Updated for 2023 here.
If you want to give something this Christmas that your recipient can use all year round, rather than socks and fragrances… give them membership of a museum they love.
Most museums have some form of membership scheme and usually offer a range of goodies, such as free entry for museums that charge an entrance fee, newsletters and the bigger venues tend to have private members’ events in the evenings or priority booking for public exhibitions.
As a present, it’s a very nice thing to offer, as people who love a museum now find they are getting invites to private events and tours, and can go into paid exhibitions for free as often as they like.
It’s a whole year of joy.
I’ve trawled around looking at the venues I am aware of and seeing which have a membership scheme with benefits for the member, and listed them below. The costs listed below are generally for payments by credit card for buying as a present, although most offer a discount if you want to pay by recurring direct debit.
If buying for a partner, most offer duel-memberships at a favourable rate, so you can share the fun together.
A museum membership isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for.. well, a whole year at least.
|Free entry to exhibitions, discounts on events and cinema, priority booking, along with options for private views of galleries.
|Benjamin Franklin House
|Free entry to the house, 2 guest tickets and discounts on events.
|British Film Institute
|Priority ticket bookings, no booking fees, discounts in their shops, special events and previews.
|Free entry for you and a guest to paid exhibitions, priority booking to events, and up to 4 free event tickets per year. Access to the members’ only room.
|Free entry to exhibitions and private members events, the members room in the museum and discounts in the shops/cafe.
|Free entry to the motoring museum, and special events.
|Free entry to the museum and invites to private events
|Carshalton Water Tower
|Free entry to the tower, private views of exhibitions and friends only social events.
|Free entry to the museum, exhibition previews and discounts on events.
|Charles Dickens Museum
|Free entry for you and a guest and discounts in the shop and events.
|Chelsea Physic Garden
|Free entry with a guest, free entry to partner gardens, and invites to special events.
|Free entry to paid exhibitions, priority booking and invitations to members previews.
|Free entry to exhibitions, and invites to private viewings, plus discounts on events.
|Free admission to the museum. A wide range of activities each year, including private views, concerts and talks led by Museum experts.
|Invites to private exhibition views and events.
|Free entry to the museum, discounts on events and invites to private views.
|Sizable regular magazine and access to exclusive activities that include visits to private houses not open to the public.
|Priority booking for public events, and invites to members-only events.
|Guildhall Art Gallery
|Free entry to paid exhibitions, plus free entry to Tower Bridge, Monument and Keats House, private tours and talks.
|Priority booking for events and invites to private viewings. (Note, museum is closed until 2023)
|Heath Robinson Museum
|Free entry to the museum, members events and priority booking.
|Priority booking and discounts for events.
|Free entry to Aquarium and exhibitions, 10% discount at the shop, a quarterly e-newsletter and invitations to exclusive members’ events and offers.
|Imperial War Museum
|Free entry to all IWM museums, private views and members events.
|Free entry to the museum, invitation to private views of new exhibitions and curator tours
|London Museum of Water & Steam
|Unlimited free visits, a quarterly newsletter, members-only events, free entry to the nearby Musical Museum.
|Free entry for you and a guest to Kew Gardens and Wakehurst, priority booking to events, and a range of member events.
|London Transport Museum
|Unlimited free entry to Museum at Covent Garden during all normal opening hours, plus one free entry to Acton Depot Open Weekend each year. Friends’ visits to transport and other venues.
|Unlimited entry to the two zoos, discounts in the shops, queue jump at the entry barriers, plus members events.
|Museum of Brands
|Free entry to the museum for yourself for a year.
|Museum of London
|Free entry to special exhibitions, along with special events exclusive to Friends. An invitation for you and a guest to private views of exhibitions. (Note, the main museum closes soon until 2026)
|Friends only events and tours, and discounts in the bookshop and at paid events.
|National Army Museum
|Free entry to paid exhibitions, curator tours and members-only events.(note, they’re not offering gift memberships at the moment)
|Free entry to paid exhibitions, and invites to members events.
|National Portrait Gallery
|Free entry to paid exhibitions, private viewings and discounts in the shops. Note, the gallery is closed at the moment, so membership runs until Dec 2023.
|Natural History Museum
|Free entry to paid exhibitions, priority entry to the museum, private events, private members’ room.
|Special events and tours, plus seminars and regular news.
|Free entry to the gallery, exclusive events and discounts in the shop.
|Free entry to the museum, 3 rides on the mail rail per year, invitations to private events and priority booking to public events.
|Royal Greenwich Museums
|Free entry to the three Greenwich museums, private views of galleries, and fast-track entry.
|Royal Institution of Great Britain
|Free tickets to lectures. Entry to members-only events, along with quarterly newsletters and discounts on purchases.
|Free entry to Saatchi arranged exhibitions, and discounts on visiting exhibitions.
|Priority booking and 20% off tickets.
|St Paul’s Cathedral
|Free entry to the Cathedral, private events and exhibition previews, plus priority booking for events.
|Sir John Soane’s Museum
|Discounts in the shop, plus invites to special events.
|Priority information and booking for key events throughout the year plus no booking fees. Free entry to exhibitions at The Hayward Gallery, plus access to the private Members Bar for you and up to 5 guests.
|Strawberry Hill House
|Free entry to Strawberry Hill, invites to the summer party, discounts in the shop and events.
|Free entry to all paid exhibitions, private viewings, and members rooms
|The Royal Academy of Arts
|Free entry to exhibitions for you and a family member. Visit each exhibition before it’s open to the public. A private members room, and quarterly newsletter.
|Free entry to exhibitions and previews, special members events and private members room.
|Free entry to paid exhibitions, exclusive member events, discounts in the shop and the restaurant.
|Queue jump and free entry to the Abbey, private evening entry to the Abbey and exclusive lectures.
|Private views of exhibitions, priority booking to events and discounts in the shop.
|The National Groups
|National Art Pass
|Discounted entry to art galleries and museums across the UK.
|Historic Royal Palaces
|Unlimited access to the six palaces throughout the year, a range of member events and discounts in the shops.
|Free entry and parking at more than 300 historic houses and gardens.
|Free entry and parking at more than 400 historic houses and gardens.
|Priority booking to buildings and invites to events.
|Historic Houses Association
|Free entry to hundreds of privately-owned houses, castles and gardens