Museum 101: A guide to London’s cultural houses.
Hundreds. In London, there are hundreds of Museums, with thousands of artifacts, articles and art. A lot of them are free. A lot of them are weird. A lot of them are both, but they all have things inside them that are remarkably interesting.
I’ve put together a list of a few of them, and split them into sections for you.
Iconic and famous; can’t miss them.
This is not to say other museums in later sections are not this, but these are the big boys you’ll be judged on for having visited London if you miss them.
The British Museum.
There’s not actually many British things in here….
But there is an absolute wealth of some of the more beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. All very interesting, and so very old. The building is beautiful. Venture in and you will find some incredible pieces of art, costume, stone; anything and everything. It’s a privilege to see a lot of the pieces in this building, make sure you don’t miss out.
Natural History, Science and V&A Museums
I’ve grouped these three together as they are all in pretty much the same place. Give yourself a whole day to spend in these places. Some of the rooms have aged a bit, and the stonking great dinosaur that once greeted you at the NHM has been replaced by an equally stonking whale. It’s brilliant to see. The NHM is home to the wildlife photographer of the year exhibition and the place is teeming with stuffed animals, fossils and species you may never have heard of. The Science Museum has one of the most interesting escalators you may ever set foot as well as an ancient 90s earthquake room. The V&A is just gorgeous in every room. Enough said.
The British Transport Museum
The first on my list with an admission fee. But, your ticket will last you an entire year, that’s comforting.
It’s a huge building, slap bang in Central London, with plenty of other exciting things about the place. It’s great for kids (as are the previous mentions on this list) and a really interesting walk of London through the ages. I also have a friend that looks the EXACT spitting image of one of their mannequins – that’s besides the point though. There’s loads to read and do; ike sit on an old Tube carriage or horse drawn bus. There’s also a kiddie play area near the end, and a wealth of nice restaurants local to this museum.
Best of the Freebies
As I said, London boasts incredible museums; and a lot of them are free. This is my personal favorite list of these, and is by no means exhaustive.
The National and National Portrait Galleries
Trafalgar Square, Lord Admiral Nelson and his column, the Strand, the Mall and the National Gallery. The Portrait Gallery is in the same building, with its entrance along the side of the building. The few places that really offer genuine beauty, free of charge in the area (A lot more than M&M world does anyway). Here you will find some of the most beautiful artworks in London and inside one of the most beautiful buildings too. Well worth a day and a half in these places and grab a pint in the Chandos pub across the road afterwards. Top tip there.
South London at its very best. Right near Forest Hill station, in the middle of a wonderful park, the Horniman boasts and absolutely massive Walrus. What more could you want? On a sunny day, this is one of my favorite places. There’ a very small petting zoo in the park as well, a kids park and a library, There’s a modestly priced aquarium in there, lots of talks and hands on experiences and exhibits downstairs. They have a lovely cafe and a really family orientated focus.
Just incredible. This place is full of wonders and could have easily fallen into my ‘weirdest’ section – but there’s so much in this collection that it spans the wonderful too. Go check it out. Right next to Euston station, you will see it all here. Ever changing exhibits and talks, beautiful rooms to work in and some exceptional views to take in.
The odd, juicy, pickled or terrifying.
The Old Operating Theatre
Europe’s oldest surviving operating theatre. Right next to the Shard – odd couple no?
Really interesting pieces on Victorian surgery and they do great talks in here too – well worth catching one if possible. There’s a beautifully old spiral staircase that takes you to the Museum. Built in the attic of a church that is said to have been designed by Sir Christopher Wren’s right hand man. A real gem.
Grant Museum of Zoology
Not very far from the Wellcome Collection in Euston, another fantastic building filled with interest. Exhibits include brains in jars and some of the rarest skeletons you can find. It’s home to around 68,000 zoological specimens – that’s quite a lot. They also let you ‘adopt a specimen’ and become part of their collection; you get invited to events, a certificate and a sense of immense well being knowing you’re contributing to the upkeep of this incredible place.
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities
This place has everything. Dodo Bones, two headed kittens and Happy meal toys. This place laughs in the face of gloved curators and people with magnifying lenses. This place scoffs at tiny little labels with latin names and sticks two fingers, firmly, up to conformity. What a fantastic cave of awesome this is. Basically, it’s a basement in Hackney full of some weird things, but there’s exceptional beauty in it.
Most awe inspiring
Sometimes jaw-dropping, sometimes silencing. Always worth it though.
It once sat on the river next to Tower Bridge, now it lives in South Kensington among the swanky and prim. Brimming with beauty and filled with contemporary ideas and gorgeous design (would you believe) They’re about to start a Stanley Kubrick exhibit that will no doubt be brilliant and are always right on the nose for all things inspirational, cultural and cutting edge.
Imperial War Museum
Near Waterloo and North Lambeth stations. In the middle of a park, IWM is teeming with incredible stories, models and history – it’s got a fantastic shop and some really moving exhibits on history. It’s home to a very grounding and profound exhibit on the holocaust among different floors of fascinating pieces. Honestly, the guides that work here are so welcoming and full of knowledge, it’s a very humbling experience and a beautiful building.
This could have fallen into every section on my list. It’s my favorite place in the world. All encompassing day out. Right on the South Bank, opposite St Paul’s Cathedral, there is no shortage of things to do while in there, outside it, walking to it, getting home from it etc. There is a lovely cafe in there with an incredible view of the river and some of the most beautiful pieces of art I’ve ever seen. It’s also home to some of the more underwhelming and confusing too. Banksy hung his own work in here once – that’s saying something. They’ve recently opened up a new area of the museum – definitely worth visiting. Definitely.