Today, art museums all over the globe focus their efforts on attracting and engaging new audiences. On top of high-tech goodies like free online art resources and museum apps, however, many art institutions are still finding success with good, old-fashioned free museum days.
Though complimentary admission to the world's most esteemed collections may feel like ancient history, more and more museums are adding free days to their calendars. Some, like London's British Museum, offer costless admission every day. Others, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, forego fees on a weekly basis. And many, like the Louvre, let art lovers in for free every month.
In order to help money-saving museum goers make the most of these services, we've compiled a list of museums that currently participate. With this selection of world-class institutions, you can make sure you're able to see priceless masterpieces without breaking the bank.
Museums That Offer Free Admission Every Day
The British Museum, London
You can explore the British Museum‘s world-class collection of art and artifacts at no cost. Keep in mind, however, that the public institution is closed December 24-26, January 1, and on Good Friday.
The National Gallery of Art, London
The popular National Gallery of Art offers free admission every day except December 24-26 and January 1, when it's closed.
Tate Modern, London
Though closed on December 24-26, the Tate Modern invites visitors to view its permanent collection for free all year-round. Special exhibitions require admission.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
The Reina Sofía, Spain's national museum of 20th-century art, is open to the public every day except December 25, January 1, and May 1.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Known as “the nation's museum,” the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC is always free. It's open seven days a week, but closes on December 25 and January 1.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
The famed Smithsonian American Art Museum is free to the public and open every day except December 25.
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Admission is free to the Getty Museum (including both the Getty Center and the Getty Villa) every day except Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1. Each site also has different weekly closures—the center is closed on Mondays, while the Villa is closed on Tuesdays.
Museums with Weekly Free Days
The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
The Phillips Collection, “America's first museum of modern art,” is free on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It also offers free admission some weekends, so be sure to check the website ahead of any planned Saturday or Sunday visits. It's closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, December 24-25, January 1, and July 4.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
MoMA is free every Friday night from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. During this weekly event, visitors are invited to enter all galleries and exhibition spaces.
Museums That Waive Admission Once a Month
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
The Pompidou, Paris' premiere modern art museum, invites visitors to view its permanent collection for free on the first Sunday of every month.
The Louvre, Paris
Admission to the Louvre, a world-famous museum steeped in history, is free on the first Sunday of each month from October to March. Here, you'll find the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and other one-of-a-kind treasures.
Le Gallerie Degli Uffizi, Florence
Florence's famed Uffizi Gallery offers free entry on the first Sunday of every month.
Vatican Museums, Vatican City
The Legion of Honor, San Francisco
The Legion of Honor houses an impressive collection of ancient and European art that spans 6,000 years. General admission is free the first Tuesday of every month.
The M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco
The De Young‘s eclectic collection of art, artifacts, and decorative art objects is open to the public for free on the first Tuesday of every month, as well as select Friday nights throughout the year. Check their website for specific dates.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
With a collection that “mirror[s] Los Angeles's rich cultural heritage and uniquely diverse population,” LACMA offers visitors from all walks of life free admission on the second Tuesday of every month.
State Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
The Hermitage is the second largest museum in the world. You can see its collection of art and cultural objects for free on the first Thursday of each month.
Museums with Special Free Days
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Every Wednesday night from 4 pm, admission to the Museum of Fine Arts lets you “pay what you wish.” The museum is also free on “Open House” days throughout the year. The next Open House is on October 18.