Holy cow, it’s only one more week till Christmas! Where did those first eleven months of 2018 disappear to? Although Christmas is a festive time for most of us, the preparations towards it can cause a lot of stress. You might recognise these following questions: What food will I serve? What shall I wear? What Christmas presents do I buy? Although I can’t answer most of these questions, I can help you with that last one. May I present to you my 5 cultural Christmas gift ideas! Spoiler: they’re all membership cards and each of them unlocks a treasure trove of cultural gems!
Tate Membership Card
Let’s start with my favourite museum EVER: Tate Modern! Although I’ve visited it dozens of times already, I’m still captivated by its industrial looks. And let’s not forget the great view over St Paul’s Cathedral and London’s skyline from the free viewing platform on Tate Modern’s 10th floor!
It’s free to visit Tate Modern’s impressive permanent collection of contemporary art, but being a Tate member I visit all their paid exhibitions as well. These are often highly anticipated blockbuster shows. So, if you’re willing to invest in a cultural Christmas gift, then a Tate Membership would be my top recommendation. Especially since the Tate Membership Card gives you access to all four Tate galleries across the UK.
This year I was especially impressed with the exhibition Shape of Light: 100 Years of photography and abstract art at Tate Modern – which inspired me to start my black and white Instagram account Girl Noir – and also the Egon Schiele/Francesca Woodman show at Tate Liverpool. (I wrote about that latter exhibition here.)
Perks and price
- The Tate Membership Card allows you free access to all paid exhibitions in all of the Tate galleries (Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives)
- Acces to members’ only spaces and priority opening hours
- No need to reserve tickets, just show up at the exhibition entrance. (You will need to book tickets for talks or special events though.)
- Three free art magazine a year
- Depending on the card you choose, you can take 1 up to 3 guests for free with you
- 10% discount in the shop
- Price of the Tate membership: from £76 a year
Considering I studied English Language & Literature, I have quite a weak spot for books and libraries. So, it’s no surprise that The British Library is one of my favourite cultural spots in London. And it’s quite radically different from your average library. The British Library doesn’t only have an extraordinarily expansive book collection and document archive you can consult, but they also host a great number of events and inspiring exhibitions.
While I do retreat to the library at times when I need a quiet space to work and think, what attracts me most to the British Library are their world-class exhibitions. Drawing on their vast collection as a resource, shows there are every book lover’s delight. Indeed, visiting their current blockbuster show Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms reminded me of my first year at uni when I studied Old English. (Not one of my most useful skills I must admit.)
Even if you’re not much of a reader, you’ll find that exhibitions at the British Library are far from dry. I think the secret of their success is that they often make connections with popular or contemporary culture. In their exhibition Terror and Wonder, for example, they investigated the ‘Gothic’ right from its birth in 18th-century literature, up to its influence on today’s fashion, music and art. And Writing Britain didn’t only feature the works of Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brönte, but also The Beatles lyrics and Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
I was especially very impressed when I visited the Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library last year. This blockbuster show attracted so many people that it was essential to book well ahead of time. I was so thrilled to hear so many different languages spoken as I walked around, confirming what a broad audience their shows appeal to it. And handily, the location of the British Library itself, right next to St Pancras International train station, is an ideal connection point for both Londoners and visitors alike.
Perks and price
- Unlimited Library access for member and guest
- Free entry to exhibitions for member and guest
- Priority booking for events
- Free listings guides
- 20% off public restaurants, cafes and shops
- Entry to the daytime Members’ Room
- Entry to the Knowledge Centre Bar
- Price of the British Library membership: £80 a year
The Barbican Centre is an allround cultural centre. They don’t only have exhibitions, but you can also come here to see a film, concert or dance performance. I’m always eager to see their programme and visit the well-curated shows.
Exhibitions at the Barbican frequently tend to focus on architecture, design and photography. Having said this, exhibitions I’ve enjoyed most of all went far beyond these themes.
The highly anticipated exhibition on Jean-Michel Basquiat last year was astonishing. It even inspired the illustrious street artist Banksy to create new murals based on Basquiat’s work. Other fascinating past exhibitions I’ve seen here include: Into the Unknown: A journey through science-fiction, The World of Charles and Ray Eames and The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.
I’m also looking forward to seeing the current photo exhibition Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde before it closes at the end of January.
And if you visit an exhibition at the Barbican, you might even end up in one of the press photos. That’s what happened to hubby and myself a few years ago!
Perks and price
- Priority booking
- No booking fees
- Free access to all exhibitions
- 20% off cinema tickets for member plus a guest
- 20% off selected music and theatre events (subject to availability)
- Invitations to exclusive members-only events
- Access to the Members’ Lounge for member plus a guest
- Special offers in the restaurants and foyer bars, and a discount in the Barbican shops
- Weekly round up email outlining priority booking, new sales, upcoming events and competitions
- Price of the membership: from £59 a year
National Art Pass
If you’re not sure which membership card to go for, you can always opt for the National Art Pass. This is the mother of all cultural membership cards! The National Art Pass usually gives you either complete free access to museums and galleries or entrance at a 50% discount.
The great advantage of this card is that it’s not restricted to just one venue. The majority of all museums and galleries in the UK are part of the National Art Pass scheme. And besides museums, the card also gives you cheaper access to historic houses and palaces across the country such as Charles Dickens’ London home and Kensington Palace.
Perks and price
- Free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic houses across the UK
- 50% off entry to major exhibitions
- Quarterly art magazine
- Price of the membership: from £67 a year
- Order your National Art Pass here
The Museumjaarkaart is the Dutch equivalent of the National Art Pass. Even if you don’t live in the Netherlands and are just visiting, it might be worth picking up a card. You can buy one at one of the participating venues and use it straightaway. (This will be a temporary card which you’ll need to register online to receive the actual pass. If you don’t have a Dutch address, you can register the card using this form.)
You might want to consider to buy a Museumjaarkaart, because unlike in London or the UK, in the Netherlands you need to pay entrance fees at pretty much any museum, gallery or attraction. And since the fees can be quite high, you can make back the costs of the Museumjaarkaart with just four museum visits.
Let’s say you’re in Amsterdam for a long weekend and are visiting the Van Gogh Museum (€18), Rijksmuseum (€17.50), Stedelijk Museum (€17.50), EYE Film Museum (€10), Foam photography museum (€11) and the Anne Frank House (€10). Adding these prices all up, you’ll be able to save almost €20 with a Museumjaarkaart (based on adult tickets). Pretty good eh?
Perks and price
- The Museumjaarkaart can be used in over 400 venues in the Netherlands
- Regular newsletters via email with information about upcoming exhibitions and special events
- Free or discounted access in pretty much each museum in the Netherlands
- Card holders get (discounted) access to special events
- Price of the Museumjaarkaart: up to 18 years old it’s €32.45, from 19 years old it’s €64.90 a year
- You can buy your preliminary Museumjaarkaart at the ticket desk of one of the participating venues or online
I hope these Christmas gift ideas have been useful and inspiring! Do you have any of these memberships (or even a different one)? Let me know which one and how you’re finding it!
See you next week again! Zarina xx