The Top 10 London Museums


Although museums are mainly focused on showcasing the things of the past, their future is looking decidedly rosy. With many of our London museums boasting multi-million pound makeovers, world-beating exhibitions and special after-hours “lates” events; visitor numbers are soaring.

So with museums enjoying a surge in popularity – here, in no particular order, are our top 10 museums in London:

Museum of London

Best for: capital culture


“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life…. for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Dr Samuel Johnson, 1777: creator of the first English dictionary


This museum encapsulates all that is great and good about our vibrant capital. Crammed with ancient jewels and treasures, it is probably fitting that this tremendous trove is on display at the home of the capital’s financial muscle; the still beating heart of the City of London. Exhibits takes you on a dizzying chronological journey from 450,000BC to the present day with a visual timeline which shows London evolving through the years using simple, but effective, graphics. The sheer scale and power of the city and the relative speed of its growth over the last 1,000 years is a feat to be appreciated.

With a focus on the visual and with a host of fun, interactive exhibits, the museum really delivers for people of all ages. Even if you love London, after a trip to the Museum of London, you’ll be sure to love it a little bit more.

Special exhibitions in 2014:

The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels – runs until 27 April 2014.

Also be sure to watch out for their major new exhibition on Baker Street’s finest detective,Sherlock Holmes, in October.

General admission:

FREE! Special fees apply for certain exhibitions – see website

Getting there: 150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN
Nearest Tube: Barbican, St Pauls

The Natural History Museum

Best for: fossil fun



Winner of the “Best of the Best” in the Museums & Heritage Awards and home to the most important natural history collection in the world; the Natural History museum doesn’t need a big build up. It is simply a benchmark for brilliance and wonder. Housed within a beautiful building (which is a work of art on its own), the treasures within are so vast that the museum is divided into different coloured zones to help you navigate your way around. Despite the 3D and interactive modern multi-media displays, the simple power and scale of “Dippy” the Diplodocus skeleton and the model blue whale, still have that wow factor.

However, at the Natural History Museum it’s not just the dinosaurs and big mammals, but the sheer breadth of nature on the planet that is celebrated. From the quirky Victorian-esque stuffed taxidermy of specimens to looking at animals which once roamed the earth but are now long-extinct; the museum inspires you to look differently at the world around you.

“No reason to suppose that man’s stay on Earth should be any longer than that of the dinosaurs.”
― David Attenborough, Life on Earth

Last but not least, the final Friday of each month is Lates with Mastercard at the museum. This is the unique chance for adults to potter about the exhibits after hours to the tune of open-mic artists, pop-up restaurants and of course take a sneak peak at the Dinosaur gallery while nursing a glass of wine.

  • 61 million animals, including 32 million insects
  • It is home to 5,000 meteorites, including ones from Mars.
  • 9 million fossils, including one of only ten specimens of Archaeopteryx – the earliest known flying bird

Special exhibitions in 2014:

Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story – A particular highlight this year is this new exhibition, which will chart the tale of the earliest human inhabitants of Britain.
Mammoths: Ice Age Giants – This will contain fossils and models of mammoths, allowing people to understand their life and environment.

General admission:

FREE! Special fees apply for certain exhibitions – see website

Getting there: Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD
Nearest Tube: South Kensington

Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising

Best for: talking about my generation



Small, but perfectly formed, the Museum of Brands showcases the development of brands and packaging, using social history to give it context. If it sounds a little niche, don’t worry, it isn’t. From the moment you step into “the time tunnel” and begin with Victorians attitude to advertising, you will be amazed not just at how much has changed, but at how little. Some packaging, like that of Bovril and Rolos, seems eerily familiar – despite it being designed well over a hundred years ago. You will discover that celebrity branding, which many view as a modern malaise, has been around since before England cricket captain, W.G.Grace, endorsed the delights of Colman’s Mustard before going out to bat!

Anyone interested in social history will love the Museum of Brands. This showcase of retro design will unleash the fondest of memories for products gone by, making it the perfect place to take the parents and grandparents.

General admission:

£6.50 (inlc gift aid) / £4 /7-16 £2.25
Closed Mondays, except bank holidays

Getting there: 2 Colville Mews, Lonsdale Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2AR
020 7908 0880
Nearest Tube: Notting Hill Gate – also Westbourne Park and Ladbroke Grove.

Science Museum

Best for interesting innovations



If you are looking for a museum that pushes the boundaries of visitor experience, this is the place for you. Situated under one, very large, roof is the biggest collection of technological objects on the planet. You really get a feel here for the incredible progression made by the human race in the 150 or so years the Museum of Science first opened its doors. From Stephenson’s Rocket, the train that heralded the start of the steam age, to the Apollo 10 command module; there are plenty of iconic exhibits to enjoy.

Although The Science Museum is clearly a geek’s paradise, the cool and quirky interactive experiences will have even those for whom science was a school subject to be endured rather than enjoyed, wishing they could go back and study it again. This is the perfect place to keep the kids entertained – all day!

Special exhibitions in 2014:

Exhibition: Mind Maps: Stories from psychology (FREE) – closes 12 August 2014 – Stories of how mental health has been treated over the past 250 years
Information Age (FREE) – opening September 2014 – this new £15.6m gallery will feature hundreds of unique and rare objects from the Science Museum’s world class collections, many of which have never been seen before!
Collider – closes 6 May 2014 – Step into the heart of one of the greatest scientific experiments of our times: the Large Hadron Collider

General admission:

FREE! Special fees apply for certain exhibitions – see website

Getting there: Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD
Nearest Tube: South Kensington
020 7942 4000

The Geffrye Museum

Best for: dedicated followers of furniture fashion



Tucked in the middle of Hoxton hipster central is this delightful oasis of urban middle-class respectability. The Geffrye Museum shows us how the living room in our homes has transformed from 1600 to the present day. This chronological journey of taste in soft furnishings feels like you are walking through a series of TV costume dramas; from the classical Jane Austen-style of the 18th century to the 1960’s Mad Men Formica explosion to the oddly sterile 1990s. Fashion moves at such a pace even rooms from 15 years ago look dated and “of their time”.

This year marks the centenary of the opening of the museum, whose theme pays tribute to Shoreditch and Hoxton’s former life as the hub of furniture-making activity. This museum is perfect for anyone with an interest in interior design and if you are thinking of redecorating; you can’t help but be inspired by taste-makers from the past.

Special exhibitions in 2014:

Contemporary Design Show – Tuesday 29 April – Monday 25 August 2014 – The exhibition coincides with the museum’s centenary year and celebrates one of its original purposes – to inspire the local furniture-making industry.
Ceramics in the city – Friday 19 to Sunday 21 September 2014 – A three-day selling fair featuring 50 potters

General admission:

FREE! Special fees may apply for certain exhibitions – see website. Not open Mondays, except Bank Holidays.

Getting there: Kingsland Road, London, E2 8EA
Nearest Tube: London Overground to Hoxton or Liverpool Street
020 7739 9893

The V&A Museum of Childhood

Best for: kids (and big kids)…



Cavernous, noisy, full of laughter and vitality; true this doesn’t sound like the usual description of a museum, but that there is the beauty of this place. It’s a museum about children for children!
Those who love nostalgia will embrace The Museum of Childhood. It is one big walk down memory lane. The joyous rush of recognition that accompanies the sighting of a favourite toy from childhood (I couldn’t believe I had forgotten Weebles… or how sinister they actually are up close!), is one of the highlights.

“Grown up, and that is a terribly hard thing to do. It is much easier to skip it and go from one childhood to another.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

This truly is a family museum: from parents sitting down to play with the available traditional games, to them poignantly pointing out the toys they played with in childhood; to the look on their child’s face, clearly thinking either: “you were young?” or the pitying: “you had to play with that….”
When you need a break from Weebles and Amigas’, The Museum of Childhood also has a cracking cafe where you can soak up the atmosphere. This is not just a museum but an incredibly fun place for parents to come and share the magic of toys.

Special exhibitions in 2014:

War Games – Until 9 March 2014 – explores the fascinating relationship between conflict and children’s play, providing an insight into the ways toys have been influenced by warfare from 1800 to the present day.
Daydreams and Diaries: The Story of Jacqueline Wilson – 5 April – 2 November 2014

General admission:


Getting there: Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA
Nearest Tube: Bethnal Green
020 8983 5200

The British Museum

Best for:curious collectors



Riding high on the crest of a visitor wave, the architecturally-amazing British Museum is celebrating its 255 birthday in some style. From the classic 19th century exterior to the £100m glass-roofed Queen Elizabeth II Great Court; this museum has been transformed beyond all recognition. Famous treasures include The Rosetta Stone, the Mildenhall treasure, the Mold gold cape & of course all the Mummies!

“I am delighted that so many people have visited the world collection at the British Museum in the last year. Displays onsite, loans and touring exhibitions nationally and internationally, big screen viewings and online access mean this is truly a dynamic collection that belongs to and is used by a global citizenship”. –
Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum

The British Museum enjoyed more than 6.7m visits in 2013, smashing its previous record of 5.9m in 2008, and its ever changing and beautifully presented exhibitions has been a major part of this. Despite being one of the world’s oldest museums, it refuses to rest on its laurels and deserves its place in showcasing and curating global history. This is a must-see museum.

Special exhibitions in 2014:

Vikings: life and legend – 6 March – 22 June 2014 – This time they come in peace! First major Viking exhibition for 30 years.
Ming: 50 years that changed China – 18 September 2014 – 5 January 2015 – A celebration of a golden age in Chinese history.

General admission:

FREE! Special fees apply for certain exhibitions – see website

Getting there: Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG
Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn,Russell Square or Goodge Street
020 7323 8299

National Maritime Museum

Best for: naval gazing


“I cannot command winds and weather.” – Horatio Nelson


As befitting a major seafaring nation, London is home to the world’s largest maritime museum. You’ll find the National Maritime Museum (NMM) along with the Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark and the Queen’s House, nestled right at the heart of the Greenwich World Heritage Site. Every place on earth is measured from the Greenwich Prime Meridian, and when it comes to setting historic standards, the NMM certainly raises the bar.

Not content with glass-cased sea-faring artefacts,0 multi-media technology is at the heart of some of the National Maritime Museum’s newest displays. The stunning Voyagers: Britons and the Sea exhibition is an incredible audio-visual installation, projecting more than 300 images and films from archives in a thematic visual journey.

However, the NMM wouldn’t be a maritime museum without featuring our most famous national sailing icon. Nelson, Navy, Nation is the new permanent gallery paying tribute to the derring-do and devil-may-care attitude of this legendary war hero. It even is home to Nelson’s jacket – and yes – you can see that famous bullet hole.

Special exhibitions in 2014:

Turner and the Sea – Until 21 April 2014 – This landmark exhibition celebrates Turner’s lifelong fascination with the sea, bringing together an outstanding collection of masterpieces from around the world.

General admission:

FREE! Special fees apply for certain exhibitions – see website

Getting there: Park Row, Greenwich, London, SE10 9N
Nearest Tube: Cutty Sark – Docklands Light Railway
020 8312 6608

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Best for: pure aesthetic pleasure



The V&A claims to be the world’s greatest museum of art and design; a bold assertion certainly, but with over 2 million exquisite exhibits one claim they can easily back up. Named after royalty and boasting a history of more than 160 years, the collections are a crucial blend of contemporary and historic art and design. Housing incredible works of art, ceramics, textiles and jewellery; this museum celebrates the best of human creativity.

    • There are currently 2,241,718 items in the Museum’s collections
    • Of that number a whopping 1,182,876 are museum objects and works of art
    • The V&A has more than 1m books and periodicals in their library
    • Only a small percentage of these are on show at any one tie – just 226,747 pieces in the collections

    The opening of the new Europe 1600-1800 Galleries at the end of 2014 is expected to wow visitors. Showcasing works created for some of the period’s most important trend-setters, including Louis XiV, Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great; this is set to be a spectacular explosion of fashion, furniture and ceramics.
    And if you still need a little convincing – check out the V&A’s fabulous videos (below) showcasing their 20 best reasons for visiting! I’m just surprised they managed to narrow it down to just 20!.

    Special exhibitions in 2014:

    William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain – 22 March – 13 July 2014 – Exhibition about the most prominent architect and designer in early Georgian Britain
    The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014 – 5 April – 27 July 2014 – The first major exhibition to explore Italy’s rich contribution to modern fashion
    from the end of the Second World War to the present
    Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 – 3 May 2014 – 15 March 2015
    Disobedient Objects – 26 July 2014 – 1 February 2015

    General admission:

    FREE! Special fees apply for certain exhibitions – see website

    Getting there: Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
    Nearest Tube: South Kensington
    020 7942 2000

    The Fan Museum

    Best for: something completely different



    Unpretentious, quirky and quaint, this is the only museum in the UK dedicated to the humble fan. Does it make it niche? Yes it does. Does it make it any of the less interesting? No it doesn’t, in fact that is part of the charm.

    You won’t find fancy gadgets or iPads, and it may be a little traditional, but with new additions to the fan collection by the likes of Salvador Dali, this museum is going places. From the fan’s practical use (keeping us cool) to its incredible rich social history (C18th fan etiquette), the cases are full of surprising nuggets of information about these delicate and intricate items. I loved the fact that fan measurements are still made in “pieds & pounces”.

    The Fan Museum boasts a wonderful little shop and fan-making classes on the first Saturday of every month should you be interested in participating in your very own fan-club. During the warmer months of the year, make for the Fan Museum’s charming Orangery, where you can take afternoon tea on Tuesdays and Sundays. Without getting too Little Britain about it, The Fan Museum may be a little more biased towards the ladies, but I would challenge anyone not to be a little taken with this corner of Greenwich.

    Special exhibitions in 2014:

    Hatch, Match & Despatch – Jan 11 – June 1, 2014

    General admission:

    £4/£3 – Closed Mondays.

    Getting there: 12 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, London, SE10 8ER
    Nearest Tube: Cutty Sark – Docklands Light Railway (DLR)
    020 8305 1441

    Plan your visits:

    Check out the map below to help locate our top 10 London museums, but you could start by visiting the “museum quarter” in South Kensington. There you will find the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum all within five minutes walk of each other. Similarly the National Maritime Musuem and Fan Museum are within close proximity to each other and the Thames in historic Greenwich.

    View London Museums in a larger map

    What do you think?

    What is your favourite museum in London? Is there a gem of a museum you know about which just has to be included? Let us know by either leaving a comment below or emailing us at


    About Author

    Kirsten Beacock

    Kirsten is the chief blogger here at A former newspaper journalist (don’t hold that against her), having taken extensive trips to China, America and Australasia, she is now pouring her passion for travel into writing blogs and features for the website. Arriving in London via exotic Scunthorpe, Kirsten has made it her mission to try out as many pubs and restaurants as she possibly can in the capital.

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