds a late night opening. Check events page for upcoming events. Fridays, very occasionally

DULWICH PICTURE GALLERY: This south London gallery keeps its doors open late on a Friday every couple of months for adults only. Access to current exhibitions is included in the ticket price, with themed talks and workshops taking place. A pop-up cocktail bar appears in the gallery too. Check the calendar for upcoming events. £12/£10, book ahead, occasional Fridays, 6pm-10pm

JOHN SOANE'S MUSEUM: Sir John Soane’s Museum opens after hours once a month for a special themed late. These lates offer a chance to explore the labyrinthine rooms of this quirky museum, atmospherically lit by candlelight. In addition, each late has a different theme, with talks, performances or rarely-seen objects from the collection making an appearance. £25, book ahead, monthly Fridays

Image: Sir John Soane's Museum

Saturday

TATE MODERN: In addition to those Uniqlo Tate Lates (see Friday), Tate Modern keeps its doors open until 10pm every Friday and Saturday, meaning you can enjoy the art (and those views) after the school trips and tourists have left. The Terrace Bar is open until 10pm too, and we find a wander through the galleries followed by a cocktail or two to be a rather civilised way to spend a Saturday night. Free entry (charge for some exhibitions), just turn up, every Friday and Saturday until 10pm

ROYAL ACADEMY: The Royal Academy occasionally hold Saturday night lates, that tend to be rather grand affairs. Usually tying into an exhibition the Academy has on, you can expect DJs, cocktails, bizarre performances and so much more. These tend to book out in advance though, so keep an eye on their website. £35-£45, book ahead, occasional Saturdays, 7pm-midnight

Sunday

Know of any late openings on a Sunday? Let us know in the comments.

Last Updated 15 June 2018