London is literally sprawling with museums and when I’m home from my travel stints, I still like to check them out. I’ve been doing so since my school days. There are hundreds of them in this one city and many with new exhibitions every few months, you can never tire of what’s on offer because it’s always changing!
But you know the best thing about it? Most of them offer FREE admission, FREE Galleries, and FREE tours – it’s not a recent new offering and nor is it promotional. In fact, it’s been more than a decade that they’ve been offering free admissions to most of their national museums. I love my city!
Now, I’m lucky my family home is only an hour away from Waterloo and that because I once lived here permanently I can sofa surf with my friends when I do return. But for those a bit further afield, the downside to London is the cost. London might be known to be an expensive city, but pre-plan wisely by looking out for great train offers with your local train company and scour sites for last-minute London hotel deals to share, and you can soon balance out your budget and fill up your itinerary with free trips to Big Ben’s city and the world’s history lane. Here are some of the must-visit and most interesting museums in London.
The British Museum holds the most interesting artifacts on world history, including the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian Mummies, Parthenon sculptures, Viking artifacts and Assyrian reliefs. I first went here for the Egyptian and Ancient Greece exhibitions, but was soon drawn to a whole host of other rooms and displays.
For each room you explore, it feels like you’re Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider, but don’t add this as a small addition to a full day’s itinerary thinking that you can see everything in here within one or two hours, because the entire place is vast and… addictive.
Most of the British Museum’s rooms have free admission, so plan what floor you want to see, and join free tours that are available throughout the day. The museum is open daily from 10:00am–5:30pm, and on Fridays, some galleries are open until 10:30pm. Another great thing about coming on Friday nights is that they have free 20-minute spotlight tours about Parthenon, Rosetta Stone and Egypt. Check out the tour schedules, venues and more information from site www.britishmuseum.org.
Natural History Museum
How can you not know about this world famous museum, full of giants past and present? Yes, you’ll see a giant blue whale model, cross section of a giant sequoia tree, skeleton of a giant sloth and bones of dinosaurs. You won’t miss “Dippy” at the central hall, the Diplodocus replica skeleton of a vegetarian dinosaur that stretches up to 26meters! You no doubt seen him countless numbers of times in pictures!
With all these plus the animatronic T-Rex, many will rate this museum as a kid’s favorite but it’s fun for big kids too! The National History Museum entrance is free, except for special exhibits, and it’s open daily from 10:00am-5:50pm, except for some holidays announced on www.nhm.ac.uk.
Museum of London
A London trip is not complete without a visit to the Museum of London. From Auroch skulls to 15th century paintings, Victorian artifacts to the museum’s highlight – the extravagant, exquisite Lord Mayor’s State Coach, this is where you’ll see what London was before it became London. For fashionistas, get a glimpse of how fashion evolved in Europe and in London itself, from medieval lingerie, court gowns and royal clothing, patterns and textiles and a lot more. Entry is free, and the museum is open from Monday-Sunday, 10:00am – 6:00pm. For museum maps, schedules and new exhibits go to www.museumoflondon.org.uk
Get your geeky side on! See the Apollo 10 command module, model cars, trains, planes, cool science and art exhibits. Fly your own red arrow jet with their 3D Fly 360° flight simulator. I first went here during a school trip and have been many times since (I’m now 30!).
Want to see a steel wedding dress, Egyptian glass, and modern materials, go to Challenge of Materials room. Want to know more about yourself? Visit the Who am I? Gallery and face questions like “what makes you smile?” and “what makes you You?”. London’s Science Museum is open everyday from 10:00am to 6:00pm and entrance is free except for the IMAX 3D show, flight simulators and other special exhibits. Learn more about their exhibits and schedules at www.sciencemuseum.org.uk
London Transport Museum
I’m a self-confessed train geek and I love metro systems all around the world (London having one of the best systems in the world), so for me this is a must-see. There are two sites, the main one in Covent Garden and another a little further out in Acton.
The Covent Garden museum houses London’s transportation technology and history. Step inside and you’ll see early models of classic black cabs, trams early models of London’s iconic red double-decker bus. Take a look at antique stop signs, passenger handles, history and evolution of bikes, and see how transportation and technology evolved. The London Transport Museum in Covent Garden is open from Monday-Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, from 10:00am – 6:00pm. On Fridays, they open from 11:00am – 6:00pm.
On the other hand, the London Transport Museum Depot in Acton houses most of the restored or for restoration train cars, buses, and engines. You can also see there models of tube systems, train tunnels and shafts. This site is open only during special events, usually scheduled on weekends, and is announced at their website www.ltmuseum.co.uk. Since they open it rarely to public, it is advisable to book tickets online in advance to avoid the queue.
These five museums are considered the best and must-see in London. From the history buffs and archeology geeks to those who are more into the world of trains and are tech savvy, there’s something for every visitor. Best of all, though these museums provide free entry, they are well-maintained, state-of-the-art and world class.
This post is in conjunction with HotelScan – a useful last minute accommodation booking service I recommend for a lucky bargain in this expensive city. The train booking service mention is my own and one I use regularly as a British train geek.