Culture After Dark: The Best Museum Late Night Openings
From an evening seance in an Anish Kapoor exhibition to a Georgian garden party at the Royal Academy, here's our pick of the best lates in art galleries, London
One of our favourite ways to experience a museum is after dark, when the school parties have gone home and the adults come out to play. Fortunately, many of our favourite cultural hotspots now offer regular late openings, whether they be once a month or twice a week. With their regular programmes embellished with exclusive talks, performances and music, not to mention food and drink, lates can catch museums at their best, as well as being one of London's most attractive ideas for first dates.
Late at Pitzhanger, Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery
As part of the London Festival of Architecture, the newly refurbished Pitzhanger Manor is opening its doors for an evening, offering visitors the chance to tour its Anish Kapoor exhibition with curator John Leslie. But those looking for a calm evening of art and architecture should take heed – the evening will have a supernatural twist. Artist Seth Kriebe will perform The Unbuilt Room – part séance, part game and part theatrical performance.
28 June. Click here to book. Tickets are £10 each.
Zoo Nights, London Zoo
Every Friday evening in June and July, ZSL London Zoo will welcome grown-ups only through its gates, with more than 18,000 animals on display and blissful freedom to browse, mingle and take stunning photographs as the sun goes down. It's especially enjoyable to get a glimpse of the nocturnal creatures waking up for a night on the prowl. Tickets to this popular event sell out quickly, so we recommend booking fast.
Click here to book. Tickets are £19.95.
The British Museum
The museum’s gorgeous evening openings are so popular that they've now had to introduce ticketed entry. Navigate this densely-packed treasure-trove – with its works by Hogarth, Canaletto, Turner and Rubens – by beautiful flickering candlelight. Every month the Soane Late focuses on a different highlight of their curated content – their November event includes candlelit architectural drawing and guided tours of the museum's collection.
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? Conveniently, the most regular feature of the NPG’s Friday Lates is its weekly drop-in drawing session among the portraits. Each session is led by a different artist and all the necessary material is provided. There are also a variety of film screenings, lectures, and DJs whose multi-genre sets are tailored to the artwork around them. Attendees can get a drink at the specially installed bar, or alternatively the Portrait Restaurant for a great view of the city.
Every Friday until 9pm. Click here for more information. Entrance is free but some events may require a ticket.
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, home of the ghosts of the Abbey's monks and the Bearded Lady.
Wednesday evenings until 6pm. Click here for more information. Tickets on the door are half price after 4.30pm.
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.
Last Friday of the month until 10pm. Click here for more information. Entrance is free.
The Natural History Museum
The NHM opens late on the last Friday of every month, hosting exhibitions, talks as well as giving visitors the chance to look round the grand building after sunset.
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.
The Barbican Centre
The Barbican complex is open to 11pm every evening, with plenty of cinema, dining and drinking choices available. Their art gallery is usually open until 6pm but extends to 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays, allowing you to fit in a few more hours of art before settling down to dinner or getting the party started.
Thursdays and Fridays until 9pm. Click here for more information. Entrance is free.
The Wellcome Collection
The Wellcome Collection opens its doors every Thursday until 10pm, and its restaurant and shop follow suit.
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.
First Friday of every other month until 9:30pm. Click here for more information. Entrance is free.
Twilight Tour, Strawberry Hill House
In 1747 Horace Walpole purchased a couple of cottages on a desirable spot on the banks of the Thames and set about transforming the plot into a gothic vision, complete with battlements. Thus Strawberry Hill House was born. You can enjoy an exclusive out of hours tour through this architectural wonder in the magical twilight hours, kicking off with the evening with a glass of bubbly.
The next Twilight Tour is 18 September June, £26.50 each. Click here to book.
In a handful of evenings throughout the year, Christies invites art lovers to mingle over champagne and nibbles and learn about their collection with an exciting array of guest speakers. Marvel over exquisite treasures and learn a bit about the art of collecting. Their summer edition just finished, but check their website for information about the next event.
Click here for more information. Entrance is free.