It’s no secret that London is home to some of the best london museums in the world, from the Natural History Museum to the Imperial War Museum and more.
However, aside from the usual choices, the city also plays host to some fantastic museums off the beaten track. With subjects ranging from psychoanalysis to magic and natural history to arcade games, there are some weird and wonderful options on offer for those who look.
Whether or not you’re staying at one of our serviced apartments in London, We’ve found 20 of the most fascinating London museums so you can escape the crowds and explore the eclectic range on offer throughout the city.
Freud Museum, Hampstead
The former home of the celebrated psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, this museum is well worth a visit for psychology-lovers and general folk alike. Filled with Freud’s extensive collection of antiquities and his most famous possession, his psychoanalytic couch, you can explore how this influential figure lived in London after escaping from Nazi Germany.
Opening hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 12:00-17:00
Nearest tube stop: Finchley Road
Admission: £8.00 for adults, £4.00 for concessions and free for children under 12
Magic Circle Museum, Euston
This museum is dedicated to all things magical and allows us access into how the world’s greatest magicians live and operate. Going beyond card tricks and rabbits in hats, you can discover props used by Harry Houdini, explore the background to some of the most famous stunts, and see magic in a way you’ve never seen before.
Opening hours: Only by appointment or for events which must be booked in advance
Nearest tube stop: Euston Square
Admission: Varies depending on event
Cartoon Museum, Holborn
This delightfully whimsical museum celebrates British cartoon and comic art from the eighteenth-century to the present day, exploring themes of politics, class, gender and more in a fun and insightful way. You can catch the current exhibition, ‘Daily Funnies: An Exhibition of Strip Cartoons’ until March 2018, or participate in regular Curator Talks.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10:30-17:30
Nearest tube stop: Tottenham Court Road or Holborn
Admission: £7.00 for adults, £5 for concessions, £3 for students and free for under 18s, registered disabled and carers, and members of the Art Fund.
The Old Operating Theatre, London Bridge
This museum is not for the faint-hearted and offers a unique insight into the history of medicine and surgery. As the oldest surviving surgical theatre in Europe, housed in the attic of the old St Thomas’ Hospital, you can explore the gruesome details of surgery predating anaesthetics or antiseptics, with the scent of the herb garret creating a very real atmosphere.
Opening hours: Daily, 10:30-17:00
Nearest tube stop: London Bridge
Admission: £6.50 for adults, £5 for concessions, £3.50 for under 18s, £15 for families and discounted rates for National Trust partners.
The Royal London Hospital Museum, Whitechapel
This museum is a real treat, located in the former crypt of St Philip’s Church. Exploring the hospital’s history, its remarkable role in the development of modern medicine and some of the key figures to pass through its doors, you’ll find a replica skeleton of the ‘Elephant Man’ as well as the groundbreaking forensic medicine developed in the hospital for the investigation into the Jack the Ripper murders.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10:00-16:30
Nearest tube stop: Whitechapel
The Cinema Museum, Kennington
The silver screen has long been a source of delight and escapism for the everyday Joe and this trip down memory lane is well worth a visit. Full of artefacts, memorabilia and equipment charting the history of cinema from the 1890s to the present day, this impressive collection encompasses every aspect of going to the flicks.
Opening hours: By pre-booking
Nearest tube stop: Elephant and Castle
Admission: £10 for adults and £7 for children and concessions (includes a guided tour)
V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green
Often overlooked in favour of its famous sibling, this museum is a nostalgic treat for all ages. The largest institution of its kind in the world, it houses a collection of childhood-related artefacts that date back centuries, from teddy bears and dolls to optical toys and figurines.
Opening hours: Daily, 10:00-17:45
Nearest tube stop: Bethnal Green
UCL Collections, Euston
UCL houses an impressive set of collections that are fascinating for all ages. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian and Sudanese Archeology boasts one of the most impressive collections of ancient artefacts in the world, including rare painted mummy portrait panels, whilst the Grant Museum of Zoology explores the curiosities of the animal world.
Opening hours: Grant Museum: Monday-Saturday, 13:00-17:00; Petrie Museum: Tuesday-Saturday, 13:00-17:00
Nearest tube stop: Euston Square
Ragged School Museum, Mile End
This taste of the Victorian East End is a fascinating visit for young and old alike and charts the history of the Ragged Schools throughout London, as well as the broader social history of the time. With an interactive classroom, talks and displays, you can learn more about this school set up by Dr Bernardo for the poor children of the area.
Opening hours: Wednesday and Thursday, 10:00-17:00 and the first Sunday of each month, 14:00-15:00
Nearest tube stop: Mile End
Museum of Freemasonry, Covent Garden
Freemasons have been a secretive and intriguing fraternity since their formation. However, this museum, situated in the Freemasons’ Hall, offers a chance to go behind the curtain and find out more about the Freemason existence. You can find artefacts relating to some of the most famous Freemasons, such as Winston Churchill, and displays detailing the everyday practices of the fraternity.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 10:00-17:00
Nearest tube stop: Covent Garden
Handel House Museum, Mayfair
For the music lovers amongst us, Handel House is a must-see attraction. Full of artefacts relating to Handel’s time in the house, from 1723 to 1759, you can explore how this famous composer really lived. You can also couple this with a trip to The Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square for more Handel history, or pay a visit to the flat of Jimi Hendrix next door to see how two worlds collide.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 11:00-18:00
Nearest tube stop: Bond Street
Admission: £10 for adults, £5 for children and registered disabled and blind, with free entry for their carer.
Golden Hinde II, South Bank
This full-size reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake’s legendary ship, the Golden Hind, offers a unique insight into one of the most successful galleons to ever sail the seven seas. Operating between 1577 and 1580, the original ship and its crew managed to capture multiple Spanish galleons in Latin America and bring home the equivalent of £480m worth of treasure for Queen Elizabeth, the history of which you can explore on board.
Opening hours: Daily, 10:00-17:00
Nearest tube stop: London Bridge
Admission: £5 for adults, £3 for children and concessions and £12 for families.
Horniman Museum, Lewisham
Located slightly off the beaten track in suburban South London, don’t let this put you off visiting this eclectic and intriguing museum. With items ranging from music to anthropology and natural history, you can get up close and personal with these interactive displays which have been curated since the Victorian era by Frederick John Horniman. You can also pay a visit to the Butterfly House and Gardens, as well as the Aquarium.
Opening hours: Daily, 10:00-17:30
Nearest tube stop: Forest Hill (overground)
The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, Notting Hill
Don’t be fooled by this seemingly underwhelming name, as this museum offers a chance to take a trip down memory lane and revisit all of your favourite brands from your childhood. With over 12,000 original items, you can explore the evolution of our well-loved brands from the 1890s through to present day. From discontinued Cadburys to lost Chopper bikes, there’s something to marvel at around every corner.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00-18:00 and Sunday, 11:00-17:00
Nearest tube stop: Ladbroke Grove
Admission: £9 for adults, £7 for concessions, £5 for children and under 7s go free. 50% discount for National Trust Members and free admission for carers.
Fan Museum, Greenwich
Although the contents of this museum may not seem overly intriguing at first mention, the Fan Museum is a must for anyone with an eye for design, although the mastery and detail of the fans on display will surely astound most. With a collection of over 5,000 fans and fan leaves dating as far back as the 11th century, you can marvel at beautifully crafted items from across the world.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00-17:00 and Sunday, 12:00-17:00
Nearest tube stop: Greenwich (overground)
Admission: £4 for adults, £3 for concessions and children, 50% off for National Trust members.
Pollock’s Toy Museum, Fitzrovia
This whimsical museum is a real sight for sore eyes, with six rooms and two winding staircases stuffed to the brim with vintage, retro toys. From childhood favourites of our own through to an Egyptian clay mouse dating back thousands of years, you can find dolls, teddy bears and more within these two historic buildings. A warning though: anyone with a fear of creepy Victorian dolls should steer clear!
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday, 10:00-17:00
Nearest tube stop: Goodge Street
Admission: £6 for adults, £5 for concessions
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art and Natural History, Hackney
Brought to you by the Last Tuesday Society, this museum is weird and wonderful in equal measures. Although some of the artefacts are not for the faint-hearted, this museum aims to subvert the modern need to categorise by displaying rare, priceless items alongside the commonplace and banal. You can explore McDonald’s Happy Meal toys alongside Dodo bones and art from the south pacific, meaning you might come away more confused than you went in!
Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 12:00-22:30
Nearest tube stop: Cambridge Heath (overground)
Admission: £6 (including a free cup of tea), £2.50 Thursday evening (18:00-22:00)
Wellcome Collection, Euston
The Wellcome Collection is a museum designed to make people think about the connections between science, medicine, life, and art. With exhibitions ranging from Indian medicine and the use of graphic design in modern health to the story of yoga, this museum will make you see the world around you in completely new ways.
Opening hours: Tuesday- Saturday, 10:00-18:00, Thursday, 10:00-22:00 and Sunday, 11:00-18:00
Nearest tube stop: Euston Square
This eclectic museum is a guaranteed hit for all ages. Full of homemade arcade machines ranging from science through to aliens and iPhones, you can easily while away a couple of hours playing on these nostalgic machines. Using traditional techniques for building automata combined with a love of eighteenth-century history and humour, this museum is a must-see.
Opening hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 11:00-18:00 and Thursday, 12:00-20:00
Nearest tube stop: Holborn or Chancery Lane
Admission: Free to enter, £21 to try every machine or tokens for £1 each.
Benjamin Franklin House
This historic house is the only remaining Franklin home in the world. Used by America’s Founding Father for nearly 16 years whilst on diplomatic missions for the colonial authorities, you can now explore his life in the UK. From scientific discoveries to music and letters, his time in the house is brought to life through the Historical Experience dramatisation.
Opening hours: the Historical Experience runs Wednesday-Sunday and the Architectural Tour runs on Mondays, both at 12:00,13:00,14:00,15:15 and 16:15.
Nearest tube stop: Charing Cross
Admission: Historical Experience- £8 for adults, £6 for concessions and free for under 16s. The Architectural tours- £6 for adults, free for under 16s.