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-renowned exhibitions and special after-hours “lates” events, visitor numbers are soaring. In no particular order, here are our top 10 museums in London.
This museum encapsulates all that is great and good about our vibrant capital. Crammed with ancient jewels and treasures, it explores the story of London and takes you on a chronological journey from 450,000 BC to the present day with a visual timeline that 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. And although the original Museum of London near Barbican recently closed, Museum of London Docklands remains open (and in 2026, the doors will open to a brand new museum in West Smithfield). 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 already love London, after a trip to the Museum of London, you’ll be sure to love it a little bit more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tucked in the middle of Hoxton hipster central is this delightful oasis of urban middle-class respectability. The Geggrye 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 furnishing fells like you're 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. Faschion moves at such a pace even rooms from 15 years ago look dated and "of their time". This museum is perfect for anyone with an interest in interior design and if you're thinking of redecorating, you can't help but be inspired by taste-makers from the past.
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.
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….”The Museum of Childhood also has a cracking cafe where you can soak up the atmosphere. This is not just a museum but a fun place for parents to come and share the magic of toys.
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
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.
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.
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.
The new Europe 1600-1800 Galleries has works created for some of the period’s most important trend-setters, including Louis XiV, Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great; 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.
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 has 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.
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