Want to enjoy more culture, for less? The National Art Pass, often referred to as Art Fund membership, offers free and reduced-price entry to hundreds of cultural places and 50% off major exhibitions.
Perhaps you’re thinking of buying a National Art Pass and asking yourself ‘Is the Art Fund pass worth it?’
Or maybe you’re already a member and wondering ‘where can I use my National Art Pass?’
I’ve been a member for a few years and am still finding new places to use it! In this post I’ll show you how and where we use our National Art Pass, and why I think it’s worth it for families looking for fun cultural days out for less, as well as any culture lover.
You can use your National Art Pass across the UK. I’ve focused on venues in London and the South East, where we live. Search for places near you on Explore page of the National Art Pass website.
1. At major exhibitions for 50% off
From world history to contemporary culture, and emerging artists to household names, London’s exhibition programmes offer access to the best of culture. And with your National Art Pass you get a whopping 50% off major temporary exhibitions.
Big names offering this discount include Tate, V&A, British Museum, National Gallery, Royal Academy, National Maritime Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum and more.
Book entry online ahead – just select ‘National Art Pass’. Don’t forget to bring your pass with you on the day.
My current favourite temporary exhibitions to visit in London with your National Art Pass are:
- Hallyu! The Korean Wave at V&A South Kensington. An absolutely fascinating look at Korean culture, from chart-toppers like Gagnam Style to TV smash hits like Squid games, plus fashion, beauty, K-pop, art and more. Bust a move for Google Arts & Culture K-pop Dance Challenge and be inserted into a collective music video – it’s a lot of fun! Until 25 June 2023, 50% off entry with National Art Pass. Best ages 12+, or for Korean culture fans.
- WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD: The World of ASMR at Design Museum. Ever felt the effects of certain sounds on you? This fun exhibition explores how ASMR sound designers try to provoke these reactions. Lie back on giant beanbags, pop on the headphones and see how you feel whilst watching videos on quirky subjects like doggie haircuts or Bjork talking about the little world inside the back of her telly. Until 10 April 2023, 50% off entry with National Art Pass. Best ages 8+.
- The Horror Show! A Twisted Tale of Modern Britain at Somerset House. From punk to Me Too, this show uses horror tropes to explore British modern history through creative rebellion. It’s a surprising, strange and slightly sinister take which mixes politics, fashion, art, music and pop culture. ‘Monster’ was my favourite section, with Leigh Bowery’s outfits, Thatcher’s spitting image puppet, and Jenkin van Zyl’s preserved cake heads like something out of Warner Bros Studios tour.
Until 19 February 2023. 20% off entry with National Art Pass. Best ages 12+.
2. For 50% off museum and gallery entry
And it’s not just temporary exhibitions you can save money on with your National Art Pass. Many museums and heritage attractions offer half price entry too.
We’ve recently visited the following places which offer half price entry to National Art Pass holders:
- The iconic St Paul’s Cathedral has breathtaking architecture, modern art by Henry Moore and Bill Viola, and memorials to famous Britons including Lord Nelson and Florence Nightingale. Those who brave the 500+ steps will be rewarded with stunning panoramic views.
- HMS Belfast is the Royal Navy’s last surviving cruiser and the largest preserved warship in Europe. Clamber through nine decks, from the engines to the Captain’s chair to find out more about life on board. The kids took the Find Your Sea Legs! family activity, completing fun activities around the ship to earn a certificate – plus they got to ring the ship’s bell! The trail runs weekends and holidays, and is included with entry; it’s best for ages 7+.
- One of the biggest hits at The Postal Museum is a ride on Mail Rail, their 100 year old tiny underground train designed to carry mail across London. But there’s also fun, hands-on exhibitions – we sorted letters on a rocking train and shot messages across the gallery via pneumatic tubes. Regular drop-in activities are included in entry – during October half term we made Pride-inspired badges and fridge magnets.
- Dubbed ‘the Sistine Chapel of the UK’, Old Royal Naval College and its Painted Hall is simply jaw-dropping. Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon has just landed, but it is Sir James Thornhill’s painted ceiling which commands attention. Grab the excellent digital guide (included with entry), and lie back on a bench to learn more about this stunning artwork. Check if the skittles alley is open.
- Once the country retreat of famous architect Sir John Soane, Pitzhanger in Ealing now offers ambitious contemporary art exhibitions. With its vibrant mesh cloud-like installation, Dappled Light by Rana Begum (March-September 2022) was a joyful look at the beauty of light, colour and form. Open Sundays feature family-friendly activities, trails and storytelling, included with entry.
- The small, friendly Florence Nightingale Museum celebrates the trailblazing ‘Lady with the Lamp’ and nurses today. Time your visit with a Meet Miss Nightingale or Mary Seacombe event, included with entry. It’s one of the best meet a historical character experiences we’ve tried! The kids had an impromptu personal tour with Miss Nightingale herself, then joined a witty and engaging half hour session where she shared her life story.
- The magical world of children’s books comes to life at The Story Museum Oxford. Step inside life-size recreations of eight children’s stories, from Alice in Wonderland to His Dark Materials. Atmospheric sets, digital projections and audio combine to create everything from the sublime – inside Narnia – to the ridiculous – a farting mattress in Horrid Henry’s bedroom. Let trees tell you how stories were made inside the The Whispering Wood.
- You’ll need several days to check out the historic ships, museums and attractions at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. HMS Victory, Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, is so atmospheric. Mary Rose Museum tells the story of Henry VIII’s Tudor flagship sinking and remarkable recovery with such drama. Clamber up the 8.4m climbing tower and conquer the assault course in Action Stations. Or take a boat over to Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower.
3. For FREE entry to museums, galleries and heritage sites
There’s 250+ places which offer completely FREE entry to National Art Pass holders. It’s a great way to find somewhere new to visit – I finally made it to the Fan Museum in Greenwich with my pass.
- Horniman Museum and Gardens, where National Art Pass holders get free entry to their exhibitions and aquarium. Currently ELMER and friends showcases the joyous characters of David McKee through original drawings and plenty of nooks to read together. Brick Dinos opens February 2023.
- Kensington Palace, a 17th century palace whose rooms reveal the dramatic stories of three centuries of royal life. My personal favourite is the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria, which tells her story so well.
- Select English Heritage sites including Art Deco masterpiece Eltham Palace and Gardens, grand country house Audley End House and Gardens and Wrest Park with its outstanding restored garden landscape originating in the 17th century.
- Select National Trust sites including Ham House, Osterley Park and House and Wimpole Estate. We loved the 12 Days of Christmas trail at Hughenden in the Chilterns, also free for National Art Pass holders.
- The stunningly restored Leighton House Museum, Frederic, Lord Leighton’s ‘private palace of art’. The Arab Hall is definitely a contender for the most beautiful room in London.
- And there’s still plenty for us to explore – next year I’ll be using my National Art Pass for free entry into Historic Dockyard Chatham, for one thing!
4. In museum shops and cafes
Flash your National Art Pass at the till for special offers at select museum shops and cafés.
I was thrilled to discover my nearest museum, the William Morris Gallery, offers 10% off in their cafe and shop to National Art Pass holders. Especially as their cafe is now run by Deeney’s, makers of ‘London’s best sandwich’ – according to the Evening Standard, Time Out and Buzzfeed at least!
Having now tried The Macbeth haggis toastie I can see what the fuss is about. I also recommend their burnt honey and mascarpone cheesecake – it tastes even sweeter with money off!
Find a full list of places offering shop and cafe discounts on Explore page of the National Art Pass website or inside the printed Art Map – more of which now!
5. Finding new cultural places to visit with Art Map and Art Quarterly
With your National Art Pass membership, you get Art Map, a comprehensive printed guidebook on using your pass at over 800 venues. Divided into regions, it’s an easy way to find cultural places near you. Each offer is clearly described – this was how I discovered I get money off my local museum cafe! The pocket size means it’s easy to carry in a bag or pop in the glovebox for exploring on the go. It also includes other free to visit places – hidden gems or smaller sites that might otherwise be off your radar.
And you also get a subscription to Art Quarterly, Art Fund’s glossy magazine with exclusive features. I always add somewhere to my visit wish list after reading! There’s listings for current and upcoming shows, reviews of exhibitions and books, interviews with artists and curators, and feature articles inspired by current concerns. The last issue explored feminist art and language, the relationship between video games and war, feminist art and language, and took a deep dive into the Lindisfarne Gospels.
6. For days out with friends and family
With National Art Pass you can share your membership benefits with friends and family. So if you get half price exhibitions, or free entry – so do they!
Add Plus One to share your benefits with a guest – it doesn’t have to be the same friend each time. This costs £41 for an individual member. I used mine to take Museum Dad on a ‘date day’ recently.
Add Plus Kids to your membership for just £15 to share your benefits with children in your family under the age of 16. So, for example, a child annual ticket for The Postal Museum is £4.50 with the National Art Pass, instead of £9 full price. This perk is particularly useful when kids get to the age to be charged for exhibitions. For Hallyu! at the V&A, a child ticket (ages 12-17) with National Art Pass costs £6.50 instead of £13, under 12s remain free.
If there’s two of you culture explorers in the household, consider a double membership. You get a card each, so you can visit separately. It’s £112 per year, with a 25% discount for the first year if paid by direct debit. You can add Plus Kids to both cards for £15, or Plus One to both cards for £82.
7. To support the arts
All the monies raised by the National Art Pass get reinvested into the arts, heritage and culture sector. The Art Fund helps museums to buy and share works of art through its purchase fund. It celebrates excellence with its annual ‘Museum of the Year’ award. And it has given grants to support pandemic recovery.
The ‘Funded’ section in Art Quarterly keeps you up-to-date with how the money is spent. Last issue I was most excited to see the support for purchasing Hew Locke’s Souvenir 9 sculpture for Birmingham Art Gallery, having been moved by his current Tate Britain installation. And it was great to hear they also funded Chantal Joffe’s collage-style metal portraits adorning Whitechapel’s Elizabeth line platforms – one of my highlights of riding the new line.
Whilst I’m not expecting to see my name on a gallery wing soon, it’s nice to know I’m helping support the arts, in my own small way.
How much is a National Art Pass 2023?
A National Art Pass costs £75 for individual annual membership, £45 for under 30s, or £112 for double membership. You can save 25% in your first year when you pay by direct debit (making it £56.25 for individual membership, or £84 for double).
Add Plus Kids for £15, and/or Plus One for £41 for an individual or £82 for a joint membership.
Are there any special offers on the National Art Pass 2023?
A National Art Pass is a great gift to give and receive – including from yourself! If one of your new year’s resolutions is to visit more museums and cultural spaces, and save money in the process, then I’m sure this membership will help you on both fronts.
And here’s a little extra something for you: use code MUSEUMMUM when you join for a FREE Supermundane tote bag.
I hope this post helps answer your questions about the National Art Pass. Let me know in the comments below if you have any more you’d like to know about it. Or if you already have one, share your favourite days out with it.
Disclosure: This post is part of a paid campaign for Art Fund, although I became a member a couple of years before this and like it so much I have previously gifted memberships to others.
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