London gallery and museum memberships 2021: Best annual passes for the Tate, V&A, British Museum and more

·4-min read
 (John Phillips/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)
(John Phillips/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)

Looking for the perfect pressie for the culture lover in your life? A passport to one of London’s best arts venues makes for a VERY good gift.

Many of the capital’s museums and galleries offer great membership packages and gift deals. It’s a present that promises to keep on giving all the way through until next year. Here’s our guide to some of the best on offer.

Tate

This savvy annual membership at £84 per year (or £72 if you pay by direct debit) secures unlimited free entry to every exhibition across the four Tate galleries — that means the St Ives and Liverpool venues too. It also grants access to Members Hours, where guests have the opportunity to explore exhibitions during quieter intervals. Other benefits include a discount in the Tate shop and free entry for up to six children aged 16 or under. If you’re feeling fancy, you can upgrade your membership for further benefits such as access to private views and previews.

Across London and the UK; shop.tate.org.uk/membership

Southbank Centre

FOMO is an unknown concept for Southbank Centre Members who get the first opportunity to buy tickets for every performance and don’t have to pay booking fees. Buying a Membership for a loved one, which costs £69 (the direct debit option), will also entitle them to free entry to Hayward Gallery exhibitions and discounts across the Southbank Centre site, not to mention access to the Members’ Lounge on the top floor of the Royal Festival Hall — an ideal spot for grabbing a pre-show drink.

Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX; southbankcentre.co.uk/membership

Royal Academy of Arts

 (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
(DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Annual membership, or becoming a ‘friend’ of the Royal Academy of Arts, is slightly more expensive than its fellow London galleries at £131 but it does offer some exclusive rewards. It guarantees free entry to all exhibitions for you and a guest as well as exclusive first-look previews of shows before they open to the public. Friends of the RA also get extended opening hours and discount in the shop, as well as private viewings and invites to special showcases. They can also stay up-to-date with the programme through the RA magazine and weekly email newsletter.

Burlington House, W1J 0BD; royalacademy.org.u

Design Museum

This £75 membership is a great option for families: it guarantees unlimited free access to exhibitions for you, a guest and up to 3 children (6–15 years old) for 12 months. There’s also no need to faff with queueing for tickets on arrival — simply turn up and show your digital pass to gain entry to the exhibitions and get your 20% discount in the Design Museum shops. For those craving more design-related goodies, there are member-only preview days and an exclusive programme of events.

224-238 Kensington High St, Kensington, W8 6AG;designmuseum.org/become-a-member

Barbican

 (John Phillips/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)
(John Phillips/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)

London's iconic cultural centre offers something for everyone — from art and cinema to music and beyond. Film fans can enjoy 20 per cent off cinema tickets with a guest, alongside the same discount on selected music and theatre events. The £59 membership package offers member-only events, free access to exhibitions and priority booking.

Silk St, EC2Y 8DS; barbican.org.uk/join-support/membership

V&A Museum

 (Peter Kelleher)
(Peter Kelleher)

For those who prefer to soak up an exhibition more than once, this membership ensures guests can experience it time and time again, with unlimited access for the entire year. Membership, costing £70 a year (via direct debit), grants exclusive previews and priority booking for evening talks and specially curated member-only showcases. plus a subscription to the V&A magazine. For those under 26, the membership fee is at the reduced rate of £45.

Cromwell Rd, SW7 2RL; vam.ac.uk/info/membership

National Gallery

 (OLI SCARFF/Getty Images)
(OLI SCARFF/Getty Images)

As well as getting free entry to all National Gallery exhibitions, those with membership, which starts from £60, can also secure invites to exclusive activities, including member-only preview days, private views concerts, film screenings, gallery talks, courses and workshops. It also includes priority booking for all exhibitions and events.

Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN; nationalgallery.org.uk/membership​

British Library

This £80 membership really does go a long way. Not only does it give members and a guest free entry to British Library exhibitions, but it also ensures priority booking for events with up to four free tickets on offer each year. There’s a 20 per cent discount for the library’s shops, restaurants and cafes, and book lovers can also take a guest into the daytime members room, which has exceptional, Insta-worthy views overlooking the King’s Library.

96 Euston Rd, NW1 2DB; bl.uk/join

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