Five Christmassy museums

  • 18 December 2014

From Christmas markets in County Durham to Dickensian stories in London, we round up five of the most festive museums and galleries to visit this winter.

1. Charles Dickens Museum, London
Free entry with National Art Pass

Housed in the Georgian terraced house that Charles Dickens called home from 1837 to 1839, a period during which he wrote the Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, the Charles Dickens Museum has a programme of festive events during the Christmas period. The highlight is the £10 event A Very Dickensian Christmas Eve, which sees the museum decorated as it would have been during Dickens's day, and featuring a tour through the house accompanied by extracts from A Christmas Carol (National Art Pass discounts don't apply).

2. Royal Pavilion, Brighton
Free entry with National Art Pass

With its elaborate many-domed exteriors and resplendent interiors, Brighton's iconic pavilion could be mistaken for an elaborate Christmas decoration at any time of year. Throughout the winter months, the Pavilion is let up in a spectacular blue-purple light show, reflected in the stunning ice rink installed in front of its main dome until 18 January. Tickets to skate cost £13.

​3. Geffrye, Museum of the Home, London
50% off exhibitions with National Art Pass

One of Britain's most eclectic museums, the Geffrye presents a series of rooms set in different points over the last 400 years, adorned in period style with furniture and decorations from the time. The annual Christmas Past exhibition, which dates back over two decades, sees the Geffrye's period rooms transformed with festive decorations from years past, giving visitors a glimpse into how Christmas has been celebrated in English middle-class homes over the past four centuries.

4. The Bowes Museum, County Durham
Free entry with National Art Pass

'Big, bold and incongruous, it is just as gloriously inappropriate for the town to which it belongs as in style.' Nikolaus Pevsner's comments about the Bowes Museum in the 19th century may have been intended as a criticism, but the building – created in the grand French style, and set like a jewel in sprawling landscaped gardens – makes for a perfect Christmas attraction. On 20 and 21 December the museum grounds host its annual Christmas Market, a regional favourite packed with around 80 stalls selling home-made food, arts and crafts. Entry costs £2.50 per adult.

5. Sir John Soane's Museum, London
Free entry to all

Nothing says Christmas like an overdecorated house, and the home of Royal Academician and architect Sir John Soane is one of the most elaborately decorated houses in the country. Throughout his tenure as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy, Soane filled his house with books, casts and models – what came to be known as his 'Academy of Architecture' – and would open his house to students on the days before and after his lectures. Today, Soane's eccentric, overstuffed and wonderful house is a public museum that makes for a perfect festive trip out –  and might make you feel like your own house isn't too cluttered with Christmas decorations, after all.

Become a member of the Art Fund to receive a National Art Pass, and get reduced price entry to hundreds of museums and exhibitions across the UK.

Tags: What to seeMuseums and galleriesGreat days out