The UK’s Best Museums – Whatever Your Interests!

With the cooler weather looming, you might be looking for some indoor places to visit. Sure, you can pop along to your local shopping centre for some retail therapy. Or maybe go for a spot of lunch with the family. But visiting a museum means you can get lost for hours in your own imagination, allowing you to escape the stresses of everyday life.

The UK has some of the best museums and galleries in the world. From science to cars, history to art, there really is something for everyone. So whether you’re looking for somewhere fun and interactive to keep the grandchildren busy, exciting exhibits to ignite your curiosity, or a place to lose yourself in for the day, here’s our round up of the UK’s best museums – whatever your interests. 

Science and Industry Museum, Manchester

The Science and Industry Museum is a free attraction, where you can explore 250 years of innovations and ideas that started life in Manchester and went on to change the world.

There’s plenty to see, do and discover on your visit, with four galleries in the Grade II listed warehouse and a beautiful new garden to explore. See science brought to life in front of your very eyes, and check out the museum’s exciting exhibitions to learn how Manchester transformed from an industrial powerhouse to a beacon of art and culture. 

The museum café serves hot and cold food and drinks. And you can avoid the queues by ordering your lunch in advance when you book your free admission ticket. Or take your own food to enjoy in the picnic areas.   

A multi-million-pound restoration programme is underway to carry out crucial restoration work, and to create a more sustainable museum for visitors. So it’s a good idea to check the website for any closures before you visit.

Science and Industry Museum: Liverpool Road, Manchester M3 4FP | Book your tickets

Natural History Museum, London

Blue whale skeleton in the main hall at the Natural History Museum in London
Credit: Sheng Li

Set in the heart of London, the Natural History Museum is a world-class visitor attraction and leading science research centre. The museum is home to more than 80 million objects spanning billions of years, and it’s a must-visit for any dinosaur enthusiast. 

This spectacular museum first opened its doors on 18 April 1881, and it now welcomes more than five million visitors every year from all over the world. It’s free to visit, and you can explore each of its four zones to uncover the history of life on Earth, from the smallest insects to the largest mammals. Follow the Red Zone if you’re interested in geology, where you can learn about the history of the Earth and the forces that change it. The Green Zone features birds and fossils, while the Blue Zone focuses on human biology, mammals, and dinosaurs, with a life size model of a blue whale. The Orange Zone allows you to explore nature in the Wildlife Garden and Darwin Centre. Find out what exhibitions and events are on at the Museum and online.

Natural History Museum: Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD | Book your tickets

HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth

There have been many celebrated warships in Britain’s naval history but HMS Victory can justifiably claim to be the most famous of them all. Having served as Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, she has become one of the UK’s most-loved visitor attractions.

When you visit HMS Victory, you’ll see the spot where Nelson fell with an engraved plaque marking the spot. And you might find Captain Hardy in his cabin, greeting visitors with tales from his adventures at sea. Ask him questions and find out what life was like on-board.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is also home to the Mary Rose Museum, the Submarine Museum and Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower. Plus, it offers great shopping and lots of places to eat and drink.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard: Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ | Book your tickets

​​The National Motor Museum, Brockenhurst

Close up of a classic car in the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Brockenhurst
Credit: Rika Digital

Stunning Beaulieu, in the New Forest, is an award winning day out with something for everyone. And one inclusive ticket gives you access to The National Motor Museum, World of Top Gear, Palace House & Gardens, Little Beaulieu, Beaulieu Abbey, The Secret Army Exhibition and unlimited rides on the monorail.

The National Motor Museum is one of five leading National Motor Museums across Europe, who have joined forces to display over 1,500 classic cars for enthusiasts to admire. And each museum displays their collections in their own unique way.

See over 280 vehicles at the world-famous National Motor Museum in Beaulieu. From F1 cars and land speed record breakers to incredible examples of pioneering motoring. You can also browse the entire collection on their website, including the oldest car dating from 1875. And new for 2021, visit the brand new exhibition: Bond in Motion – No Time To Die, featuring iconic cars, gadgets and costumes from the latest 007 film.

The National Motor Museum: Beaulieu SO42 7ZN | Book your tickets

The Shakespeare Centre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Visit the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage sites in Stratford-upon-Avon and learn about the works, life and times of the world’s best-known writer at The Shakespeare Centre

Discover the birthplace of William Shakespeare and the five historic Shakespeare family homes. Through internationally designated museum collections, award-winning learning programmes and digital channels, they provide imaginative, immersive and interactive opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to get up-close-and-personal with Shakespeare.

For those closer to London, you can visit Shakespeare’s Globe, a world-renowned theatre, education centre, and cultural landmark, located on the bank of the River Thames. You can also Live Stream performances of Measure for Measure, Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice from the comfort of your own home.

The Shakespeare Centre: Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6QW | Book your tickets

IWM Duxford, Cambridgeshire

Grey and black WW2 fighter plane parked on green grass in Duxford
Credit: Gary Wann

IWM Duxford is Europe’s largest air museum. Walk through the same hangars and buildings as those who served at RAF Duxford. See aircraft take to the skies from the airfield where Spitfires first flew. And get up close to over a century of aviation.

As well as its museum, IWM Duxford hosts an incredible selection of events and experiences. Conquer the runway in a 5k or 10k at Duxford Dash, sit in an airworthy combat veteran Spitfire or learn something new with expert-led talks and tours. 

With two thrill packed Air Shows and series of Flying Days, discover the latest information about Duxford’s aerial display events programme.

IWM Duxford: Duxford CB22 4QR | Book your tickets

National Railway Museum, York

If trains are your thing then you have to visit the National Railway Museum. Located in York, it tells the story of rail transport in Britain and its impact on society.  

Escape your home and dive into the past, present and future of the railways. Meet world-changing inventions and come face-to-face with the fastest steam locomotive in the world.

Free to enter, the museum holds the national collection of historically significant railway vehicles and records of social, technical, artistic and historical interest. It houses over 100 locomotives, and you can learn all about the world’s most famous locomotive, Flying Scotsman. Since returning to the tracks in 2016, it has been hauling special passenger tours across the UK. Find out where you can see Flying Scotsman in action.

National Railway Museum: Leeman Road, York, YO26 4XJ | Book your tickets 

National War Museum, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle situated on the top of a hill
Credit: Jörg Angeli

Set within the walls of iconic Edinburgh Castle, the National War Museum is a must-visit for any military enthusiast. Explore over 400 years of conflict through a unique collection of military objects, artwork and personal stories. And discover the impact of war on Scotland’s history, identity, and reputation abroad.

Discover more about the relationship with Scotland’s powerful neighbour, England, and the opportunity that the army represented for ordinary Scots. And see medals, mementoes, souvenirs and photographs that tell the stories of the men and women who protected Scotland on the home front. 

Entry to the museum is free, but tickets are required for Edinburgh Castle where the National War Museum is located.

National War Museum: Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG | Book your tickets

You might also be interested in reading:  Things to do in Truro: A Complete Guide