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 a membership pack for a London museum they like to visit.

Friends-recruiting-kitchnerMost 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.

Becoming a Friend of a local museum is enlightened self-interest. You (I mean, the person you give the gift to) gets goodies, and the museum gets money.

I’ve trawled around looking at the venues I am aware of and seeing which have a Friends Society and listed them below.

Some have a very obvious process for purchasing a membership pack as a gift for someone else, others I have had to chase. The smaller museums the policy is generally to send the form to them with the recipients details on, but add a letter explaining that you want the introduction letter (etc) sent to you so you can hand it over as a present.

The costs listed below is generally for payments by credit card as opposed to cheaper direct debit, as I will presume you will only be buying a single year’s membership.

A museum membership isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for… well, a whole year at the very least.


Venue Cost Key Benefits Transfers

Barbican £45 Discounts on events and cinema, along with options for private views of galleries. Select the buy as gift option

Benjamin Franklin House £25 Free entry to the House with guest (normally £7 per person). Discounts to Benjamin Franklin House events and quarterly newsletter. No formal procedure – will arrange if you phone them.

British Film Institute £45 Priority ticket bookings, special events and previews. Select the gift membership option.

British Library £50 Invitations to a special events programme including visits, lectures and other events. A 10% discount at the Library bookshop and online shop, plus further discounts on selected events. Access to a members’ only room. Gift details can be added to the application form.

British Museum £60 Free entry to exhibitions and private members events. A members room in the museum and discount in the shops/cafe. Fill in the gift membership form.

Burgh House and
Hampstead Museum
£15 Discounted admission to special events and private views, along with quarterly magazine. Complete form with recipient details and tell them you wan to collect the pack yourself.

Carshalton Water Tower £7 Free entry to the tower, private views of exhibitions and friends only social events. Send them details in the application form about the recipient.

Charles Dickens Museum £20 Free entry for friends and a guest as well as invitations to public views, social events and an annual House Party Select the gift membership option.

Chelsea Physic Garden £40 Free entry with a guest (normally £9 per person), two newsletters per year, and invites to friends lectures. Special form on website for gifts

Design Museum £55 Unlimited admission (normally £10 per visit), priority booking and half-price tickets for talks, plus entry to Design Museum Overtimes and invitations to members previews. Fill in the gift membership form.

Dulwich Gallery £35 Free entry to exhibitions with guest, and invites to private viewings, plus discounts on events. Fill in the gift membership form.

Florence Nightingale Museum £25 Free entry to the museum & half-price for guests, along with invites to private events. Phone them (020 7620 0374) to arrange.

Foundling Museum £30 Free admission to the Foundling Museum for you plus a guest (normally £7.50 per person). A wide range of activities each year, including private views, concerts and talks led by Museum experts. Contact them (020 7841 3591) for a special form to complete.

Freud Museum £55 Up to three visits a year for you and a guest. Discounts on events and conferences. An invitation for you and a guest to the summer party and invitations to private views. Select in the booking page.

Garden Museum £30 Free entry to the Museum garden (normally £6 per person), the temporary and permanent collections. Reduced admission to certain events/shop purchases. Exclusive ‘Friends Only’ visits. Special form to complete for gift memberships.

Geffrye Museum £20 Friends receive a 6-monthly programme of events, including specially arranged visits to lesser-known museums, private collections, galleries and places of historic interest. Friends are also invited to some private views at the museum and are eligible for reduced rates to various events held at the museum No formal procedure, but phone them (020 7607 9325) to arrange.

Georgian Group £40 Sizable regular magazine and access to an exclusive activities that includes visits to private houses not open to the public. Recipients details can be supplied online

Grant Museum £15 Adoption of a specimen animal, special trips and invites to the events. Fill in the gift membership form.

Handel House £40 Unlimited free general admission for 1 person (normally £6 per visit), newsletters and regular advance event leaflet mailings and priority booking. Phone them (020 7399 1964) to arrange.

Horniman Museum £15 Free entry to Aquarium and exhibitions, 10% discount at the shop, a quarterly e-newsletter and invitations to exclusive members’ events and offers.


Contact the museum to arrange by email.

Imperial War Museum £45 Free admission to Churchill War Rooms, HMS Belfast, and IWM Duxford. Discounts on special events and gift-shop. Special events for Friends. Recipients details can be filled in on the form

Jewish Museum £25 Free admission to the Museum for one person (normally £7.50 per visit) and invitation to private views of the Museum’s new exhibitions. Information about a range of Friends events in the Museum and visits to other places of interest Contact them (020 7284 7384) to arrange details.

Keats House £35 Unlimited free general admission to Keats House and priority booking for the Keats Festival. Also, 4-monthly newsletter and invite to the Keats House annual garden party No formal procedure – but attach a note with the application email.

London Museum of Water & Steam £20 Unlimited free visits, a quarterly newsletter as well as £5 off voucher on selected museum merchandise. Phone them (0208 568 4757) for a special form.

Kew Gardens £72 Free entry for you and a guest to Kew Gardens and Wakehurst (normally £14 per person) along with free entry to 14 reciprocal gardens. Also, exclusive events, plus Summer Open Evenings Select the gift membership option.

London Motorcycle Museum £10 Two free entries during Friendship year (normally £5 per ticket) and regular newsletter. Add gift details on form.

London Transport Museum £26 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. Phone them and they will arrange details over the phone.

Museum of London £40 Unlimited free entry to special exhibitions at Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands, along with a special events programme exclusive to Friends. An invitation for you and a guest to Friends private views of exhibitions. Phone them (020 7814 5507) to arrange details

National Archives £20 Friends only events and tours, and discounts in the book shop. Contact them as details about to change.

National Army Museum £20 Exclusive Friends’ exhibition private viewings, visits and events and discounts on celebrity lectures and discussions. Phone them (0207 935 4236) for an ad-hock service.

National Portrait Gallery £50 Free entry to paid exhibitions, private viewings and discounts in the shops. Select the gift option on the website.

Natural History Museum £65 Ten exhibition guest passes for your family and friends, behind the scenes tours and members room. Tick the box for gift membership

Old Operating Theatre £25 Two free admission tickets to visit the Museum (worth £5.90 per ticket), plus concessionary ticket admission for any future visit. Invitations to Friends Events and Private Views. Unknown

Postal Museum and Archive £20 Priority booking for BPMA events with 15% discount on paid events. Six-monthly magazine and 4-monthly newsletter. Special Friends outings and events. Still no transfer procedure. Contact them directly.

RAF Museum £25 Three editions of the Flying M and the Society yearbook, plus access to visit to RAF Stations and other places of interest. There are Lectures and Film Nights at the London Museum. Select the gift membership form

Royal Institution of Great Britain £95 Entry to members only events, along with quarterly newsletters and discounts on purchases. (select associate membership). Fill in the gift membership form.

Sir John Soane’s Museum £30 Newsletter three times per year, plus invites to the annual lecture series. Best to pick up a pack from the museum personally – or phone them if not possible.

Southbank Centre £65 Priority information and booking for key events throughout the year plus no booking fees. Unlimited entry to all exhibitions at The Hayward Gallery, plus access to the private Members Bar for you and a guest. Contact them for details.

Strawberry Hill House £30 Free visits to Strawberry Hill, special tours, lectures, and visits to other historic places, alongside discounts in the café and shop. Still no procedure in place – contact them direct.

Tate £69 Free entry to all paid exhibitions, private viewings, and members rooms Fill in the gift membership form.

The Guards Museum £35 Unlimited free entry for member and guest (normally £4 per person), quarterly newsletter, 10% discount on purchases. Add the recipient details on the form and attach a note asking them to send the gift pack to you.

The Royal Academy of Arts £107 Free entry to exhibitions for you and a guest. Visit each exhibition before it’s open to the public. A private members room, and quarterly newsletter. Fill in the gift membership form.

V&A Museum £64 Free entry to exhibitions and previews, special members events and private room. Fill in the gift membership form.

The National Groups

Art Fund £57 Discounted entry to art galleries across the UK. Select the “give” option when buying.

Historic Royal Palaces £46 Unlimited access to the five palaces throughout the year Fill in the gift membership form.

National Trust £58 Free entry and parking at more than 300 historic houses and gardens. Fill in the gift membership form.

English Heritage £49 Free entry and parking at more than 400 historic houses and gardens. Fill in the gift membership form.

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  1. MR says:

    Also, consider ARTFUND PASS – 50% off all exhibitions at NG, NPG, BM, Tate, V&A, Nat Maritime Museum etc.
    Covers all of Britain
    Some places are free entry eg Courthauld, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Apsley House, Chiswick and several NT houses. Check out the long list at:

  2. LadyBracknell says:

    I second the Art pass. A 50% discounted entry to thousands of museums and exhibitions is better than membership to a particular institution.

  3. Ruth says:

    LadyBracknell, what’s “better” depends on what your interest is. I have membership to the V&A because I know I want to see all their special exhibitions, usually multiple times, but because of a medical condition I need to rest afterwards so access to the members room is a real bonus.

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