If you want to give something this Christmas that your recipient can use all year round, rather than socks and fragrances… give them membership to a museum or gallery 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 lovely 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 discounted rates 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.

Venue Cost Key Benefits
Barbican £59 Free entry to exhibitions, discounts on events and cinema, priority booking, along with options for private views of galleries.
Benjamin Franklin House £25 Free entry to the house, 2 guest tickets and discounts on events.
British Film Institute £39 Priority ticket bookings, no booking fees, discounts in their shops, special events and previews.
British Museum £79 Free entry to exhibitions and private members events, the members room in the museum and discounts in the shops/cafe.
Bow Street Police Museum £50 Free entry to the museum, discounts in the shop and priority booking for events.
Brooklands Museum £54 Free entry to the motoring museum, and special events.
Brunel Museum £25 Free entry to the museum and invites to private events
Carshalton Water Tower £7 Free entry to the tower, private views of exhibitions and friends only social events.
Cartoon Museum £35 Free entry to the museum, exhibition previews and discounts on events.
Charles Dickens Museum £40 Free entry for you and a guest and discounts in the shop and events.
Chelsea Physic Garden £56 Free entry with a guest, free entry to partner gardens, and invites to special events.
Design Museum £75 Free entry to paid exhibitions, priority booking and invitations to members previews.
Dulwich Picture Gallery £45 Free entry to exhibitions, and invites to private viewings, plus discounts on events.
Foundling Museum £40 Free admission to the museum. A wide range of activities each year, including private views, concerts and talks led by Museum experts.
Freemasons Museum £30 Invites to private exhibition views and events.
Freud Museum £55 Free entry to the museum, discounts on events and invites to private views.
Garden Museum £45 Free entry to the museum, private views of exhibitions and priority booking for events.
Georgian Group £50 Sizable regular magazine and access to exclusive activities that include visits to private houses not open to the public.
Grant Museum £30 Priority booking for public events, and invites to members-only events.
Guildhall Art Gallery £30 Free entry to paid exhibitions, plus free entry to Tower Bridge, Monument and Keats House, private tours and talks.
Heath Robinson Museum £40 Free entry to the museum, members events and priority booking.
Honeywood Museum £10 Priority booking and discounts for events.
Horniman Museum £45 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 £60 Free entry to all IWM museums, private views and members events.
London Museum of Water & Steam £40 Unlimited free visits, a quarterly newsletter, members-only events, free entry to the nearby Musical Museum.
Kew Gardens £87 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 £30 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.
London Zoo £106 Unlimited entry to the two zoos, discounts in the shops, queue jump at the entry barriers, plus members events.
Museum of Brands £17 Free entry to the museum for yourself for a year.
National Archives £30 Friends only events and tours, and discounts in the bookshop and at paid events.
National Army Museum £45 Free entry to paid exhibitions, curator tours and members-only events.(note, they’re not offering gift memberships at the moment)
National Gallery £75 Free entry to paid exhibitions, and invites to members events.
National Portrait Gallery £66 Free entry to paid exhibitions, private viewings and discounts in the shops.
Natural History Museum £73 Free entry to paid exhibitions, priority entry to the museum, private events, private members’ room.
Old Operating Theatre £30 Free entry to the museum and two tickets to the annual reception.
Petrie Museum £35 Special events and tours, plus seminars and regular news.
Pitzhanger £35 Free entry to the gallery, exclusive events and discounts in the shop.
Postal Museum £45 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 £60 Free entry to the three Greenwich museums, private views of galleries, and fast-track entry.
Royal Institution of Great Britain £80 Free tickets to lectures. Entry to members-only events, along with quarterly newsletters and discounts on purchases.
Saatchi Gallery £50 Free entry to Saatchi arranged exhibitions, and discounts on visiting exhibitions.
Sadlers Wells £75 Priority booking and 20% off tickets.
St Paul’s Cathedral £50 Free entry to the Cathedral, private events and exhibition previews, plus priority booking for events.
Sir John Soane’s Museum £40 Discounts in the shop, plus invites to special events.
Southbank Centre £79 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 £45 Free entry to Strawberry Hill, invites to the summer party, discounts in the shop and events.
Tate £72 Free entry to all paid exhibitions, private viewings, and members rooms
The Royal Academy of Arts £150 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.
V&A Museum £87 Free entry to exhibitions and previews, special members events and private members room.
Wallace Collection £45 Free entry to paid exhibitions, exclusive member events, discounts in the shop and the restaurant.
Westminster Abbey £55 Queue jump and free entry to the Abbey, private evening entry to the Abbey and exclusive lectures.
Whitechapel Gallery £50 Private views of exhibitions, priority booking to events and discounts in the shop.

The National Groups
National Art Pass £75 Discounted entry to art galleries and museums across the UK.
Historic Royal Palaces £65 Unlimited access to the six palaces throughout the year, a range of member events and discounts in the shops.
National Trust £84 Free entry and parking at more than 300 historic houses and gardens.
English Heritage £69 Free entry and parking at more than 400 historic houses and gardens.
Landmark Trust £55 Priority booking to buildings and invites to events.
Historic Houses Association £65 Free entry to hundreds of privately-owned houses, castles and gardens

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  1. Bryan Betts says:

    Thanks for this interesting page. One addition, if I may: you mention that LMWS membership also covers the nearby Musical Museum, but not that this is a reciprocal agreement between the two, and that Musical Museum membership is currently £25/year.

  2. Lionel Ward says:

    Thanks for this – worth also mentioning the following as some people don’t know: most of these memberships are eligible for gift aid, and if you are lucky enough to be a higher rate tax payer, you can also reclaim 20% of the membership price on your tax return!!

    • Andrew says:

      Yes indeed – rightly or wrongly up to 40% off for higher earners losing their personal allowance on the margin. It would be great to add that as a column on this list (although I’m not sure that you can claim it if you are gifting the membership).

  3. SK says:

    The National Art Pass is very good value as it allows free or half-price entry to many of the other venues and institutions listed here. So it makes a good “catch-all” membership to possess

    • Marek says:

      Yes, absolutely – it gives half price entry to all the big exhibitions and, for me, that is much better than belonging to just one institution for a similar cost. You also get a nice informative booklet, set out geographically, detailing the literally hundreds of places that you can use your card around the country.

  4. Susan says:

    Mall Galleries annual membership is £55, another great current art venue.

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