I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to history and the weird and wonderful. Recently, I moved office locations to Farringdon in NE London and have started discovering an area of London I don’t normally hang out in. One day on my lunchtime strolls I came across a new little free museum and decided to take a stroll through. One of the best things about London/Europe is the access to free museums, my favourite one being the V&A Museum in South Kensington, but today in honour of last week’s International Museum Day, I thought I’d put together a list of the less known ones so you can avoid the hoards of tourists and learn a bit of unusual history while you’re at it. Call them the ‘accidental stumbling’s’ of my random wandering. Check it out.
The Museum of the Order of St. John’s EC1M 4DA [FREE]
This free tiny little museum tucked away just behind Farringdon station dives into the 1,000 year history of how St. John’s Ambulance came to be. You might be surprised to know that the organisation began in Malta and Jerusalem by helping to train Knights to provide First Aid to pilgrims who were trekking to the Holy Land. Really interesting to learn the origins of a now household name. The Clerkenwell site used to be home to the English chapter of the Order of St. John before it was demolished by King Henry VIII when he split away from the Catholic Church to create the Anglican Church (classic Brits). The museum is open on Saturdays so take a wander up that end of town and explore the cute neighbourhoods nearby.
2. The Horniman Museum, SE23 3PQ [FREE]
This is a spot for those of you who love the strange. The free Horniman Museum and Gardens is a day trip on its own up to Forrest Hill (near Dulwich). Inside, it holds a massive collection of objects, mostly bizarre musical instruments and cultural bits from the world over, from Frederick John Horniman. The highlight attraction is a gigantic stuffed walrus! Pack a picnic and your sunnies and head up there and enjoy a park lunch in their 16-acre gardens.
3. Sherlock Holmes Museum, NW1 6XE [£15 Adults]
Great Scot!! Located in the famous Baker Street house, this cozy museum celebrates everything dedicated to the world’s best detective. If you’re a big fan, this is a must-see. The gift shop is not to be missed – giant magnifying glasses and everything to help you solve life’s own mysteries, is for sale!
4. Jack the Ripper Museum, E1 8JG [£10-16 Adults]
My first few years in London doing a Jack the Ripper tour was a MUST for me, this museum combines both the tour and six floors of museum covering the perspective of the slain women. Jack the Ripper territory in East London has transformed a lot in the years since this psychopath tore up the streets, but this museum explores the history of the real-life murders and tries to offer suggestions on who the real Jack was. Entry to the museum alone is £10 but if you combine it with the walking tour (which I recommend) its £16.
5. The Wellcome Collection, NW1 2BE [FREE]
If you ever had a fear of the dentist / doctor, this might not be the place for you. The Wellcome Collection was born from Henry Wellcome’s strange passion for medicine which led him to gather over a MILLION objects of medical
torture devices from all over the world (wut?). It’s located right by Euston/Warren Street stations and often has a lot of discussions and educational seminars on medicine and would be really interesting to attend if that’s something you’re interested in. There’s a great Cafe on-site and an even better gift shop where you can buy quirky books about poop and blood body wash. Weird!
6. Grant Museum of Zoology, WC1E 6BT [FREE]
This is my FAVOURITE unexpected treasure from this whole list! The Grant Museum, also located near Euston Square is a small space located on the University College London (UCL) campus with SO MUCH PACKED INSIDE!! It’s floor to ceiling taxidermy and it’s amazing! They have a jar stuffed full of moles (yes, moles), Dodo bones, skeletons of tons of prehistoric animals AND a bisected pregnant cat!!! It’s the craziest place ever and you should 100% go and make a donation to them so they can keep bringing in more creepy creations!
7. The Fan Museum, SE10 8ER [£5]
London has something for everyone. The Fan Museum in Greenwich explores the history and art of fan making (…?). I’ve personally never gone to this (not really a fan) but I’ve heard they do a really great afternoon tea. A day out in Greenwich is great so why not go crazy and pay a fiver to learn about this under-appreciated art form – go ahead, you can FanGirl.
8. The Freud Museum, NW3 5SX [£9 Adults]
The UK home of Sigmund Freud after he escaped the Nazi’s is up near Finchley Road/Swiss Cottage, the home has now turned into a museum but it’s only opened from Wednesday – Sunday so plan accordingly. The home hosts a variety of events and seminars on mental health and psychology related topics. You can wander through his house and see her personal collection of over 1,600 books!
9. Sir John Soane Museum, WC2A 3BP [FREE-£12.50]
Sir John Soane was one of Britains’ greatest architects, he designed the original Bank of English building as well as the Dulwich Picture House and was given knighthood status in 1831. The museum has remained largely untouched for 180 years and has on display his personal collection of ‘antiquities, furniture, sculptures, architectural models, paintings – including work by Hogarth, Turner and Canaletto – and over 30,000 architectural drawings. It’s a vast, extraordinary collection, full of curiosities and surprises.’
10. Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, W11 1QT [£9 Adults]
If you’re a marketer, like me, you’ll find this place incredible. When you look at the Disney ‘D,’ you automatically associated it back with Micky and Mini Mouse. This museum dives into the power of advertising and brand recognition and has entire displays dedicated to specific types of packing (ex/ Fruit Loops cereal, Clorox Bleach, chocolate bars etc) and typography. It really takes you down memory lane and drills in the importance of building a quality brand. There’s a lot to take in and rotating sponsored exhibitions are always changing so take a look before you go to see what’s on.
11. Handel and Hendrix House Museum, W1K 4HB [£10 Adults]
So, you’ve heard of Jimi Hendrix, but have you heard of George Frideric Handel? He was a famous composer from the 1600s who lived in a beautiful Georgian house in Mayfair. Fast forward 200 years, in the same house separated by a wall lived Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s for three months. You can visit the museum where they’ve recreated the floors to look exactly as they would when they lived there.
12. Brunel Tunnel Museum, SE16 4LF [£6 Adults]
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| This weekend I went to the beautiful village of Rotherhithe in London to check out the cocktail bar, Midnight Apothecary at the Brunel Museum. The museum is home to the Thames Tunnel, the worlds first underwater tunnel built through the River Thames, now used as part of @transportforlondon’s Overground line. We had drinks served by the Cocktail Gardner and roasted marshmallows in the cold air (what happened to that 30 degree heat wave???). 🥃🍹🍸 Have you ever been to this area of london? If not, get your butts there!! • #rotherhithe #bermondsey #brunel #rooftopbar #cocktailbar #marshmallows |
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