The London Series is a series I am doing focused on, wait for it… London! I’ve already told you all to go see the Changing of Guard at Buckingham Palace and about some free things to do and see.  This week I am looking at the museums. I kind of stretched the truth a little bit with the title as one of them is technically a gallery, not a museum. Well, not technically. It is a gallery.

Last week I didn’t include any museums in my free things to do and see list on purpose as I thought they deserved a post of their own. Plus my post was already quite long and nobody has time for that in one go. There are hundreds of museums in London and these are just the ones we saw with the timeframe we had. as of 2015, there were 215 museums in London. That a whole lotta museuming

So without further ado, I present to you some cool museums to waste some time in and have a nosey through:

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum building stands tall and proud like something dropped out of a fairytale straight into the center of London. As we lined up in the queue that snaked around the corner my awe of this massive building grew. The iconic museum is famous around the globe and here I was, waiting to be let in and allowed to explore its depths.

As we walked up the stairs Dippy the Diplodocus (true story) looked down at the throng of visitors vying for selfies and tourist snaps. Once you enter the hall it is hard to know which way to turn. Luckily we had a handy wee map as it would have been quite easy to miss something (and I wanted to see everything) or get lost. Although, even with the map we did get lost a few times. Or at least went around in circles more than once.

We do live in a marvelous lil ole world, don’t we? Our history is mind-boggling and there are so many wonders to explore and experience. I wish someone would just invent a time machine already so we could go back and forth. That would be a very useful teaching tool in schools. I was disappointed to learn that the dinosaur exhibit was closed for refurbishment the first time we went. But we still spent a good few hours there until both of our attention spans waned a bit. Admittedly mine first.

Fun Facts

  • The museum’s collection includes over 70 million botanical items, 55 million animal exhibits, 9 million archaeological relics, and 500,000 rocks and minerals.
  • The original collection came from Sir Hans Sloane, who also invented hot chocolate. What a useful man to have around.
  • The gallery ceilings are embellished with detailed tiles that feature plants from all over the world on 162 panels. I wish I had known this before we went. Shows how observant I am.
  • In 1905 Dippy was the first full skeleton of a dinosaur to go on display in the world.

Top Tip

Allow a good part of the day to see this, you won’t be able to do it in a hurry. Unless you are going for something specific like we did the second time. As we missed out on the dino’s the first time we went back the next time we were in London just to see them. They were T-Riffic!

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Science museum

The Science Museum is a magnificent way to kill half a day. If you like tutooing (it’s a word) with things then this the ultimate place to be. There are buttons, windy things, and levers glore. Naturally, I had to have a play with all the things we wandered past. Except for the pole that gives you an electric shock. No thank you.

As strange it as seems to people that know me, I actually have a very logical mind. I like to know how things work, so this was the perfect place for me to quench my thirst for knowledge. If we had more hours I could have quite happily soaked up every sign that was placed around the displays (so fascinating to read!).

There are several galleries to make your way through including, the “Glimpses of Medical History” exhibit which displayed medical equipment from through the ages. Sometimes I am glad we live in the time of modern medicine, even if we missed out on the dino’s, some of the medical equipment looked like it belonged in a torture exhibit.

Other impressive things to wander past include a lot of clocks (you can see them evolving as you walk further past them), some airplanes (you can also see the evolution here), steam trains, rocket ships (so different to how I pictured them looking) and a lot of other intriguing and absorbing bits and bobs.

Fun Facts

  • Some scenes in the Ipcress File, the thriller starring Michael Caine, were filmed in the old Science Museum Library in 1964.
  • The first children’s gallery opened in December 1931
  • The Science Museum holds over 300,000 items
  • The Science Museum’s iron buildings, once part of South Kensington Museum, were so ugly that they were named the ‘Brompton Boilers’.

Top Tip

Come nice and early so you have lots of time to tinker with all the objects (not the ones that say don’t touch or are behind a glass display. That’s frowned upon apparently)

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Tate Modern

Tate Modern was a quick fly through for us, I will be the first to admit I don’t understand art so I don’t have a very well-educated view. I like art where I don’t have to think about the hidden meaning behind it or have to interpret it. Here is a place you will find all kinds of art from sculpture, to paintings, to installation works, to interactive pieces but it depends on when you go as to what particular pieces you will see as the displays are changed often.

The first piece we saw I was less than impressed. To me, it looked like something a kindergarten child would bring home, big pieces of collage stuck together randomly. I’m sure it made perfect sense to the Knowledgeable Art Lovers that trailed through. Unfortunately, I was not one of them. At one point I caught Rob laughing at me. Apparently, I had been so busy making fun of a painted red square that I completely missed a Picasso painting. As we moved further into the rabbit warren of displays I gradually started to appreciate more of the pieces as they were works that I could understand.

I couldn’t spend too long perusing the art as it is not something that I am terribly interested in but in saying that I am glad we went. Once I got the hang of being a Knowledgeable Art Lover, it was quite fun putting my own interpretations on the pieces.

Fun Facts

  • Tate Modern displays works based on theme rather than chronological order. This means sometimes 21st century art can be sitting next to works from the early 20th century as long as they match.
  • The Tate Modern is housed in the former Bankside Power Station. The architect of the power station was Giles Gilbert Scott who is famous for having designed the iconic red telephone boxes dotted around the UK. He was a busy man.
  • You can thank sugar for the Tate Modern. Henry Tate, a 19th century sugar merchant from Liverpool, donated his collection of contemporary paintings and £80,000 to the government. He was the man responsible for introducing sugar cubes to the United Kingdom. He was also a busy man.

Top Tip

Have an open mind, try to see the art not just for what they look like but what they stand for and don’t make fun of them. I got several dirty looks shot at me by other gallery visitors.

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Museum of London

The Museum of London documents London’s history through prehistoric to modern times. This was especially interesting to me as I was reading Edward Rutherfords London (still am quite some time later, to be honest. It’s hard going) so it aligned with the history I was reading about. The museum was just a quick walk around the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral which we had been eating our lunch in the shadow of.

The museum is laid out in a really unique way. You feel as though you are travelling through time, starting with prehistoric London. Then you wind your way through history to modern times, passing through the Romans and Saxons, medieval London and through the years ravaged by plague and fire until you finish in modern days. For history geeks, this is the ultimate place to explore London’s past.

Fun Facts

  • Over 6 million objects are held at the museum which is the largest urban history collection in the world.
  • Part of the museum’s grounds at Barbican complex literally touches the city’s history by connecting to the ancient Roman Wall that formed London’s original boundary.
  • The Barbican Centre also has its own interesting history, having been the site of a Roman fort and saw heavy destruction during the London Blitz.
  • The Museum’s logo was designed by the firm of Coley Porter Bell in 2009 to comprise the city’s boundaries over the course of time.

Top Tip

The lighting isn’t photograph friendly. Make sure you know how to use the settings on your camera if you want to take away some permanent documentation. I have no photo’s as I was rubbish with my camera and as a result, all my pictures came out blurry.


Other museums on my bucket list include

  • British Museum
  • Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Sherlock Holmes Museum
  • Museum of Comedy
  • Churchill War Rooms

Well, that is enough museum-info for one post. I hope you enjoyed reading, let me know in the comments below which other museums to add to my bucket list. Alternatively, add your thoughts on the museums mentioned if you have been before. I’d love to hear about your experiences.




86 Comments on Which Museum? Four Iconic London Museums To Put On Your To-Do List

  1. I kind of felt like I was there with you when I read your post. It would have been great but I do imagine a couple of parts where I would probably have shrunk away – she doesn’t belong to me – when you were making fun of things, Actually, I love that you do that. You can’t take life too seriously.
    I’d like to remind you of a museum time at Southward Car Museum here in little ol’ NZ. We had a couple of extra kids with us on this hour and 1/4 trip down there and you all got out the car to the foyer of the museum and Matthew spewed up all over the foyer. He was car sick,…..quite appropriate for a car museum. The museum is great though, for anyone who wants to pop over to NZ for a visit. You don’t even have to be a car lover to like it, because I’m certainly not. They have Marlene Dietrich’s Cadillac there. So I imagined wearing a satin dress, with a fur stow around my shoulders, seductively puffing on a cigarette while looking at that car. Then, there is Mickey Cohen’s black gangster car with windows as thick as matchboxes with bullet holes in them. What a life he must have had, dodging bullets, being chased all the time. But I guess he ran on excitement and adrenalin. Think I would much rather be Marlene. Anyway – Museum staff kindly cleaned up the car sick spew and I felt like I had to apologise 100 times.

    • Ha! I remember this! I love the car museum as well, my favourite is the gangster car. I used to imagine i was sitting in the passenger seat with a cigar hanging out my mouth and a gun pointed out the window

  2. The science museum is probably one of my favourites to visit in london! It is so much fun and there’s always something there that you probably didn’t see before. And as an art student, I also love the Tate. Great choices here!

  3. Thanks for the post. Maybe next time I’m in London, I’ll put one of these on my list. I usually travel there for business, and this last time experienced terrible jet lag, so I tend not to do anything social. But if I’m going all that way…

  4. completely agree with your take on the Tate! I had a really similar experience.. was definitely not wow-ed by it, but I never made it to the other museums, so I’ve still got to visit again!

  5. I’m the exact same way, I don’t think I would understand or appreciate Tate Modern especially! But I like to try haha! On the other hand I’d love to visit London History Museum next time! Xx

  6. I was totally expecting to see info on The British Museum and The National Gallery in here so I was pleasantly surprised at the museums you covered. I especially loved the bit on The Natural History Museum since I didn’t get to see that one last time, it actually wasn’t on my radar until I saw “Paddington Bear.”

    • Paddington bear rocks! I’ll get you the British museum and national gallery one day but these four appealed more. You’ll have to make your way to the natural history museum, it’s wonderful!

    • They are great, so interesting! What was your favourite thing to do in London? I love hearing what others enjoyed so i can add to my growing list!

  7. Visiting museums has to be one of my favourite things to do in London! I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Tate because on one hand certain pieces have a clear and interesting political or social message yet with others, I could stare at them for hours and still understand little of what’s going on..But alongside the imperial war museum, the natural history one is probably my favourite. Never fails to capture the imagination.

  8. You know what sadnes me the most, is that I’ve never been to a museum before it’s not like we have a ton here. But great post and those are going on my list if I ever get the chance to visit London !

    • If you ever get the chance to go to one you definitely should. We seem to have one in most towns here in New Zealand and every time we go somewhere new i try to go to one. You learn loads about the town and its history x

  9. I love the Natural History museum and of course the Tate Modern. It is always so difficult deciding which museums to leave out, especially when you have limited time. You have a great selection in this post.

  10. My husband and I just visited London for the first time this summer. We only had time for The Tate and Museum of London but definitely want to make it back to visit the other two! Great post and definitely reassures me that we must go back to see them!

  11. Wow there are so many museums to go and have a look. I love London and any excuse to go and visit the city is a good excuse. I definitely want to go and visit the Science Museum, they are always so interesting and full of information. Thank you for sharing! ?

    • Oh what a shame you will have to go back again! 😉 I knew there were a lot of museums there but I didn’t realise there were 215! That’s a lot of exploring….

  12. Great list! I’d been to two of these (!) Now you really MUST go to the V&A. I live in the States, but once took frequent biz trips to London. I enjoyed the V&A so much, I actually JOINED the museum so I could drop in any time. They have a whole FLOOR of silver! (I once asked the guard if she’d let me polish it).

    • Ah so glad I could help!! I hope you enjoy your trip! Make sure you drop me a message once you have visited them and let me know what you thought x

  13. It’s been years since i visited London and i would love to come back and visit some of the best museums in the world. Thank you for sharing your tips! Your presentation is fantastic!

  14. Haven’t been to London but I keep saying that I am going to start travelling soon and when I do I’ll definitely put the museums on my list though I doubt i’ll get Tate Modern or appreciate the art but it doesn’t hurt to try.

  15. There’s so much to do in London, and as already stated it depends what you’re interested in. Whoever you are though, you’ll find something you enjoy.

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