Culture After Dark: The Best Museum Late Night Openings
The best museum lates in London: cultured nightlife for those in the know (and also the best first date idea London has to offer...)
The Royal Academy of the Arts
If you were unfortunate enough to miss the RA's midsummer solstice bash, never fear. Later this summer, the museum will pay homage to Milton's creative imaginings; complete with a nomadic yurt, mermaid crown making workshops, a tropical garden photo booth, a talks programme, and a dress code of 'otherworldly sublime'. There will also be a portal to hell, to be opened by immersive theatre company Wilson & Hart, that will lead you on a journey to your chosen afterlife. Just remember: 'Tis better to reign in hell than serve in heaven' – and partying at the RA this summer is better than both.
Saturday 19 August until 11.45 PM. Click here for more information.
Christie's Auction House
First Tuesday of every month until 8.30pm. Click here for more information. Entrance is free.
The British Museum
The museum’s gorgeous evening openings are popular, with only the first 200 people getting inside, so get there at least half an hour earlier than the 6pm start time. Navigate this densely-packed treasure-trove – with its works by Hogarth, Canaletto, Turner and Rubens – by beautiful flickering candlelight.
First Tuesday of each month until 9pm. Click here for more information. Entrance is free.
The National Portrait Gallery
Is there anyone who has walked around this gallery and not felt, at least once, the itch to try their hand at portraiture? Well, the most regular feature of the NPG’s Late Shifts is its weekly drop-in drawing session, so you can take action in the very place where inspiration strikes. Each session is led by a different artist and all the necessary material is provided. The Late Shift also provides film screenings, lectures, and DJs whose multi-genre sets are tailored to the artwork around them. There’s a Late Shift bar, but attendees can also get a drink at the Portrait Restaurant for a great view of the city.
Every Thursday & Friday until 9pm. Click here for more information. Entrance is free but some events may require a ticket.
The National Gallery
Friday Lates at the National Gallery are some of the most serene. Guided tours and talks can enrich your understanding of the 2,000 works on display, many of them infamous masterpieces, but there’s something to be said for letting the art speak for itself, especially in the calm of a long evening. Lates here tend to be calm and civilised, but there is still live music, a bar, and drawing classes.
Every Friday until 9pm. Click here for more information. Entrance is free.
Wednesday evenings see Edward the Confessor's 1066 Coronation Church opening late into the night. Westminster Abbey underwent a huge development under the watchful eyes of King Henry 'the builder' III and since then she has hosted no less than sixteen royal weddings. The glorious gothic pile has been the burial place of kings and queens, and of other distinguished figures in the nation’s history, from writers and musicians to politicians and scientists. Guests can potter round the 14th century cellar and enjoy a lovely dinner in the Cellarium Café & Terrace in the home of the ghosts of Abbey's monks and the Bearded Lady.
Wednesday evenings until 6pm. Click here for more information. Tickets on the door.
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Billed as the original late night event, the V&A's Friday Lates celebrate contemporary visual culture and design. Not only is there food, drink and music, but audiences are invited to participate in live installations, debates, performance and film screenings. We've given their current exhibitions - Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion and Pink Floyd - 4 and 5***** respectively, so it's definitely worth heading to South Ken at some point this summer.
Last Friday of the month until 10pm. Click here for more information. Entrance is free.
The Natural History Museum
Following the grand unveiling of Hope - the new piece de resistance in the Museum’s Hintze Hall - whales will take over after hours at the Natural History Museum this month. Meet Museum cetacean experts and discover the wonderful world of whales, from singing and social bonding to hunting.
Last Friday of every month until 10pm. Click here for more information. Entry is free but some activities may require a ticket.
The London Transport Museum
Friday Lates at the London Transport Museum offer over-18s a date with a difference. There's sneaky peeks into the newest exhibitions, music, bars, and hot food to warm your belly as well as talks and craft activities to get hands on with.
Fridays until 10pm. Click here for more information. Adults £12; Concessions and LTM Friends £10.
The Barbican Centre
The Barbican is open late into the night on Thursdays, with DJs, and drinks flowing so you can totter around the gallery, take part in workshops, and enjoy special events whilst making merry as the weekend approaches.
Thursdays until 10pm. Click here for more information. Entrance is free.
The Wellcome Collection
The Wellcome Collection opens its doors and invites you to enjoy cocktails, music, and dining on the first Friday of each month, whilst every Thursday is a late one at the gallery. Friday lates include workshops, live performances, debates, discussion, and a dose of nightly creativity before you head home, or out! We've loved the recent collections on show here, from animals to Bedlam.
First Friday of the month until 10pm and every Thursday until 10pm. Click here for more information. Entrance is free.
If the Tate Britain has always been the straight-laced sibling of the more adventurous Tate Modern, then their Friday Lates seek to change this by putting the museum in the hands of the young. The 16-25 year olds from Tate Collective London put the emphasis on the experimental and disruptive, bringing you everything from dressing-up with drag kings to ‘provocative filmic collage’. You’ll get to discuss the ideas on offer and even craft things for yourself – and, with all the youthful energy in the room, it won’t lack for enthusiasm.
The next Lates at Tate Britain will be on 4 August, 6 October and 1 December 2017. Click here for more information. Entrance is free.
The British Library
The ‘Late at the Library’ nights are always on a Friday, and they always have a variety of interesting things going on at once, including spoken-word performance, puppetry, karaoke, poetry, cabaret, animation, DJ sets, cocktail bars, and live music that ranges from rap to gypsy punk. Who said that libraries were stuffy?
Selected Fridays. Click here for more information.
St Paul's Cathedral after hours
There are few places in London quite like St Paul’s at dusk, and to celebrate Wren’s great architecture, St Paul's will be throwing open its doors for a series of summer late openings.
For seven evenings during the summer holidays (the first one is Thursday 27th July), visitors will be able to wander around St Paul's. This is a unique opportunity to marvel at exquisite architecture, see where some of the nation’s most famous heroes and artists are buried, gaze at the intricate mosaics, and simply take-in the breathtaking calm of the vast cathedral.
For the selected Thursdays, the Cathedral will be open from 6.30pm - 9pm (last entry 8.15pm). Click here for more information. Entrance is £10 for adults and £5 for children.