Art after work: late gallery openings in London

How are you doing with that resolution to see more art? If you’re struggling to see things on busy weekends, weave art into your week with our guide to late gallery openings.

If you’ve been working in central London all week, the prospect of battling Saturday crowds might be less than appealing. So if this means you’re not seeing as much art as you’d like, why not pop to a museum or gallery during the week?

Many London museums open late, whether that’s on a regular night of the week or an occasional one-off – often with drinks, music and performances. Not only will you top up your exhibition time, but you’ll conveniently miss rush hour, too…


1

British Library

Open until 8pm, Tuesday

Those in search of respite early in the week, rejoice! The British Library's main gallery is open late on Tuesdays, so you can take in an exhibition before you've even reached hump day – and the Treasures Gallery is also open until 8pm from Tuesday to Thursday.


2

Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)

Open until 9pm, Tuesday to Sunday

One for the nighthawks, the ICA's exhibitions spaces are open late most of the week, so there's plenty of time to take in cutting-edge contemporary work before dissecting your experience in the bar – or catching a late showing in the cinema.


3

National Army Museum

Open until 8pm, first Wednesday of the month

Telling stories from the army's history, the National Army Museum's five galleries are open late once a month. Catch a special exhibition, learn something surprising amid the museum's varied collections and take a scenic walk along the Thames.


4

Science Museum

Open until 10pm, last Wednesday of the month

Towards the end of each month, the Science Museum becomes an adults-only zone until 10pm, with after-hours theme nights centring on ideas and issues arising from the exhibitions and current topics.


5

South London Gallery

Open until 9pm, Wednesday

Offering an oasis of calm with its clean-lined spaces showing contemporary art, plus a lovely café, South London Gallery is open until 9pm every Wednesday and also on the last Friday of each month.


6

Barbican Art Gallery

Open until 9pm, Thursday and Friday

The Barbican is the perfect place to start your evening. Grab dinner, catch a blockbuster exhibition and share post-show thoughts in one of the sleek bars, with views of the centre's Brutalist architecture.


7
View of the Fashion and Textile Museum, London

Fashion and Textile Museum

Open until 8pm, Thursday

This cool and colourful spot in Bermondsey is open until 8pm every Thursday during exhibition periods, with a special programme of events and talks related to the current show and the museum's specialism in contemporary fashion.


8

Hayward Gallery

Open until 9pm, Thursday

A haven on the busy Southbank, the Hayward Gallery programmes some of the most talked-about exhibitions in London – and it's within easy reach of many other iconic buildings along the river, so you can make a night of it.


9

Whitechapel Gallery

Open until 9pm, Thursday

While this hub of contemporary art is open late every Thursday, it's also responsible for one of East London's most exciting art happenings – First Thursdays. On the first Thursday of every month, over 150 galleries in the area come together to run events, exhibitions, talks and private views, with the Whitechapel as ringleader.


10
British Museum, London

British Museum

Open until 8.30pm, Friday

Many of the British Museum's galleries are open late on Fridays (except Good Friday), so you can wander rooms of artefacts from all over the world, from ancient times to the present, as an inspiring way to start the weekend.


11

Design Museum

Open until 8pm, first Friday of the month

If you're looking for a bright and vibrant start to the weekend, the Design Museum has you covered: open late on the first Friday of every month, it's the perfect primer before a drink in Kensington or a walk through Holland Park.


12

National Gallery

Open until 9pm, Friday

The National Gallery makes Trafalgar Square a surprisingly peaceful place to start the weekend. Whether you want to catch a major exhibition or get better acquainted with the permanent collection, you're close to wherever you may need to be afterwards, from West End theatres to the South Bank.


13

National Portrait Gallery

Open until 9pm, Friday

Like the National Gallery, the Portrait Gallery is open until late on Fridays – with a twist. Every Friday there's music inspired by the exhibitions, a DJ in the bar, drop-in drawing and life drawing classes, and inspiring talks and film screenings.


14

Natural History Museum

Open until 10pm, last Friday of the month

Once a month, Lates at the Natural History Museum offer talks, activities, and food and drink until 10pm. From behind-the-scenes tours to pop-up science demos, to just wandering the halls with a drink in hand, there are lots of ways to experience the museum at night.


15

Tate Britain

Open until 9.30pm, first Friday of the month (bimonthly)

Every couple of months, Late at Tate Britain allows visitors to explore the galleries after-hours. Immersive sound and visuals, activities and discussions inspired by the art make for a lively atmosphere, all curated by members of Tate Collective.


16
Tate Modern

Tate Modern

Open until 10pm, Friday

As well as being open late on Fridays, Tate Modern is home to the Tate Lates programme, filling the building with art, music, film and workshops until 10pm every last Friday of the month (except December). Get as involved in special sessions and activities as you like, or just drift around the exhibitions and enjoy DJs 'til late.


17

V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Open until 10pm, Friday

The V&A's blockbuster exhibitions are often extremely popular, so Friday night can be a good time to visit. There's also a Friday Late on the last Friday of every month (except May and December), with live performance, DJs, installations, debates and more.


18

Charles Dickens Museum

Open until 8pm, once a month

The Victorian family home of Charles Dickens opens late once a month, letting you explore the author's study and beautiful rooms at your leisure. Check the museum's listings for details of upcoming evening opening hours and occasional special events.


19

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Open late occasionally

It's worth keeping an eye on Dulwich Picture Gallery's listings to check for upcoming Gallery Lates – occasional evening openings inclusive of entry to the current exhibition, with tailored experiences and performances.


20
Sir John Soane's Museum

Sir John Soane's Museum

Open late once a month

Soane Lates offer the opportunity to explore this fascinating house by candlelight with timed entry, curated content and drinks. It's a popular event and among the more expensive museum lates, but clearly worth the ticket.


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