The UK has a long and varied history, so it's no surprise that we also have some of the best museums in the world to educate us. Home to rare artefacts, enlightening installations, and exploring thrilling histories of the people of Britain, there is a museum for all interests, ages, and hobbies.
Whether you're looking for an educational day out, a culture fix, or something to do with the kids, here are the best museums across the UK.
Best Living Museum: Beamish Museum, Durham
Discover what life before WW1 was like in North East England at the Beamish Museum - one of the best-living museums in the UK, set in 300 acres of beautiful Durham countryside. Step back in time as costumed folk bring the Town, Pit Village, Home Farm, and Pockerley Old Hall to life.
Beamish has so much history to explore. The immersive experience features a 1900s town with a working bakery, sweet shop, pub, and even a fairground! Wander the cobbled streets and learn what living in early 20th-century Northern England would feel like. The 1800s replica steam train is absolutely not to be missed - ride through the Georgian landscape to complete the experience. If you're interested in WW2, make sure to visit the 1940s farmhouse to listen to news broadcasts on the wireless and see what a rationed meal looks like.
Admission: Free for under 5s, Beamish is a budget-friendly option for families. A family of four can enter for £58*, and all tickets are valid for 1 year from the first entry for unlimited visits!
Getting there: You can get to Beamish Museum on CrossCountry trains to Durham. From here, you can hop on regular bus services from the town centre to Beamish Museum, taking approximately 1 hour.
Best Science & Space Museum: National Space Centre, Leicester
The whole family will enjoy an out-of-this-world experience at Leicester's award-winning National Space Centre. Get ready for lift-off as you board the iconic rocket tower that stands 42m high and dominates Leicester's skyline. The National Space Centre offers the largest planetarium dome in the UK, so you can enjoy a 360° cinema experience taking you through our solar system. Six interactive galleries bring you face-to-face with astronauts and take you on a journey through the history of space, so there is plenty to learn and explore!
The Orbiting Earth Gallery uncovers satellites in space that influence your day-to-day life, really bringing the power of satellites back down to Earth. Enter the weather pod to record yourself reading the teleprompter for a weather report in the year 2085, watch the impact of an asteroid collision and even create your own sound waves!
It's not rocket science; interactive and educational; the Space Centre is one of our favourite museums in the UK
Admission: Visiting the National Space Centre costs around £18 for adults and £16 for children*, with online discounts, and kids under 5 go free.
Getting there: Take your most convenient CrossCountry route to Leicester station, followed by a 30-minute bus ride to the museum.
Best Maritime Museum: Brunel’s SS Great Britain, Bristol
Alive with the sights, sounds and even smells of another age, discover the world's first great ocean liner when you step on board Brunel's SS Great Britain in Bristol. Rescued from rust and wreckage in 1970, the ship has since been lovingly restored to her Victorian heyday.
A day on the SS Great Britain offers the chance to learn what it was like in the lavish First-Class areas before discovering the cramped and quarrelsome conditions of the lower deck. Explore everything from the kitchen and cabins to the dining room and doctor's surgery.
Visitors can steer by the stars, dress up as an emigrant family, and meet historical passengers aboard the ship. You can even step into the shoes of a Victorian sailor and climb the ship's colossal mainmast. You'll be securely strapped into a harness and briefed before heading up to the rigging platform 26m above the ground. Here you can enjoy beautiful views of Bristol Harbour.
Finally, make sure to visit the exhibition surrounding Isambard Kingdom Brunel's life and work. Brunel built bridges, tunnels, ships and railways that were longer, faster and bigger than anything ever seen before, and Being Brunel delves into the innovator's life.
Admission: A two-adult family (with kids aged 5+) can expect to pay around £62*, and any under 4s go free.
Getting there: From Bristol Temple Meads station, you can get to the museum with a 30-minute walk, or a short ferry or bus ride.
Best Ancient History Museum: JORVIK Viking Centre, York
Discover the lives of the Vikings as you travel around the reconstruction of a 10th-century York.
At JORVIK Viking Centre, you will stand on one of the most fascinating discoveries of modern archaeology. Between 1976-81, archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust discovered houses, workshops, and backyards of the Viking-Age city of Jorvik as it stood nearly 1,000 years ago. And now, it has been skillfully reconstructed for you to explore.
Everything you see during your visit is based on real archaeological evidence found during the discovery of the site, with an emphasis on recreating every detail of the experience. This includes small details such as the flora and fauna growing in the ground and the different animals that inhabited the area. Even the splashes of natural dyes found in one of the backyards can be seen.
With a fun ride experience and state-of-the-art galleries showcasing a unique collection of Viking artefacts, it's educational and fascinating to explore, as well as great fun for all the family.
Admission: Entry to the museum costs £15 for adults and £10.50 for children*; under 5s go free.
Getting there: The JORVIK Viking Centre is a 15-minute walk from York train station.
Best Museum with Gardens: St Fagans Museum, Cardiff
Located on the grounds of St Fagans Castle and Gardens, just outside of Cardiff, St Fagans National Museum of History is one of the UK's best museums for a varied day out. With a focus on Welsh heritage and the lives of Welsh people through time, a visit to St Fagan's is a real opportunity to engage with Welsh history and to watch it come alive. You can discover fascinating histories through the historic grounds, buildings, galleries, and exhibitions.
What's more, St Fagans is a working museum. There are craftsmen, livestock, farmers, and more on-site to offer an insight into Wales' rich heritage and understand how it still lives today. Make sure to leave plenty of time to explore the full museum, as well as the gorgeous gardens surrounding; perfect for a summer day of education and exploring. The gardens range from cottage gardens to boldly designed rosaries and more.
Whether you love ancient history, exploring national heritage, understanding historic lifestyles, or admiring beautiful gardens, St Fagans National Museum of History has it all.
Admission: Thanks to support from the Welsh Government, St Fagans is free to visit! Bring a picnic for a budget-friendly day out.
Getting there: Take your favourite CrossCountry train to Cardiff Central station, followed by a 30-minute bus journey.
*Entry Prices stated are accurate at the time of writing. Please check prices before planning your journey.
If you’re travelling to the UK's best museums, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or our Train Tickets app. You can also find information on how to get cheaper train tickets via our special offers page. If you need more information, you can contact us here.
The UK is bursting with fun activities. Whether you’re visiting one of the best castles in the UK, the best theme parks in the UK, or the best waterparks in the UK, you can always travel by train. CrossCountry has services running up and down the country to ensure you can get to the places you need to be.
Written by Julia