‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’ – Samuel Johnson.
The world’s greatest city is an amalgamation of history, culture, vibrancy and joie-de-vivre. Every street tells a story, every bridge a tale. And there is something in this melting pot from all corners of the world, with 240 museums exhibiting various artifacts from the beginning of time.
Even a single day maneuvering through London’s museums will turn out to be very insightful and educational. With perhaps the world’s highest concentration of museums per square mile, the choices are as varied as the tastes of the visitors. As everyone knows, London can be expensive; as not everyone knows, some of London’s best museums like the British Museum are free of charge. In fact, there are several museums displaying free permanent collections in London. Of course some of them like the Tower of London turn out to be quite steep. The London Pass can be an economical solution, giving free entry to countless London attractions for a set fee. Tourist-oriented museums, like Madame Tussauds wax museum, are a category in themselves, perfect for entertainment rather than serious study.
To begin, the British Museum is one of the world’s best-known museums, showcasing one of the widest collections of world cultural history. Some highlights are the Rosetta stone, the first known image of Christ, Lindow Man whose well-preserved 2000-year-old body was found in a bog and the Reading Room, where Lenin, among others, studied and wrote plans for his Revolution that would affect the whole world. Sir Hans Sloane had contributed his mass collection of over 71,000 interesting items when the British Museum was founded in 1753. In the nineteenth century, the museum began to thrive, increasing its inventory of interesting items to over seven million; many of which are over 10,000 years old. The British Museum’s charter had insisted that the museum remain open free of charge to all those curious and studious persons who wish to enter. Spend an astounding afternoon wandering the eternal corridors and discover some of mankind’s greatest cultural achievements and explore the great relics of the Greek and Egyptian empires.
Next on the list is the Victoria and Albert Museum which houses an extensive collection of art and design, with over a million objects ranging from architectural elements to textile collections.
The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square is where you can see art by Europe’s best painters and sculptors. Located in the heart of Trafalgar Square, it houses some of the world’s finest art dating back to the 13th century. Construction of the National Gallery began in 1832 and since then it has amassed the exceptional works of da Vinci, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Botticelli, Gainsborough, Turner, Cezanne along with other great works, with paintings ranging from 1250 to 1900. Nearby is the National Portrait Gallery, concentrating its collection on England’s most famous citizens throughout the centuries.
For a different flavour, head to the Tate, considered to be London’s best modern art museum, a leading example of how London likes to reinvent itself. The exclusively contemporary museum is housed in the old Bankside Power Station, lending an industrial, factory-like feel with sharp lines and a smokestack exterior. From the Tate, the sleek Millennium Footbridge stretches across the Thames with the elegant St. Paul’s Cathedral jutting into the clouds. Regarded as London’s most innovative gallery, it includes an array of exhibitions and grand collections of modern art. Appealing to children and adults, amateurs and experts, with the collections of artists like Andy Warhol, Matisse and Bacon.
The Natural History Museum is an attractive gothic building that houses one of the world’s largest collections of dinosaurs with exhibitions dominating the great halls and towering above awe stricken visitors. The nearby Science Museum is a great place for kids with interactive exhibits and the Apollo X space module.
The Museum of London educates its visitors about London’s history and culture. If you’re interested in London, this museum is for you; and, presumably, you are interested in London if you’ve traveled all the way to get here!
For those seeking to discover London’s culture in a more interactive setting, attraction museums are ideal. The London Dungeon combines history with horror in a haunted setting. In the north of London are the London Planetarium and the neighboring Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, which not only houses the world’s largest and most up to date collection of wax figures, but also the most life-like. For those who want to line up along the Prime Meridian, the nearby town of Greenwich is the place to go. There you can visit the Royal Observatory, enjoy the beautiful park at the base of the Observatory’s hill, the National Maritime Museum, the famous Cutty Sark ship, and get a feel of an English village.
The sheer variety of museums in London is mind boggling, catering to all sorts of specific interests that anyone could possibly have – from medical history at the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre and the British Optical Association Museum to the Clint Prison Museum, the Fan Museum and also the Type Museum on the history of the printed word. So while planning your next trip to this amazing city, factor in some time at a museum of your interest and you’ll definitely cherish the trip.