15 places to visit for free with your National Art Pass
Here are 15 inspirational museums, galleries and historic houses you'll be able to visit for free with your National Art Pass.
A National Art Pass helps you explore a multitude of fascinating cultural venues across the UK for free. Below you'll find a selection of some of our favourites to put in your diaries for 2020.
This museum makes the most of the fact that two musical greats lived next door to each other, albeit over 200 years apart. The Georgian townhouse where George Frideric Handel wrote Messiah and Music for the Royal Fireworks and Jimi Hendrix's top-floor flat were the musicians' first independent homes, and both have been faithfully restored to their respective eras.
- County Durham
With four venues already open, including a castle and art gallery, and more in development, the Auckland Project makes for a seriously good freebie. Take a day away to explore the pretty market town's thousand-year history and some amazing art – just a short train ride from Durham, Newcastle and York.
- Greater London
Established in 1739, the Foundling Hospital was the first children's charity and, thanks to famous early supporters such as the artist William Hogarth, London's first public art gallery. The museum tells the moving story of desperate parents, life at the hospital and the birth of creative philanthropism. Author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay spent a fascinating few hours there for our podcast, Meet Me at the Museum – have a listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.
Shakespeare’s Family Homes comprises five properties in and around Stratford-upon-Avon that map the writer's journey through life. Each of the houses has its own distinctive character, from Shakespeare's Birthplace to the lavish Hall's Croft, where the his daughter Susanna lived with and her wealthy physician husband, John Hall.
Let your curiosity overcome queasiness at one of Scotland's oldest museums. Originally a medical teaching museum stuffed full of weird and wonderful artefacts, it contains the largest and most historic collection of surgical pathology in the world, from works of art to bone and tissue specimens.
Immerse yourself in gorgeous fashions from centuries gone by and right up to the present day with the Fashion Museum's stunning collection of historical and contemporary dress. You can even indulge your costume drama fantasies and try on outfits from the 18th and 19th centuries (not the real ones obviously).
- Greater Manchester
Escape the city for a few hours at this beautiful mansion. It boasts the Lyme Missal – the most important book in the National Trust – and has hundreds of acres of parkland and gardens to roam about in. This is another place that's happy to dress you up in Regency costume and let you wander around like characters in a Jane Austen novel.
- West Midlands
Step back to 1981 when the door was shut on the Smith and Pepper jewellery factory, leaving its workbenches, tools and even dirty teacups untouched. You can now take a tour of this fascinating time capsule, watch live demonstrations of jewellery-making and learn about the history of this still vibrant quarter.
- West Yorkshire
This Tudor-Jacobean mansion is a short bus ride and stroll away from Leeds city centre. Immerse yourself in the art collections, make a fluffy friend in the working farmyard, and blow the cobwebs away with a wander around the beautiful grounds.
- South Glamorgan
Cardiff Castle's history spans a staggering 2,000 years. It started life as a Roman fort before graduating to a mighty Norman castle and, in a late twist, being transformed into a Victorian gothic fantasy palace by the richest man in Britain (in 1868). For a sneak preview, join comedian Lloyd Langford as he explores the castle in our podcast.
- East Sussex
Built as a seaside pleasure palace for King George IV, the Royal Pavilion is one of Brighton's most memorable sights. Explore the lavish rooms and imagine living like a king before heading down to see one of Brighton's other most striking features – its pebble beach.
- East Sussex
We've mentioned the stunning and quirky Royal Pavilion, but if you're in Brighton we'd also recommend hopping on a train for 10 minutes to Hassocks and footing, biking or cabbing it to Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft. The village of Ditchling became a hub for some of the most groundbreaking craftspeople of the 20th century, and the museum continues to foster this creative spirit while displaying stunning works in the place they were made.
- Greater London
From William and Mary (1689-1702) to Will and Kate, Kensington Palace has been home to royals for over 300 years, and it's yours to explore for free. The sumptous state apartments and beautiful gardens offer an escape from London without having to leave the city, while exhibitions explore the public and private lives of Queen Victoria, who grew up in the palace.
Housed in the only museum in the UK devoted to the history of fans and the art of fan-making, this 5,000-piece collection contains examples from around the world dating from the 11th century to the present day.
- Greater London
This Art Deco house in Greenwich has been heralded as 'a masterpiece of modern design', but the site has a much longer and more fascinating history. Before Eltham was realised in its current incarnation, it was once a a favoured medieval palace and then a Tudor royal residence. Beyond the beautiful house itself, you can explore 19 acres of award-winning gardens.