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The London Transport Museum is next-door to the Covent Garden Piazza, and houses over 350,000 transport exhibits from the last two centuries.
You can see full-sized examples of early horse-drawn buses, steam trains, trams and even an old 1960s tube train carriage.
Most of the exhibits are fully interactive and great for kids – they can climb up the (very steep!) stairs, sit in the seats, peer into the cabins, and pretend they’re pressing all the buttons. They can even have a go as a train station announcer.
The museum also has an extensive collection of old black and white photos, pictures, paintings, posters and maps of the capital, plus plenty of old uniforms and badges.
This review originally appeared in his London blog
There are few things in life more embarassing than visiting the London Transport Museum. It ranks up there alongside having to buy a Mariah Carey CD for your sister’s birthday. But at least I have an excuse: I have to do it for this website. So I’m not a train spotter or anything like that – let me make that clear straight away.
I like riding on London buses, sure – especially when it’s chucking it down with rain and I need to get home before I catch a cold – but I wouldn’t stand on a bridge taking photos of them. So with that in mind, and totally understood by everyone, let me tell you about the London Transport Museum.
It’s actually not that bad. Once you have slipped inside like an unseen shadow and are amongst all the transport lovers you don’t mind having a look around. And to be fair they have got quite a decent collection of vehicles. I suppose I would best describe it as a big warehouse room with three different levels, and because the middle bit is completely open you can look down onto all the buses and trains below.
The first thing you’ll see is a black taxi (the same ones that you can see in the street for free), plus a load of double-decker buses. And they’ve lined them all up in date order so you see how they’ve morphed into a shiny red Routemaster from the old platform-at-the-back ones. They’ve even got some really old wooden buses with stairs as steep as Everest. (They were so steep that I had actually had to have a sit on the top-deck for five minutes plucking up the courage to come back down!)
Upstairs they’ve got some old tube train carriages from the 1960s that you can step inside, kitted them out with waxwork passengers (all looking remarkably agitated about something… perhaps the waxwork ticket inspector is about to come down and bust them for trying to dodge their fare).
There are plenty of architectural models dotted around, of the tube tunnels and stations, and a rather atmospheric mock-up of how the workers used to dig out the London underground tunnels with nothing but a gas-lamp and a spade.
And then comes the really old stuff – the horse drawn carriages and Hackney cabs. Hackney cabs were basically just a big box on poles where the rich would sit, probably hugely overweight, and then the poor runners had to pick them up and carry them around town.
> Read Craig’s latest review of the Transport Museum “I’m always a bit embarrassed when I come to the London Transport Museum because in my head I imagine that it’s full of train spotters, so I tell people that I’m visiting the Imperial War Museum instead – something a bit more manly. Because it’s sort of the same, isn’t it? Both places have got vehicles in them, except the ones at the Imperial War Museum have guns at the front. Once I’m safely inside I don’t mind it so much. It’s arranged like a big warehouse on three different levels, and because the centre is completely… continued.”
> Read Craig’s review of the London Underground “I’m standing on the platform waiting for the train to come. Everyone is looking into the dingy tunnel for the first sign of the bright lights on the concrete wall. When it finally comes it is accompanied by a loud roar and a quick blast of wind as the train pushes the air along with it. Then you get the clacking and screeching of wheels as it speeds past your face at a surprising pace, until it finally comes to an abrupt halt further up the line. The doors will pause for a few seconds and then whoooosh… continued.”
> Read Craig’s review of the No.11 sightseeing bus “London sightseeing buses (the open-top ones with a guide at the front) are ridiculously expensive these days. A family of four can easily blow the best part of 100 quid on a two-hour ride. So if you don’t fancy the idea of spending a small fortune on a sightseeing bus, but you still want to go on a sightseeing bus, then the No.11 bus is for you. The No.11 is just a normal everyday bus that happens to drive past all the London landmarks. And because it’s a normal bus you can just pay a normal bus fare like you would on any other route – a couple of quid each. It’s not the easiest of bus stops to find if you want to start at the beginning – it’s round the side… continued.”
> Read Craig’s review of the No.15 heritage bus “Have you ever seen one of those No.15 heritage buses they keep running for the bus spotters? I’m on one from the Tower of London to Trafalgar Square today. You don’t even realise that it’s a vintage bus at first. You look around for the big-yellow Oyster reader to beep your card down and it’s not there, and then a conductor comes along and says take a seat, sir (he actually called me sir), and he says he’ll come round and give you a ticket later. Back in my youth we had to pay 10p to travel… continued.”
> Read Craig’s review of his marathon bus journey “Have you ever wanted to spend a whole day riding around on the London buses? (maybe you have in your nightmares). Well, it’s your lucky day because I’ve got a route here that takes in practically every landmark and attraction in one morning; but there’s a catch: you have to change buses four times and it will take you nearly four hours. But hey… at least you get to see a bit of London! The timings are from actual journeys that I did myself (on a normal Thursday morning), so I haven’t been lazy and just lifted them off a timetable – they are the real timings in daytime traffic. This bus starts up at Liverpool Street station and goes past… continued.”
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Forget museums… why not ride around on some real buses and trains instead? The best sightseeing buses in London are the Original Tour and Big Bus Tour. The number 11 bus is a cheap alternative. Or how about a boat ride on the river? The best ones are City Cruises, TRS and the Thames Clippers. The Docklands Light Railway monorail is worth a try as well.
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