Part of the problem when visiting London is what to do. Often a decision about where to go is weather dependent and so I have tried to group my suggestions in two areas – Inside and Outside attractions.
Museums, shops, attractions are all options when the weather is inclement or you want to soak up a bit of culture, explore the history of London or take home that special gift.
Today, the MUSEUMS
The British Museum is the place to start in my view. Located to the East of the West End, their web site is here. Most of the museum is free with only special exhibitions at a fee. It contains a large number of artefacts covering most of human history.
There is a major exhibition coming from March about the Vikings – more information here.
Also worth visiting, for the art conscious are the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, located adjacent to Trafalgar Square in central London. Containing art over many centuries, the National Gallery is also free.
The National Portrait Gallery is one of my favourites, also free, and contains a large number of portraits of historical figures. Placed in context, with their stories, it of a manageable size.
Also worth considering are the museums located around South Kensington – the Victoria & Albert, Natural History and Science Museums are all located within a 10 minute walk of the South Kensington station. They all have superb, and very divergent collections, catering for all tastes and interests.
The Victoria & Albert Museum has the eclectic collection of any museum I know – everything from a collection of little black dresses, to large-scale sculpture and religious relics. If you want a museum which delights as you walk around then this is worth a visit on your stay.
The Natural History Museum back to the great Victoria era when Museums were created to house collection brought home from Britain’s explorers. A great day out for kids of all ages, dinosaurs, the story of human reproduction, and the rain forests are all covered.
The Science Museum was the place where I gained my love of all thing scientific, although it has been a little outpaced by the other places mentioned. It has some wonderful pieces which will inform you on the history of science and technology. Coming right up to date they have an exhibition of how 3D printing is being used today. There is an IMAX located here.
Located slightly further outside London, but a great boat ride away on a sunny day are the museums at Greenwich. (Now also on the Underground for less pleasant days out). The National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark, the Queen’s House and the Royal Observatory all make this a good destination to explore for a whole day.
The National Maritime Museum explores Britain’s nautical past and present. They have a large number of items, reconstructed ships as well as paintings and items used by the seafarers over generations. This is Nelson’s coat that he wore at the Battle of Trafalgar.
The Cutty Sark reopened in 2012 following a fire and has been rebuilt and redesigned within its original setting. A tea clipper who once raced to bring the freshest teas from India, if you have an interest in 3D ships this is worth a visit. (Fee payable).
A 15 minute walk from central Greenwich is the Royal Observatory where Greenwich Mean Time is measured. There is a Planetarium there, which you can visit for a fee. Many people like standing on either side of 0′.00″ longitude, the Greenwich Meridian:
Located in the heart of the City of London is the Museum of London, which tells the story of the city from Roman times to the modern-day. The museum talks about the people, its trading and manufacturing as well as the items found during building works. Telling the history of the capital during World War 2, often provides an insight in to what actually living day-to-day was like whilst at war.
There are over 240 museums in London, big and small. Wikipedia has a helpful list here. Museums not mentioned here cover everything from the history of the Boy Scout movement, the history of Medicine, the time Benjamin Franklin spent in London, the life of Charles Dickens and of course the magnificent Hampton Court Palace.
Hampton Court does warrant a mention in its own right. Located to the West of London it is a good day out – in summer you can also take a boat here. There are extensive gardens and even a maze where you can lose yourself, or the family for a while. The home of Henry VIII, the Tudor period comes alive as you walk the halls of the historic house.
Feel free to add your own favourite Museums in London in the comments, and I’ll add a post in a few days with details of those mentioned.
With 240, you could keep yourself occupied for a year, with a little time off for good behaviour.
Other articles in this series: