From the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum to the mummies of the British Museum, no tourist trip to the capital is complete without a visit to one of London's amazing museums. And while the big hitters like the Victoria and Albert museum and the Science museum deserve their spots on a list of London must-sees, there are also dozens of less well known, unusual museums that are well worth checking out.
Here are our top 10 alternative London museums!
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History, Bethnal Green: Venture down the wrought iron spiral staircase down to Viktor Wynd’s “Wunderkabinett”. Quirky, disturbing and bizarre – the beauty and horror of nature is mashed up with inane and obscene human tat. In a dimly lit basement, glass cabinets overflow with the most incredible eclectic collection of trinkets, found objects, natural oddities and artworks: Genuine shrunken heads, a two headed lamb, watercolour pornography, and a bonafide unclaimed human skeleton set into a table to name but a few of the exhibits. Not one for kids. £10 entry, discounted walk ins on Thursdays. Open Wednesday - Friday 3pm - 11pm, Saturday 12pm - 11pm, Sunday 12pm - 10pm https://www.thelasttuesdaysociety.org/visiting-the-museum/
The Old Operating Theatre, London Bridge: this amazing find, located in the eaves of a church, is the site of a former herb garret store room for St Thomas’ hospital. During some constructional work in the late 50s, builders made a startling discovery when they knocked through a wall – an 18th century operating theatre! Beautifully preserved and complete with viewing galleries, this Victorian theatre from the women’s ward is the oldest surviving example in the UK, predating anaesthetic and antiseptic. Imagining the procedures that would have taken place here, all watched by the studious eyes of the male medical students, it certainly makes you appreciate modern medicine, and pain relief! £7.50 Adults, £4.50 Children, under 6s free. Open Friday and Saturday from 10.30am until 5pm https://oldoperatingtheatre.com/
Grant’s Museum of Zoology, Bloomsbury: Quagga and dodo bones, jars of brains and a huge skeleton collection, including many endangered and extinct species, displayed in Victorian glass cabinets. The museum was established in 1827 by Robert Edmond Grant, the first professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy in England, who assembled the first collection as a teaching aid for his students (including a young Darwin). Free entry, open 1pm - 5pm Tuesday-Friday, 11am - 5pm Saturday. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/culture/grant-museum-zoology
The Vault, Hard Rock Café, Old Park Lane: This secret museum below the Hard Rock Cafe's shop is a treasure trove of rock memorabilia, including Hendrix’s guitar, Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier coned bustier, Freddie Mercury’s chair and Lennon’s glasses, displayed in the former Coutts vault that once stored Princess Diana’s wedding dress. Free entry, open daily 1pm - 9pm https://www.hardrockcafe.com/location/london/
Museum of Brands, Notting Hill: Exploring "200 years of consumer culture", this museum looks at how packaging and marketing have been used by brands from Victorian times to the present day. From TV ads to artwork, and through a huge collection of products, the museum is an intriguing peek into everyday life - enjoy the nostalgia of brands from your childhood and see how they changed over the years. £9 adults, £5 children Mon - Sat (10am - 6pm) Sun (11am - 5pm) https://museumofbrands.com/
Petrie Museum of Archaeology, Bloomsbury: precious Egyptian artifacts tucked upstairs in a former stable building including ancient clothing, mummy cases and papyrus texts. One of the most significant collections outside of Egypt, the museum highlights include a 7000 year old piece of linen and the stunning dancer’s ‘bead net dress’ , which is about 4500 years old and is decorated with shells around the fringe to rattle when the dancer moved. Free entry, open 1pm - 5pm Tuesday-Friday, 11am - 5pm Saturday. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/culture/petrie-museum
Gods Own Junkyard, Walthamstow: a kaleidoscopic wonderland of salvaged and bespoke neon signs. Late creator and curator Chris Bracey had an astonishing career providing signage for Soho sex shops and Hollywood films. There is also a really great café inside called Rolling Scones. Free entry, Open Friday and Saturday 11am to 10pm, Sunday 11am to 6pm. https://www.godsownjunkyard.co.uk/
· Horniman Museum, Forest Hill: A short train ride out of London Bridge, this eclectic museum covers Natural History and Anthropology, and includes a butterfly house and an aquarium. The garden has beautiful views of the London skyline. Free entry, additional charge for butterfly house and aquarium. Open daily except Wednesdays Museum: 10am - 5.30pm. Butterfly House: 10.30am - 4pm. https://www.horniman.ac.uk/
Tower Bridge Exhibition, Southwark: Head inside a London Landmark! See the original Victorian engine rooms and hold your breath across a glass walkway between the two towers, 42 metres above the River Thames. Time your visit with the bridge opening - check the schedule here! Adult £10.60 Child £5.30 Open daily 9:30am to 18:00pm https://www.towerbridge.org.uk/
Freud Museum, Hampstead: you can see Sigmund Freud’s study and iconic psychoanalytical couch, Anna Freud’s study, their dining room and garden, plus art by Lucian Freud and Salvador Dali. Adults: £14.00, 12 - 16: £9.00, under 12s: free. Open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 – 17:00 https://www.freud.org.uk/
Have you visited any of these museums? Let us know below!
Bear in mind that due to the pandemic, many of the museums (even the free ones) are requiring pre booked timed tickets, check the websites we've listed above before your visit!
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