Top 10 Aviation Museums

Top 10 Aviation Museums in the World

This article is for people who love airplanes! We’re going to introduce you to the Top 10 Aviation Museums in the world and describe ways that you can visit these on a budget. We’ll tell you where the museums are located and how to get there, describe a few highlights of what you will see when you visit, and tell you how to take advantage of discounts on admission.

There are hundreds of aviation themed museums in the world, so it was a challenge the choose the top ten for this article. We hope that your favourite museum made the list, and our apologies if it didn’t make it.

Top 10 Aviation Museums of the world

#1 – Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington, USA

The Museum of Flight Seattle is a privately owned museum sponsored by the Boeing Corporation, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of aircraft and spacecraft. It is organized into six main galleries, each dedicated to a different theme.

Museum of Flight Seattle

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park is an outside park showcasing a restored B-52G Stratofortress, as well as a tribute space for reflection and remembrance of the sacrifices of Vietnam War veterans.

The Aviation Pavilion is a covered, outside gallery holding 19 exceptional aircraft including a number of Boeing commercial jets, a Concorde, the first Presidential “Air Force One”, and a number of military aircraft.

The Great Gallery is an indoor gallery encased in glass and holds 39 historic aircraft including a Douglas DC-3 that is suspended from the ceiling.

The Personal Courage Wing is a fully enclosed, indoor gallery dedicated to the bravery of pilots who fought in the two world wars. This gallery holds 28 restored aircraft.

The “Red Barn” is dedicated to the early days of aviation and the barn is the historic “birthplace” of the Boeing company.

Finally, the Space Gallery focuses on the Space Shuttle and includes a Fuselage Trainer, used to train shuttle astronauts.

Highlights of a visit

  • Boeing 247D, the world’s first commercial airliner
  • Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” bomber
  • Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” bomber
Boeing B-29 “Superfortress”
  • Boeing B-52G “Stratofortress” bomber
  • Boeing VC-137B “Air Force One”
  • Concorde
  • Grumman F-2 “Wildcat” fighter
  • Grumman F-14A “Tomcat” fighter
  • Lockheed M-21 “Blackbird”, the world’s fastest aircraft
Lockheed M-21 “Blackbird”
  • Lockheed P-38L “Lightning” fighter-bomber
  • McDonnell Douglas AV-8C “Harrier” fighter
  • McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A “Hornet” fighter
  • Messerschmitt BF 109E-3 fighter
  • Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 PFM fighter
  • North American P-51D “Mustang” fighter
  • Republic P-47D (F-47) “Thunderbolt” fighter-bomber
  • Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX fighter
  • Yakovlev Yak-9U Frank fighter

Getting to the Museum of Flight

The museum is located about 10 kilometers south of downtown Seattle, Washington. Seattle is on the west coast of the United States.

The Museum of Flight, 9404 East Marginal Way South, Seattle, Washington, United States

If you are in the Seattle area, you can get to the museum using public transit. The public transportation system is called “METRO” and is operated by King County. Take METRO Bus #124 from Downtown Seattle or Tukwila Station to reach the Museum of Flight. There is a bus stop directly in front of the museum. Click here to visit the King County “METRO” public transportation website.

If you travel to the museum by car, there is free parking at the museum.

The most economical way to get to Seattle is generally by bus. Seattle is served by Greyhound Bus which offers inexpensive travel from all over the United States and Canada. There is a Greyhound station in downtown Seattle near the METRO station. Click here to visit the Greyhound website.

If you prefer train travel, you can get to Seattle by AMTRAK train. The train station is located in downtown Seattle near the METRO station. Click here to visit the AMTRAK website.

Travelling by air, you will most likely arrive at Seattle’s “SEA-TAC” airport, which handles flights from domestic and international destinations. Look for the IATA code “SEA” when booking a flight. From SEA-TAC, take a shuttle to Tukwila station and then take the METRO bus to the museum. Click here to visit the SEA-TAC website.

Getting in to the Museum of Flight

At this writing, the Museum is operating on a reduced schedule and timed tickets are required. Currently the museum is open Thursday through Monday, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The museum is closed Tuesday and Wednesday, and on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Admission Prices:

Child (4 and under) FREE

Youth (5-17) USD$17

Adult (18+) USD$25

Senior (65+) USD$21

Discounted price tickets are available to active military and veterans, AAA members, airline employees, and Microsoft employees. Check the museum website for details.

You can get free tickets from the Seattle Public Library using their “Museum Pass” program. Click here to see the details of the Seattle Public Library “Museum Pass” program.

The museum has a “Free First Thursday” program which offers free admission on the first Thursday of the month, but this program appears to be temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 situation.

For more information


#2 – National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio, United States

National Museum of the United States Air Force

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is a public museum with a focus on the history of air combat. The Museum is organized into a number of indoor and outdoor galleries.

The Early Years Gallery covers the early developments of military air power. The collection covers the period from the Wright brothers and their contemporaries, through World War I and to the beginning of World War II.

The World War II Gallery holds one of the world’s top collections of WWII aircraft. The focus is on the equipment and heroes of the U.S. Army Air Forces during the war, but you will also see a few German, Japanese, and Soviet equipment. The gallery covers both the Pacific and European theatres.

The Korean War Gallery contains aircraft and exhibits that tell the story of the U.S. Air Force’s role and performance in that war. The Korean War ushered in the era of military jets and the museum shows that by displaying the American F-86A Sabre and the Russian MiG-15 fighter jets in a side-by-side display.

The Southeast Asia War Gallery is dedicated to a war that many people refer to as the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975. Visitors to this gallery will see aircraft and exhibits that describe the U.S. Air Force’s involvement in the conflict. The area displays both American aircraft and foreign-made fighters flown against the United States by North Vietnam.

The Cold War Gallery features aircraft that span the years of the Cold War. The gallery’s collection includes fighters, bombers, attack aircraft, reconnaissance, heavy airlift and trainers. This gallery includes the world’s only permanent public display of a B-2 stealth bomber.

The Missile Gallery is contained in a tall, silo-like structure that stands more than 40 metres high. You can view the missiles from ground level, or you can visit an elevated platform to see them from above. There are also satellites and rocket engines on display.

The Space Gallery is focused on equipment designed to operate in space. The United States’ space capabilities will be evident when you see the Space Shuttle exhibit, Titan IVB space launch vehicle, and Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft.

The Research and Development Gallery showcases aircraft, missiles, and engines that represent significant research and developments in aeronautical engineering.

The Presidential Gallery holds a historic collection of United States presidential aircraft. Visitors are allowed to walk through four of them, including aircraft used by Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower. You can also visit the Boeing VC-137C, also known as “Air Force One”, which was used by eight presidents in addition to carrying heads of state, diplomats and other dignitaries and officials on many historic journeys.

The Air Park is an outdoor gallery displaying a few aircraft, as well as a World War II 8th Air Force Control Tower and Nissen Huts.

Finally, the Museum hosts a Memorial Park which honours people associated with the United States Air Force for their courageous service and sacrifice in the cause of freedom. The Park was dedicated in 1972 and now holds more than 500 memorials, including statuary memorials, plaques, trees and benches.

Highlights of a visit

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber
Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Bockscar”
Messerschmidt ME-262A jet fighter
North American XB-70 Valkyrie

Getting to the Museum

The museum is located at 1100 Spaatz Street, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, USA. This is northeast of the city of Dayton, Ohio.

The entrance to the National Museum of the United States Air Force is on Springfield Street at historic Wright Field (Gate 28B), Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, six miles northeast of Dayton, Ohio.

If you are driving to the museum, getting there is quite easy. The museum is close to several Interstate highways, and there are signs directing you to the museum parking lot. You can drive to the museum in less than a day from places as far as Chicago or Toronto.

Getting to the museum by public transit is, unfortunately, rather difficult, as there are no public transit stops that are close to the museum. There are some bus routes that are operated by the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (RTA), but the walk from the closest bus stop to the museum will be rather long. For information on the bus routes or park-and-ride information, visit the RTA website. Click here to visit the RTA website.

If you are flying in, you will likely fly into Dayton International Airport (IATA code: DAY) which, despite it’s name, provides only domestic flights from major American cities. The airport is several kilometers north of the city and a long way from the museum, so the most practical way to get to the museum would be a ride sharing service such as Lyft or Uber. This ride will cost about USD$30 each way.

Visiting the Museum on a Budget

Here’s some good news….admission to the museum is free! Parking and wi-fi access in the museum are also free.

The museum is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
The museum will be open until 8:00 pm the first Thursday of each month from August to December 2020.
It is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

For more information

National Museum of the United States Air Force

Dayton, Ohio visitor information

#3 – Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (Washington, DC and Chantilly, VA)

United States National Air and Space Museum

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is one of many great museums operated by the Smithsonian Institution. It is a public museum and claims to hold the world’s largest collection of aviation and space-related artifacts in the world.

The Museum comprises two separate campuses. The main campus, called the National Air and Space Museum, is located in Washington, DC (District of Columbia). The second campus, called the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, is located a short distance away, in the town of Chantilly, Virginia.

Main campus (Washington, DC)

Unfortunately, a significant portion of the main campus is closed for renovations, and it is not clear when these renovations will be completed. Nonetheless, there are seven galleries that are currently open and these are well worth a visit.

The Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall showcases some of the most significant airplanes, rockets, and spacecraft in history.

The “How Things Fly” Gallery is aimed at younger visitors and explains the basic principles of flight.

Explore the Universe Gallery displays the tools and techniques that scientists use to study space.

Moving Beyond Earth Gallery allows visitors to imagine themselves travelling to space with displays on the space shuttle and space stations.

Space Race Gallery tells the story of the race between the United States and the Soviet Union to explore and dominate space.

The “Wright Brothers and The Invention of the Aerial Age” Gallery celebrates the accomplishments of Orville and Wilbur Wright, pioneers in the development of the aircraft.

Finally, the Time and Navigation Gallery shows the development of timekeeping and navigational devices over the years.

Highlights of a visit to the Main Campus:

1903 Wright Flyer
1903 “Wright Flyer”
Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis”
Chuck Yeager's Bell X-1
Chuck Yeager’s “Bell X-1”

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (Chantilly, Virginia)

The Udvar-Hazy campus is located a few kilometers away from the main campus in the town of Chantilly, Virginia.

This campus is organized into two large hangars. Unfortunately for visitors, this campus is also undergoing significant renovations. The roof is being reconstructed, a process that will be completed in 2022. Due to the renovation, some of the galleries are temporarily closed.

The Boeing Aviation Hangar is for aircraft. It holds 9 galleries that are currently open to visitors.

Vertical Flight Gallery showcases helicopters and airplanes that employ vertical takeoff and landing capabilities.

Sport Aviation Gallery holds aircraft that are used for pleasure flying including “homebuilt” aircraft and hang gliders.

The General Aviation Gallery is dedicated to aircraft used for civil, non-commercial flying such as personal aircraft, air taxis, and air ambulances.

The Business Aviation Gallery displays business aircraft.

The Commercial Aviation Gallery holds some of the most significant commercial aircraft in history.

The World War II Gallery showcases the rapid evolution of military aircraft during that war, and includes the B-29 bomber called “Enola Gay” that played a major role in ending that conflict.

In the Aerobatic Flight Gallery you’ll see 5 airplanes developed specifically for their aerobatic capabilities, often flown in thrilling air shows.

The World War II German Aviation Gallery describes the rise and fall of Germany’s “Luftwaffe”, including the late war “Arado Blitz” jet bomber.

Finally, the Ultralight Aircraft Gallery tells the story of powered, ultralight aircraft that were developed starting in the 1960s.

The James S. McDonnell Space Hangar is for spacecraft, rockets, and missiles. All 4 galleries are currently open.

The Human Spaceflight Gallery will show you the equipment used to allow humans to explore space, including space capsules and spacesuits.

In the Space Science Gallery you’ll see balloons, sounding rockets, satellites, space probes, orbiters, and landers that are used for scientific research in space.

The Applications Satellites Gallery holds satellites used for specific tasks in communications, photography, remote sensing, weather analysis, and navigation.

Last but not least, the Rockets and Missiles Gallery is for the “engines” of space travel, liquid and solid fuel powered rockets and missiles.

Highlights of a visit to the Udvar-Hazy campus

  • Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay”
  • Dash 80 prototype for the Boeing 707
  • the sole-surviving Boeing 307 Stratoliner
Space Shuttle Discovery
Space Shuttle “Discovery”
Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird”

Getting to the Museum

The main campus is located at 655 Jefferson Drive Southwest (SW), right in the heart of Washington, DC.

The easiest and least expensive way to get there is by public transit. The campus is located just a city block away from the “L’Enfant Plaza” Metro (subway) station. The Metro is operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). For information on riding WMATA, visit the website: https://www.wmata.com/

You can drive to the main campus but parking the car in the city will be expensive. The good news is there is an Interstate highway 695/395 which will quickly take you close to the museum.

If you plan to fly in, the easiest way is to fly into Washington “Ronald Reagan” National Airport (IATA code: DCA). There is a Metro subway station directly across the street from the airport so you can easily get to the museum. Click here to visit the Reagan National Airport website.

The Udvar-Hazy campus is located at 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway in Chantilly, Virginia.

This campus is rather remote so the easiest way to get there is by car. There is a limited amount of paid parking available. Driving to the museum should be easy, just be sure to take Virginia Highway 28 where the entrance to the museum is located.

If you prefer to take public transit, you will need to ride the “Fairfax Connector” bus. Fairfax Connector #983 will take you directly to the Udvar-Hazy campus. This bus originates at a Metro station (“Wiehle-Reston East”) so you can get into Washington, DC. Please note you will pay separate fares for the Fairfax Connector and Metro rides. Click here to visit the Fairfax Connector website.

If you choose to fly in, the Udvar-Hazy campus is located adjacent to Dulles International Airport (IATA code: IAD), making this an easy choice. The Fairfax Connector #983 will take you from the airport to the museum. Click here to visit the Dulles Airport website.

Because of the ongoing renovations, access to the museum may be limited; please check the museum website below for opening hours.

Visiting the Museum on a Budget

At this writing, the Main DC campus is closed, so no tickets are available. When tickets do become available, we expect that tickets will be free.

The Udvar-Hazy campus is open, and tickets are free. However, visitors are required to reserve “timed entry” passes before visiting. There is a limit of 6 tickets per visitor.

For more information


National Air and Space Museum (information on both the DC and Udvar-Hazy campus)
Visit Chantilly, Fairfax County, Virginia

#4 – Canada Aviation and Space Museum (Ottawa, Canada)

Canada Aviation and Space Museum

The Canada Aviation and Space Museum (CASM) is part of the “Ingenium” family of museums. The museums are located in the national capital city Ottawa and are operated by the Canadian government.

CASM consists of two large hangars in which the collection of aircraft and spacecraft are displayed. The Main Hangar is currently open and visitors can browse the entire collection. Regrettably, the Reserve Hangar is currently closed, and visitors are not permitted to tour. All of the displays at CASM are indoors…….if you’ve ever experienced winter in Ottawa, you’ll know why!

The Main Hangar is divided into 9 themed display areas.

“Early Aviation” is dedicated to the earliest powered aircraft, including the A.E.A. Silver Dart which was the first powered airplane to fly in Canada.

The First World War area displays 8 warplanes from that conflict, including the Curtiss JN-4 “Canuck”, the first mass produced Canadian plane.

Canada is a large country with vast expanses of “bush”, so there is an area dedicated to “Bush Flying”. Here you’ll see 8 bush planes including Canada’s first bush plane (Curtiss HS-2L) and a De Havilland Canada Beaver.

The “Canada in Space” area holds a single artifact, a “Canadarm” robotic arm which was used aboard the American Space Shuttle for many years.

In the Recreational Flying area you’ll see 6 airplanes used exclusively for pleasure flight.

The Airlines area holds 5 commercial aircraft, including an example of the iconic Douglas DC-3.

In the Second World War display, you’ll see more than a dozen aircraft, including a massive Avro Lancaster heavy bomber.

The Vertical Flight area showcases helicopters and aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing. Here you’ll see a Hawker Siddeley Harrier fighter and Boeing Vertol CH-113 Labrador, which was Canada’s long-serving search-and-rescue helicopter.

Finally, in Jet Age, you’ll see 10 jet powered aircraft, including a McDonnell Douglas CF-18, the Canadian version of the iconic F-18, and an Avro Canada CF-100.

Highlights of a visit:

Nose assembly from an Avro Arrow, a renowned Canadian aircraft that never went into production
Messerschmidt BF-109F4 German fighter
Heinkel HE-162 German jet fighter
Avro Lancaster World War II Bomber

Getting to the Museum

Canada Aviation and Space Museum is located at 11 Aviation Parkway in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, just a few kilometers east of downtown.

The most economical way to get to the museum is by public transit. OC Transpo operates the public transit system in the Ottawa Capital region, and Route 25 bus will take you directly to the museum entrance. Make sure you check the schedule as not all Route 25 buses will go all the way to the museum. Click here to visit the OC Transpo website: https://www.octranspo.com/en/

If you have a car, driving to the museum is easy, and there is inexpensive parking available at the museum. You can drive to the museum from Canada’s largest cities Montreal (2 hours drive) or Toronto (5 hours drive).

If you are flying, Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport (IATA code: YOW) serves flights from all over the world. It’s about a 20 minute drive to the museum, or you could take OC Transpo.

Visiting the Museum on a Budget

The museum has just recently reopened after a long closure due to COVID-19. They plan to open year-round.

Current hours of operation are 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Thursday to Monday. The museum is open on statutory holidays, except December 25 (Christmas Day).

Admission prices:

  • $CAD 15 CAD for adults
  • $CAD 13 for seniors and students
  • $CAD 10 youth ages 3 to 17
  • Free for children age 2
  • $CAD 38 for a family (up to 6 persons, with a maximum of 2 adults)

All visitors must reserve their tickets in advance online.

The museum offers free admission to all active Canadian military personnel, Canadian military veterans, Indigenous peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and a support leader accompanying a person with disabilities.

Currently, the museum is offering free admission from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

For more information


Canada Aviation Museum

Visit Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

#5 – Museum Of Aeronautics And Astronautics (Madrid, Spain)

Spain Museum of Aeronautics and Astronautics

The Museum Of Aeronautics And Astronautics, or, in Spanish, simply called “Museo del Aire”, is a large public museum near the Spanish capital city of Madrid.

The museum comprises 7 indoor hangars as well as a large outdoor display. There are more than 200 aircraft in the collection, as well as many military items such as uniforms, small arms, vehicles, etc.

Hangar 1 focuses on the early history of aviation in Spain, along with a displays on the Spanish army settlements in North Africa in the early 20th century including the “Rif” war in Morocco.

Hangar 2 showcases various engines, flight simulators, aeronautical equipment and uniforms used by the Spanish air force.

Hangar 3 includes training planes and fighters from the Spanish Civil War and post-war eras, as well as some gliders and helicopters.

Hangar 4 is dedicated to helicopters and autogyros, as well as a collection of flight instruments.

Hangar 5 features aircraft from the Spanish Air Force, plus a few ultralight aircraft.

Hangar 6 is dedicated to restoration of the aircraft, and may be closed to the public.

Hangar 7 holds a collection of more than 100 model aircraft built to a 1:10 scale.

The large outdoor exhibition area includes more than 10 display areas for you to enjoy, including some of the larger aircraft.

Highlights of a visit to the museum

  • a “Vilanova Acedo”, the Spanish version of the Blériot XI built in 1911 and likely the first airplane manufactured in Spain
  • the “Jesús del Gran Poder”, a modified version of the Breguet 19 airplane, which was flown on the first west-to-east transatlantic flight from Spain to Brazil in 1929
  • the de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft used by Francisco Franco from the Canary Islands to Tétouan at the start of the military rebellion which began the Spanish Civil War in 1936
  • the Spanish versions of the Heinkel He 111 and the Junkers Ju 52 which fought in the Spanish Civil War
  • modern jet fighters such as McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II and the Mirage F-1
  • an HA-220 “Super Saeta” fighter

Getting to the Museum

The museum is located about 10 kilometers southwest of Madrid, Spain. The address is A-5 Motorway, Kilometre 10,500, Cuatro Vientos, Madrid, Spain. The entrance to the museum is a small bridge which serves as an exit from the northbound lanes of Highway A-5.

If you are driving to the museum, note that the exit is only accessible from the northbound (direction Madrid) lanes of the highway. If you are in the southbound lanes, you must exit the highway and take the roundabout as shown on the map below.

[Map courtesy of Museo del Aire]

The least expensive way to reach the museum is by taking public transit. To do so, take the Metro (subway) to station Intercambiador de Príncipe Pío. Then, transfer to a bus that will take you south along the highway A-5. There are a number of bus routes that will work (523, 524, and a few others), so check the information in the station. Aboard the bus, ask the driver to let you disembark at the bus stop near the “Museo del Aire”. When you disembark the bus, cross the highway using the pedestrian overpass spanning the highway, and follow the “Museo” signs to the museum. When exiting the museum, walk back to the highway and catch the bus northbound back to the Metro station.

Click here to visit the Madrid Metro website: https://www.metromadrid.es/en

Click here to visit the Madrid Regional Transportation website: https://www.crtm.es/?lang=en

Visiting the Museum on a Budget

The museum is open Tuesday thru Sunday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, and is closed on Monday.

It’s a good idea to check before you visit because there are quite a few days when the museum is closed, including:

  • January 1 and 6
  • the entire month of August
  • Good Friday and Maundy Thursday
  • December 10 (the day of the patron saint of aviation)
  • December 24, 25 and 31, and other days established in the annual calendar.

The cost of admission is 3 euros.

Parking is free.

For more information


Museum Of Aeronautics And Astronautics

#6 – Royal Air Force Museum (London and Cosford, United Kingdom)

Royal Air Force Museum

Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) operates not one, but two, extraordinary aviation museums in England. The first is located near the city of London, and the second is located in rural Cosford. In this article, we’ll show you how to visit both museums.

RAF Museum London

The RAF London museum is located just north of the city of London and consists of six hangars displaying aircraft and other items of interest. All of the aircraft displays are indoors so you can enjoy your visit even in inclement weather.

Hangar 1 serves as the main entrance to the museum. This hangar tells the history of the RAF and includes aircraft from all periods, including a de Havilland 9A, a United Kingdom (UK) version of the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter F35C, a Supermarine Spitfire VB, and a Westland Sea King (HAR3) helicopter.

Hangar 2 focuses on World War 1 and holds a fantastic collection of aircraft, including a French Bleriot XXVII, German Fokker DVII, a British Sopwith F1 Camel.

Hangars 3, 4, and 5 cover the period from 1918 to 1980. Hangar 3 showcases the planes that fought the Battle of Britain, including examples of the Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1A, Hawker Hurricane Mk 1, Messerschmitt Bf109E-4/B ‘Emil’, and Fiat CR42 Falco (Falcon) fighters. Later you’ll see many other significant aircraft such as the Gloster Meteor F8, McDonnell Douglas FGR2 (Phantom), Republic P47D (Thunderbolt II), and Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVI.

Hangar 6 is dedicated to the RAF in the modern period from 1980 to the present. Here you’ll see a BAE Harrier GR9A, Eurofighter Typhoon, and a General Atomics MQ-1B “Predator” drone.

RAF Museum Cosford

The RAF Cosford museum is located northwest of the city of Birmingham. This museum consists of five indoor hangars and an outdoor area where some of the larger aircraft are displayed.

After passing through the Visitor Center hangar, you’ll enter the “Test Flight” hangar which showcases experimental aircraft and engines that employed the latest technology of the times. Here you’ll see an English Electric 1A which was the prototype for the BAC Lightning, a Gloster Meteor F8 which placed the pilot in a prone position, and a Hawker-Siddeley Kestrel FGA.1 which was capable of vertical flight.

Next is the “War in the Air” hangar which has a fantastic selection of British, German, and Japanese aircraft on display. The most notable planes in this collection are the British de Havilland Mosquito TT35, Hawker Hurricane IIC, and a North American P-51D Mustang. You’ll also see German aircraft Focke Wulf FW190A-8/R6, the rocket powered Messerschmitt Me 163B-1a Komet, and a Messerschmitt Me 410A-1-U2. Japanese aircraft include a Kawasaki Ki-1001b “Swallow”, Mitsubishi Ki-46 “Dinah”, and rocket powered Yokosuka MXY7 “Ohka”.

The fourth hangar is focused on the “Cold War”. This part of the museum tells the story of the cold war ideology of mutual deterrence, and you’ll see a wide range of equipment including aircraft, missiles, and vehicles. Highlights include a Canadair Sabre 4 fighter, Centurion battle tank, English Electric Lightning F1/P1B fighter, Handley Page Victor K2 bomber, Krauss-Maffei Leopard 1 battle tank, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 21PF “Fishbed” fighter, and a Sikorsky MH-53M Pave Low IV “Stallion” helicopter.

The fifth hangar, simply called “Hangar 1”, holds a collection of transport and training aircraft and consists of some of the largest and smallest machines flown by the Royal Air Force. Unfortunately, this hangar is currently closed to the public.

Finally, RAF Cosford has a large outdoor exhibit area with a number of displays. Here you’ll see a Hawker Siddeley Hunter F6A fighter, Lockheed Hercules C130K Mk3 transport, and a Lockheed SP-2H Neptune maritime patrol plane.

Getting to the Museums

The RAF London Museum is located at Grahame Park Way, London, just a few kilometers north of the city of London, England in the United Kingdom.

The most economical way to get to the museum is by public transit. You can take the London Underground (subway) from virtually anywhere in London to reach the museum. To reach the museum, travel to the “Colindale” station which is part of the Northern Line. Make sure that you board a train bound for the Edgeware branch (“EDGWARE”). From Colindale station, it’s a 10 minute walk to the museum. Click here to visit the Transport for London website: https://tfl.gov.uk/

If the London Underground is not convenient, you could take a train operated by ThamesLink. ThamesLink serves a large area in London and the surrounding area. To reach the museum, travel to the “Mill Hill Broadway” station on the purple (Luton/King’s Cross/Thameslink) line. From the station, walk south about 20 minutes to reach the museum. You could also take the 303 bus from Mill Hill Broadway station to the Museum. Make sure that you take the 303 bus to Kingsbury Circle. Click here to visit the ThamesLink Rail website: https://www.thameslinkrailway.com/

You can drive to the museum from Central London in about 30 minutes. Follow the brown and white tourist signs from M25, M1 (Junction 4 Southbound), A41, A5 and North Circular (A406) roads. There is parking available at the museum. Please be advised the museum parking lot fills up quickly!

The RAF Cosford Museum address is Royal Air Force Museum Cosford, Shifnal, Shropshire, which is in a rural area about 30 kilometers northwest of the city of Birmingham.

Located in a rural area, the museum is not well served by public transport, so the easiest way to get there is by car. If you’re driving from the south, take highway M6 at Junction 10a and follow the signs. From the north, take highway M6, exit at Junction 12 and follow A5 west to the museum. There is parking available at the museum.

The closest public transport option is a train operated by West Midlands Railway, which serves Birmingham and the surrounding region. You’ll need to take the train to Cosford station and then walk west about 300 meters to reach the museum. West Midlands Railway: https://www.westmidlandsrailway.co.uk/

Visiting the Museum on a Budget

Admission to both the London and Cosford museums is free of charge!

Opening hours for RAF Museum (London) are:

10.00 am – 5.00 pm (last entry 3.30pm) from November to February

10.00 am – 5.00 pm (last entry 3.30pm) from March to October

Opening hours for RAF Museum (Cosford) are:

10.00 am – 4.00 pm (last entry 3:00pm) from November to February

10.00 am – 5.00 pm (last entry 3:30pm) from March to October

For more information


Royal Air Force Museum (both locations)

Visit London, England

Visit Birmingham, England (includes information on Cosford)

#7 – Imperial War Museum (Duxford, United Kingdom)

Imperial War Museum Duxford

The Imperial War Museums (IWM) are a collection of five museums operated by the British government to tell the story of war. The collection includes IWM London, IWN North, the Churchill War Rooms, the naval ship HMS Belfast, and IWM Duxford. IWM Duxford is primarily an aviation museum and will be the subject of this article. For information on the other IWM museums, see the link below.

IWM Duxford is located in rural England near the town of Duxford, which is about 50 kilometers northeast of London. The museum has 7 indoor galleries to visit. Here is a brief overview of what you’ll see.

The 1st gallery is called AirSpace and holds over 30 aircraft from all eras. There are many military aircraft, including an Airco DH.9 and a Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 from World War I. Newer aircraft include a Hawker Siddeley Harrier which fought in the Falklands War, and a Panavia Tornado which flew in the 1991 Gulf War. There is also a supersonic commercial Concorde on display. The “Airborne Assault Museum” is also located in AirSpace; it is the Regimental Museum of the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces.

The 2nd gallery is called “Flying Aircraft” and is an operating hangar holding a number of operational airplanes. IWM Duxford partners with private operators which own, maintain, and flies these historic aircraft. Visitors are allowed in to see the planes and to meet the mechanics who keep them flying. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see one in action! Highlights includes a Bristol Beaufighter, Curtiss P-40C “Warhawk”, Grumman F4F “Wildcat”, Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina, and a B-17G “Flying Fortress”.

Next up is the “Air and Sea” gallery with a focus on naval aircraft and ships. Here you’ll see a de Havilland Sea Vixen, a Sea Venom, and a Sea Vampire, and a Westland Wasp helicopter. The significant ships on display include World War I Coastal Motor Boat 4 and an X-Craft midget submarine.

The 4th gallery is located in a historic hangar. Duxford was one of the first airbases in the world, and was operational from 1917 until 1961 when it was taken out of service. Now the hangar displays a number of military aircraft and a “Battle of Britain” exhibition. Notable aircraft include a Bristol fighter, Hawker Hunter fighter, and a Gloster Javelin fighter.

“Hangar 5: Conservation in Action” is the 5th gallery and is home to Duxford’s aircraft conservation workshops. It is open to the public, and visitors will get to see some of the vintage aircraft being restored and maintained.

The 6th gallery is called the “American Air Museum” and is entirely dedicated to military aircraft from the United States Air Force, reflecting the long lasting, collaborative relationship between the two countries. This gallery has it’s own website; see below for the link. In this gallery, you’ll see a Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” spy plane, North American P-51D “Mustang” fighter, Boeing B-52 “Stratofortress” bomber, Consolidated B-24 “Liberator” bomber, and about 17 other aircraft.

The 7th and final gallery is the “Land Warfare Hall” and holds a variety of military vehicles including artillery pieces, tanks, and trucks to tell the story of the mechanization of warfare. Here you’ll see Field Marshal ‘Monty’ Montgomery’s three command caravans and experience a “D-Day” landing at Normandy. The Royal Anglican Regiment museum is also located here, dedicated to the local army regiment. See the link below for more information.

Getting to the Museum

The museum is located in rural England between the cities of London and Cambridge. The easiest way to reach the museum is by car. You can take highway M11 north from London or south from Cambridge to reach the museum. It’s located at the junction of M11 and A505.

To get to the museum by public transit, you can take a train operated by “Greater Anglia”. Travel by train to the station named “Whittlesford Parkway” which is close to IWM Duxford. Trains depart from both London (Liverpool Street Station) or Cambridge Railway Station. From Whittlesford Parkway station, you will need to take a taxi to reach the museum. Click here to visit the Greater Anglia website.

Visiting the Museum on a Budget

The museum is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm every day.

Ticket prices:

Adult (Aged 16 – 64 years) £17.85

Child (Aged 5-15) £8.95

Child (under 5) Free

Family (1 adult and up to 3 children) £32.50

Family (2 adults and up to 6 children) £46.40

Senior 65+/ student / disabled £14.30

Personal Carer (to assist each disabled visitor) Free

For more information

Imperial War Museum Duxford

American Air Museum in Britain (located within IWM Duxford)

Royal Anglican Regiment Museum (located within IMW Duxford)

Visit “East of England” (including Duxford and Cambridge)

#8 – Paris Air and Space Museum (Paris, France)

Paris Air and Space Museum

This museum, known as “Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace” in French, is one of the oldest aviation museums in the world. It was first opened in 1919 and contains some of the oldest aircraft and artifacts in the world. The museum is located adjacent to Le Bourget Airport which is in the northern suburbs of Paris, France.

The museum has nine indoor galleries and an outdoor tarmac area for you to visit. Here are brief descriptions of what you’ll see.

When you first enter the museum you will be in the “Great Gallery”, which contains some of the worlds oldest aircraft in the “Air Pioneers” and “Great War” displays. There is also an exhibition area for art in the “Hall of Eight Columns” and a model room displaying more than a thousand scale model airplanes.

Your next stop will be the tarmac area, where you’ll see some of the worlds largest aircraft including a Boeing 747 and an Airbus A380 in an outdoor setting. There are about a dozen commercial and military planes in this area, as well as two full sized Ariane rockets. This area includes two indoor halls, the Concorde Hall, which holds two Concordes, and “Hall 1939-1945” which holds some restored World War II aircraft.

Going back indoors, the next stop is “Prototype Hall” which displays innovative planes from the post-war and early jet eras.

Next is the “Hall de la Cocarde” (Hall of the Cockade, in English), which exhibits planes which have served in the French Air Force from the 1950s to the present day.

In the “Hall des Voilures Tournantes” (Hall of Rotary Wings, in English), you’ll see a collection of helicopters and gyroscopes.

The “Inter-War Hall” showcases some of the pioneering airplanes that were developed between the two world wars.

Lastly there is the “Space Hall” which holds a large display of French, American, and Russian spacecraft.

Highlights of a visit include:

  • some of the oldest powered aircraft in the world, all developed in France, including Antoinette VII, Blériot XI, Voisin-Farman Number 1, and the Santos-Dumont Demoiselle
  • Iconic World War II aircraft, such as the Dewoitine D.520, Douglas C-47 “Skytrain”, Focke-Wulf FW-190 fighter, North American P-51 “Mustang” fighter, Republic P-47 “Thunderbolt”, Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVI, and a German V-1 flying bomb
  • a prototype Dassault Balzac V fighter jet, capable of vertical take off and landing
  • two Concordes, the “F-WTSS” original prototype, and an operational plane with Air France F-BTSD livery
Concorde with Air France livery

Getting to the Museum

The museum is located in the northern suburbs of Paris adjacent to an operational airport “Le Bourget”. The address is 3, Esplanade de l’Air et de l’Espace, Le Bourget CEDEX.

The museum is easy to reach from anywhere in Paris. If you’re driving, it’s just a short drive from central Paris. Take highway A1 (Autoroute du Nord) to Exit 5 (Le Bourget) and follow the signs. There is paid parking available on site.

There are several ways to reach the museum using public transit. You could take the Metro (subway), just ride Metro Line 7 to station “La Courneuve”, then transfer to Bus # 152 which will take you to the museum. An alternative route would be Metro Line 12, travel to station “Porte de la Chapelle” and then transfer to Bus # 350, which also goes directly to the museum.

Another option is to take the Paris “RER” trains, in which case you ride Line B, exit at station “Le Bourget”, then transfer to Bus # 152 which will take you to the museum. You could even walk from the RER station to the museum, allow 30 minutes to walk.

Click here for information on public transit in Paris.

Visiting the Museum on a Budget

The museum is open every day except Mondays.

Hours are 10:00 am to 6:00 pm from April 1st to September 30th, or 10:00 am to 5:00 pm from October 1st to March 31th.

Note the museum is closed on December 25th and January 1st.

Ticket prices:

Adults (26 and above) 16€

Young adults (19 to 25 years of age) 8€

Youth (4 to 18 years of age) 6€

Children (up to 4 years) Free

Reduced price tickets (14€) are available for seniors, job seekers, disabled persons, civilian personnel of the Ministry of Defense, Staff of the Army Museum and the Navy Museum, and foreign military personnel.

Admission is free for active soldiers, veterans, military reservists (National Guard), retired soldiers, bearers of the Paris Museum Pass, journalists (French and foreign), and other categories of people. See the museum website for a detailed list.

Entrance to the museum is free for everybody on the 1st Sunday of the month.

For more information

Paris Air and Space Museum (English language website)

Paris Air and Space Museum (French language website has more complete information)

#9 – Polish Aviation Museum (Krakow, Poland)

Polish Aviation Museum

The Polish Aviation Museum is located on the site of a former airport, just a few kilometers northeast of central Krakow, Poland. The museum first opened in 1964 and has been improving the facilities and collection ever since.

The museum has a newer main building and a large hangar holding the indoor displays. There is also a large, grassy area with walkways for the outdoor displays.

Although the facilities may be modest compared to the other museums on our “Top 10” list, we included this museum for its unique collection of early German, Polish, and Soviet aircraft which you won’t be able to see anywhere else. This is because the museum holds a number of older military aircraft that were transferred to Poland at the end of World War II to save them from Allied bombing.

Inside the museum, you’ll see:

  • PWS-26 biplane trainer used in 1937-1939 to train Polish air force pilots
  • PZL P.11 fighter from early World War II, the only surviving example in the world
  • Aviatik C.III World War I observation plane; sadly, only the fuselage remains
  • Albatros B.II World War I reconnaissance plane
  • BZ-1 GIL, a prototype of Poland’s first domestic helicopter
  • Tupolev TU-2 Soviet World War II bomber

Outside the museum, some of the highlights are:

  • “MIG Alley”, a large collection of Soviet MIG jet fighters
  • Hawker-Siddeley GR3 “Harrier” fighter-bomber
  • Northrop F-5E “Tiger II” fighter
  • Junkers JU-52, an early World War II German design
  • PZL M-15 “Belphegor”, a jet-powered biplane developed by Poland in the 1970s for agricultural purposes
  • Tupolev TU-134 Soviet commercial airplane
  • WSK Lim-6bis, a Polish version of a Soviet MIG fighter

There are up to 200 aircraft on display, including a large collection of gliders and helicopters. Be sure to check the museum’s website for a complete list.

Polish PZL-P11c fighter – the only one in the world

Getting to the Museum

The museum is located at 31-864 Kraków, al. Jana Pawła II (in English, John Paul II Avenue).

To get to the museum by car, follow John Paul II Avenue to Markowskiego Street. Cars can be parked on the access road to the Museum, in front of the Main Building, or on the side of John Paul II Avenue. Parking is free of charge.

You have two options to get to the museum by public transit.

You can take the tram that runs along John Paul II Avenue. Exit the tram at the “Muzeum Lotnictwa” stop and walk north along Markowskiego Street to the museum. There are multiple tram lines that will take you there, including Tram #52.

Alternately, you can take Bus #124 or Bus #424 which meanders through Krakow. Exit the bus at “Ugorek” bus stop then walk east along Seniorow Lotnictwa to reach the museum.

For more information on public transit in Krakow, please click here.

Visiting the Museum on a Budget

Museum opening hours:

Monday: Museum closed

Tuesday through Sunday: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Please note the museum closes for many public holidays, such as New Years Day, Epiphany, Holy Saturday, Easter, Easter Monday, Corpus Christi, Assumption of Mary, All Saints’ Day, National Independence Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Second Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve. Make sure to check the museum website for specific dates!

Ticket prices:

Adult 15 Zloty

Kids, Teenagers, Students, Pensioners, Disabled People 7 Zloty

Kids under 7 years old, assistant for a person with a disability Free

Family Ticket (2 adults + 2 kids, or 1 adult + 3 kids) 34 Zloty

Discounted tickets are available for certain local pass holders; check the museum website for details.

Best of all…..admission to the museum is free every Tuesday!

For more information

Polish Aviation Museum

#10 – China Aviation Museum (Beijing, China)

China Aviation Museum

China Aviation Museum is a public aviation museum that is located about 40 kilometers north of the city of Beijing in China. The museum is built on the site of a former air force base, and is partly housed within a cave in Datangshan Mountain. This museum may sometimes be referred to as the “Chinese Aviation Museum” or the “Datangshan Aviation Museum”.

The China Aviation Museum is divided into three parts and there are more than 200 aircraft on display.

The first part of the museum is located within a massive tunnel inside a cave in Datangshan Mountain. The tunnel is built in a long, curving arrangement and is large enough to hold about 50 aircraft in two rows. This collection consists of aircraft from the World War 2, Korean War, and “Cold War” eras. You will find Chinese, Japanese, and American military aircraft.

When you exit the tunnel, you’ll enter the second part of the museum, which is located on the old taxiway. This collection consists of more modern Chinese and North Korean fighters arranged in a “flight line” configuration.

When you leave the taxiway, you’ll enter the third and final part of the museum. This consists of the aprons and grassy areas that made up the original airfield. Here you will find a diverse collection of planes including many larger models.

Some of the more interesting aircraft on display include:

  • Shenyang F-7 fighter (Chinese variant of MIG-21)
  • Nanchang A-5 “Fantan” fighter
  • Nanchang B-5 bomber (Chinese variant of IL-28)
  • North American F-86 “Sabre” fighter from the Pakistan air force
  • F-104S “Starfighter” fighter
  • MIG-15 fighter from the North Korean air force
  • Tupolev TU-4 bomber in Chinese air force livery
  • BE-12 “flying boat” perched in a small lake which is part of the museum
  • deHavilland DH.98 “Mosquito” fighter-bomber
  • Ilyushin Il-18V transport that served as Mao Zedong’s “Air Force One”
  • Mil MI-24 attack helicopter
  • Tupolev TU-2 bomber

Getting to the Museum

The address is Xiaotangshan, Changping District, Beijing, China. The location is “off the beaten track” so we’ve included a photo of the main building to help you find your way. You will notice that Google Maps identifies the museum as the “Beijing Air and Space Museum”.

China Aviation Museum

If you are driving to the museum from Beijing, travel north on Highway S11 until you reach the 6th Northern Ring Road. Note that S11 is a toll road. Take the Ring Road west until you reach Provincial Road S321, exit and take S321 east about 2.5 kilometers. Just before you cross the river, turn left and drive another 1.7 kilometers to the museum. You will be in a very rural area with few signs or landmarks.

To get to the museum via public transit, we recommend taking the Beijing subway (metro) system which has extensive coverage throughout the city. You will need to reach the “Changping” subway line which serves northern Beijing. The Changping line connects directly to Lines 8 and 13 which travel into central Beijing. When you reach the Changping line, travel to “Shahe” station and exit the station. At this point you will need to take a taxi the rest of the way to the museum. The taxi ride should take about 10 minutes. Be sure to ask your driver to come back to get you after you visit the museum.

For information on the Beijing subway system, visit one of these websites:

https://www.bjsubway.com/en/ (official website)

https://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/beijing/transportation/subway.htm (tourist information)

Note there is another aviation museum called the “Beijing Air and Space Museum” which is located within the city of Beijing itself. If you do decide to visit the China Aviation Museum described in this article, please make sure you don’t travel to the wrong museum!

Visiting the Museum on a Budget

Opening time: 8:00 am to 5:30 pm.

Tickets cost 40 Yuan per person.

For more information

China Aviation Museum

Top 10 Aviation Museums – Wrapping Up

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our “Top 10” list of Aviation Museums and that you get to visit some of them if you love airplanes. If you are interested in visiting an aviation museum, there is probably one near you. There are hundreds of Aviation Museums all over the world!

Click here to visit a website with links to over 1400 museums around the world.

Happy Travels!