London’s Top 10 Museums

10
Here’s our pick of the ten best museums in London – nine of which are completely free to visit

1

Hours: 10 AM to 5.50 PM (Mon-Sun); Last entry 20 mins before closing – Cost: Free 

Awful 0% Poor 0% Okay 0% Good 67% Great 33%
Talk about the Natural History Museum and vote

No.1 in our Top 10 list is the Natural History Museum. We’ve decided to rank it first because it’s entertaining for both adults and kids – how many museums can say that?

If you visited the museum as a kid then you probably remember the big dinosaur skeleton in the hall, well sadly that has gone now, replaced with the diving bones of a great whale, but they do still have the dinosaur rooms. They’ve got the bones of a Stegosaurus, Triceratops and Pterodactyl in there, plus a huge animatronic T Rex. After that comes the ‘dead zoo’. This is where you’ll find the stuffed bodies of elephants, lions, tigers, giraffes, gorillas… practically every animal you can think of.

They also have exhibitions about the plant world, earth’s rocks and gemstones, and our planet’s place in the solar system.

Craig has written a review of the Natural History Museum on his blog.

2

Hours: 10 AM to 5.30 PM (Sat-Thu); 10 AM to 8.30 PM (Fri); Last entry 15 mins before closing – Cost: Free 

Awful 0% Poor 0% Okay 14% Good 29% Great 57%
Talk about the British Museum and vote

We’re not sure that the British Museum can be considered ‘fun’, but it is undoubtedly one of the world’s great museums, so here it is riding high at No.2.

If you’re interested in ancient civilisations then they have an extensive collection of Egyptian artefacts that includes huge statues, sarcophagi and decorated tomb stelae, wrapped mummies, unwrapped mummies, and lots of hieroglyph texts including the famous Rosetta Stone. Their Persian and Roman sections are fantastic as well. They even have couple of reconstructed temples and colossal city gates. The Greek section is best known for the Elgin Marbles – the ones we took from the Parthenon.

The British section includes pieces from the Mildenhall treasure horde and the Sutton Hoo burial mound.

Read Craig’s review of the British Museum for some more photos.

3

Hours: 10 AM to 5.45 PM (Sat-Thu); 10 AM to 10 PM (Fri) – Cost: Free 

Awful 0% Poor 0% Okay 0% Good 25% Great 75%
Talk about the Victoria & Albert Museum and vote

The highlight a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum is the Cast Room. It sounds rather unbelievable now, but they went around taking plaster casts and rubbings of the world’s greatest statues and columns and reproduced them back in England. And when we say the world’s greatest statues and columns, that’s exactly what we mean – you can see Michelangelo’s David and a huge chunk of Trajan’s Column.

The museum also has a very fine art collection that includes works by Gainsborough, Constable and JW Turner, plus some of Raphael’s preparatory studies for the tapestries inside the Sistine Chapel.

If you’re into fashion then the museum has a huge dress collection, both old and new, from 18th-century Royal robes right up to floral hippy gear and miniskirts from the sixties.

Read Craig’s review of the V&A on his blog.

4

Hours: During school term: 10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun) – During school holidays: 10 AM to 7 PM (Mon-Sun); Last entry 45 mins before closing – Cost: Free 

Awful 17% Poor 0% Okay 33% Good 33% Great 17%
Talk about the Science Museum and vote

Here’s another one that we recommend for kids. The Science Museum is especially great if your kids are interested in space because they’ve got full-size rockets and landing craft – including a mock-up of the Eagle lander from Apollo 10.

Another highlight is the aircraft hangar they’ve got halfway up the building, and yes, you did read that right – there’s a cavernous hall filled with airplanes and helicopters. You can see a Spitfire, Amy Johnson’s Gipsy Moth, and some wood and string biplanes from the beginnings of flight.

You can see some early cars and steam trains in the Making the Modern World exhibition, and their computer section has a nostalgic display of early home computers (they’ve probably got the same one you played with as a kid!).

After that you can let your kid try out the flight simulators, or watch one of the 3D movies in their IMAX cinema.

There’s a lot to see at the Science Museum. Read Craig’s review to see what else you can find.

5

Hours: 9.30 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun); Last entry 1 hour before closing – Cost: Adults £19.00; Children £9.50 (5–15); Infants free (under-5); Family ticket £49.90 

Awful 0% Poor 0% Okay 0% Good 25% Great 75%
Talk about the Churchill War Rooms and vote

If you have an interest in the Blitz and World War II then a visit to the Churchill War Rooms is a total no-brainer. This is the underground bunker where he directed the war.

You can walk through the gloomy tunnels and peer into the pokey little rooms where they worked and slept whilst the Luftwaffe rained bombs down on Whitehall. You can see the War Cabinet room where the politicians worked, the Transatlantic Telephone Room where Churchill spoke to Roosevelt, the Chief of Staff’s Conference Room where the Army, Navy and Air Force plotted the battles, but the best of the bunch is the atmospheric Map Room, which was sealed up on VE Day and left exactly as it was.

There’s also a big museum about Churchill’s life that includes everything from his favourite cigars to his black bowler hat.

Craig has been to the Churchill War Rooms several times now and enjoyed it every time. You can read his latest review on his blog.

6

Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM (Tue-Sat); Closed (Sun-Mon); Last entry 30 mins before closing – Cost: Free 

Awful 0% Poor 0% Okay 20% Good 0% Great 80%
Talk about Sir John Soane’s Museum and vote

Not many tourists ever think to visit this place – not many tourists have even heard of it – but trust us, this place is definitely worth a visit. From the outside it just looks like a normal townhouse, but you won’t beleive what you find inside.

Sir John Soane’s Museum is backed tight with ancient artefacts. Every wall has got a bust, statue, vase, glass, Roman plate or slate on it… every nook and cranny is crammed with a piece of history. It really does have to be seen to be believed. It’s as if he tried to squeeze the entire contents of the British Museum into his little townhouse.

The highlight is probably what you’ll find in the basement: the sarcophagus of Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I. You can also see some important paintings by the likes of Canaletto and William Hogarth.

Read Craig’s review to get a better understanding of the atmosphere of the place.

7

Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun); Last entry 20 mins before closing – Cost: Free 

Awful 14% Poor 0% Okay 29% Good 57% Great 0%
Talk about the Museum of London and vote

The Museum of London tells the story of the city from prehistoric times right up to the modern day. It begins with all the animal bones and hunter-gatherer bones they dug up during building works, and then moves onto what’s left of Roman Londinium.

The medieval section has a nice collection of religious treasures from the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and there’s a little exhibition about the plague and Great Fire of London. You’ll learn about Shakespeare’s theatre, and how the British Empire swelled during Georgian times.

After that comes the Victorian era, which includes a life-size street with full-sized shopfronts you can peer into. Then comes the war years and the Blitz, before ending with the Swinging Sixties and yuppie years.

Read Craig’s latest review on his blog.

8

Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun); Last entry 30 mins before closing – Cost: Free 

Awful 13% Poor 0% Okay 13% Good 50% Great 25%
Talk about the Imperial War Museum and vote

There are quite a few war museums in London but this is definitely the biggest and the best: the Imperial War Museum. It is housed inside a very impressive building south of Waterloo.

The first things you see when you enter the door are some warplanes hanging from the ceiling like giant chandeliers. There are military vehicles dotted all over the place: jeeps, tanks, artillery guns, midget submarines, the cockpit of a Lancaster Bomber, plus a huge collection of guns, grenades, uniforms and helmets.

Their big exhibition about World War I is particularly strong, but you’re probably better off going to the Churchill War Rooms for World War II. The only thing they cover in detail is the Holocaust (a harrowing exhibit that doesn’t pull any punches).

You can read Craig’s review of the Imperial War Museum on his blog.

9

Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM (Mon-Sun); Last entry 30 mins before closing – Cost: Free 

Awful 33% Poor 0% Okay 33% Good 0% Great 33%
Talk about the National Maritime Museum and vote

The National Maritime Museum gives you the history of the British Navy from the early days of Henry VII, through the Spanish Armada, right up to the North Atlantic battles of World War II.

The exhibition is particularly strong when it comes to the British Empire and the East India Company, and how we managed to increase trade and spread our influence around the world.

There is a great little exhibition about the Napoleonic Wars that includes a few artefacts that Nelson was carrying aboard HMS Victory – including the actual jacket and bloodstained clothes that he wore at the Battle of Trafalgar.

If we have one criticism of the museum then it’s lack of big ships. When you go to the Imperial War Museum you can see war planes hanging from the ceiling, but in here it’s really just a golden barge and one of Ernest Shackleton’s arctic lifeboats. The rest of the boats are just scale models.

Read Craig’s review for a full run-down.

10

Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM (Mon-Sun) – Cost: Free 

Awful 0% Poor 0% Okay 0% Good 100% Great 0%
Talk about the Wallace Collection and vote

The Wallace Collection is half-museum and half-art gallery. It’s one of the places that local Londoners rave about but the tourists never bother with, presumably because they’ve never heard of it. But trust us: this one is definitely worth a visit.

There’s a lot of beautiful porcelain, golden bowls and jewellery, and lots of religious treasures. They also have a very good collection of medieval armour: knights on horseback wearing tank-like suits of armour. They look like chivalrous knights straight out of the pages of a King Arthur story. They have racks and racks of swords and shields, pistols, rifles and deadly crossbows.

Their art rooms contain a surprisingly high number of great names: artists like Rembrandt, Rubens and Titian, plus two of our biggest British names: Reynolds and Gainsborough.

Read Craig’s review to see some photographs of the inside.

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