London Attractions, Activities and Things
Museums described on this page include:
Sometimes referred to
as the ‘Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’, the Bank of England operates as
the UK’s central bank and is committed to promoting and maintaining
financial stability as its contribution to a healthy economy. The Bank
sets interest rates to control inflation, issues bank notes and generally
works to maintain a stable financial system.
The Bank of England
Museum, located within the Bank’s premises in the City of London, tells
the story of the Bank from its foundation in 1694 and its development
since that time. Major events include its nationalisation in 1946 and it
gaining its independence in 1997.
The Threadneedle Street
site has developed from the small, purpose-built premises of 1734 to the
impressive structure that exists today. During the 300 and more years it
has been in existence, the Bank has accumulated a considerable number of
items associated with its history and many of these are displayed in the
The various exhibits
are organised into collections and include banknotes and coins issued over
the years, together with a display of gold that includes Roman and modern
gold bars. Books and documents, pictures and statues are also featured as
well as pikes and muskets that were once used to defend the Bank.
and events are staged while computer technology and audiovisual displays
explain the Bank’s present day role. Audio guides are available for hire
and talks and presentations can be booked.
Monday-Friday 10.00-17.00 (closed at weekends and on public and bank
Bank of England Museum, Bartholomew Lane, EC2R 8AH
Phone: 020 7601 5545
Formed in 1753 by an
Act of Parliament, the British Museum opened its doors to the public in
1759. It remains on the original site, although in a much bigger building,
and attracts around five million visitors a year.
collections belong to the nation and are in the care of different
departments. The Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas has around
350,000 objects that represent the cultures of indigenous peoples
throughout the world. The Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan covers the
culture of the Nile valley from the Neolithic period until the 12th
The scope of the
Department of Asia extends to the whole Asian continent from the Neolithic
period to now while the Department of Coins and Medals has one of the
world’s finest numismatic collections of about one million objects. The
Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities has over 100,000 objects from
the Classical world, generally ranging from 3200 BC to the 4th Century AD.
The Department of the
Middle East covers the civilisations and cultures of the area from the
Neolithic period until the present and the Department of Prehistory and
Europe deals with the time from the earliest human tools in Africa and
Asia to the art and archaeology of Europe up to the present day. Around
50,000 drawings and over two million prints are held by the Department of
Prints and Drawings.
Libraries and archives
are accessible to the public for research purposes and a wide range of
activities, talks and events are run. A whole host of different tours are
available, covering different aspects of the museum. Numerous shops offer
a variety of items and several refreshment outlets, including a picnic
area, cater for all tastes.
Daily 10.00-17.30 (late opening Thursday and Friday)
British Museum, Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG
Phone: 020 7323 8000/8299 Fax: 020 7323 8616
The Cabinet War Rooms
provide a valuable insight into how Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet
were able to continue working through the air raids of World War II.
Some of the most
important rooms are the Map Room, which is almost exactly as it was left
in 1945, the Cabinet Room and Churchill’s bedroom. Churchill famously
announced regarding the Cabinet Room: “This is the room from which I will
direct the war.” Certain areas of the Cabinet War Rooms had fallen into
neglect but were restored and opened to the public in 2003 as ‘The
The Churchill Museum
has been created within the Cabinet War Rooms as the first national museum
dedicated to Winston Churchill. It is divided into five chapters that
cover the full ninety years of his life, starting with his appointment as
Prime Minister in 1940 and going backwards and forwards through his early
and later years. A notable exhibit is the Lifeline, a fifteen metre-long
interactive table that covers different periods of Churchill’s life.
Various lectures and
events are held and a wide range of educational and learning resources are
available. It is possible to book exclusive private tours with senior
staff members. These guided tours give privileged access to the key rooms
and cover both the Cabinet War Rooms and the Churchill Museum.
All visitors are
provided with a free personal Acoustiguide sound guide. A gift shop and
cafeteria are located halfway through the tour.
Closed 24-26 December
Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, Clive Steps, King Charles Street,
Phone: 020 7930 6961 Fax: 020 7839 5897
Described as ‘the
world’s greatest museum of art and design’, the V&A aims to enable
everyone to enjoy its collections, explore the cultures that created them
and to inspire those who shape contemporary design. Its displays are
intended to be a resource for learning, creativity and enjoyment.
The museum’s collection
of over 27,000 works includes around 3,000 years’ worth of artefacts from
many of the world’s richest cultures. Its architecture collection includes
drawings, photographs and complete rooms while the Asia collection has
objects from Asia and the Middle East. British galleries display a
comprehensive collection of British design and art from 1500 to 1900.
Ceramics include ancient Egyptian artefacts through to contemporary studio
pottery while the Childhood section has various toys and games.
The museum also has
contemporary, fashion and jewellery, furniture, metalwork and glass
collections. Its paintings and drawings cover different styles and
techniques while the photography collection, begun in 1852, has over half
a million images. Prints and books, sculpture, textiles and theatre and
performance complete the collections. A number of study rooms are
available plus a library and research centre.
The Victoria and Albert
has a number of events and activities for families and young people plus
several educational programmes. It runs introductory tours hourly
throughout the day and provides refreshments in the V&A Café and the
Outside, the John
Madejski Garden has been transformed into an elegant place that changes
dramatically at night due to specially created lighting. The central
stone-paved oval can be filled with water as a reflecting pool or can be
drained for displays.
Daily 10.00-17.45 (Friday until 22.00)
Closed 24-26 December
V & A South Kensington, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
Phone: 020 7942 2000
Company was founded under Royal Charter in 1631 with the purpose of
regulating and encouraging the ‘art and mystery’ of watch and clock
making. It is the oldest surviving horological institution in the world.
Through its Museum and
Education Trust, the company maintains its historic library and museum.
The library was founded in 1813 and has ancient manuscripts of the
company, many rare clockmakers’ workbooks and related documents. The
Clockmakers’ Collection was begun in 1814 and has been on permanent public
display since 1874. Both the library and museum collection are housed in
the Guildhall Library.
The museum constitutes
the oldest collection of clocks, watches and sundials in existence. The
collection is housed in a single room and generally has around 600 English
and European watches, 30 clocks and 15 maritime timekeepers, most dating
from 1600 to 1850. Perhaps the most important group is the maritime
timekeepers since they illustrate the importance of horology in the
science of navigation.
The collection was
re-launched in 2002 after a refurbishment of the display area, with the
objects now displayed in the highest quality modern showcases. The objects
include brilliant technical pieces, those that are stunningly beautiful or
fun pieces to the best of modern British craftsmanship.
Monday-Saturday 09.30-16.30 (closed on public holidays and the Saturday
before a Bank Holiday Monday)
The Clockmakers’ Museum, Guildhall Library, EC2P 2EJ
Phone: 020 7332 1868
Formed in 1982 as part
of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Design Museum soon outgrew its
premises and is now an organisation in its own right. Located in an
elegant, modernist building on the River Thames by Tower Bridge, it has
spectacular views of the City and Canary Wharf, attracting more than
200,000 visitors each year.
The Design Museum is
one of the world’s leading museums devoted to contemporary design in every
form. This ranges from furniture to graphics and from architecture to
industrial design. The museum aims to celebrate, entertain and inform, and
to place design at the centre of contemporary culture.
A collection of popular
exhibitions explains and illustrates design disciplines while a series of
talks and events are held, including themed late night events. As part of
its drive to inform, the museum has a vibrant educational programme that
provides activities for schools, workshops, continuing professional
development courses and conferences.
visits are available and Sunday workshops are run for children. Parts of
the museum are available for hire, while a café and shop complete an
interesting day out.
Closed 25-26 December
The Design Museum, 28 Shad Thames, SE1 2YD
Phone: 0870 909 9009 Fax: 0870 909 1909
Although born in 1820
and living for ninety years, Florence Nightingale’s fame was largely based
on two years of the Crimean War that transformed her into ‘the Lady with
was sent to Constantinople in 1854, by Minister of War Sidney Herbert,
with a party of 38 nurses. The aim was to improve medical facilities for
the wounded in the Crimean War. Her endeavours won the undying respect of
British soldiers and she later went on to reform the role of nursing and
medical care in the British Army and civilian life.
The museum celebrates
the life and work of Florence Nightingale and is divided into thematic
areas — childhood and early travels, the Crimean War, the Army and India,
nurse training and old age. Its collections are divided into different
types of objects. Just under 1,000 artefacts include those owned or used
by Florence Nightingale, materials connected with the Crimean War and
objects connected with the Nightingale School or St Thomas’ Hospital.
included books written by Florence Nightingale or written by her, together
with biographies, articles and histories. Various pictures show portraits
pf Florence Nightingale or images of the Crimea, nurses and hospitals.
Research facilities are
available by appointment and learning sessions are run for various
categories from primary school pupils to adults and specialist groups.
Other activities are also organised and the venue is available for hire to
stage a memorable event in an unusual setting.
Closed Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Sunday, 22 December-2 January
Florence Nightingale Museum, St Thomas’ Hospital, 2 Lambeth Palace Road,
Phone: 020 7620 0374 Fax: 020 7928 1760
Up to a thousand babies a year were
abandoned in early 18th Century London and, in 1739, Thomas Coram
established the Foundling Hospital to care for and educate some of
them. This was London’s first home for abandoned children.
The Foundling Museum occupies a
building adjacent to the original site of the hospital and tells the
story of the 27,000 children it looked after until its closure in
1953. It also features three major figures in British history —
hospital founder and philanthropist Thomas Coram, the artist William
Hogarth and the composer George Frideric Handel. The result is a
remarkable collection of art, period interiors and social history.
The building has one of London’s finest
surviving Rococo interiors and displays its treasures in a number of
rooms. The Court Room was designed by William Hogarth in 1740 and
became Britain’s first public exhibition space, eventually leading to
the formation of the Royal Academy of Arts. It contains works by
Hogarth, Gainsborough, Reynolds and others, and has an elaborate
William Wilton ceiling.
The Picture Gallery has many portraits,
including one of Thomas Coram by Hogarth. Coram’s Children Gallery
explores the hospital’s poignant history and the Committee Room has
several 19th Century paintings. The Gerald Coke Handel Collection is
the largest private collection of Handel memorabilia and publications
while the Temporary Exhibition Gallery is used for special
All rooms can be hired for private
functions and the museum runs a number of events, including music,
talks and creative activities. The Coram Café offers light meals and
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday
10.00-18.00, Sunday 12.00-18.00
The Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, WC1N 1AZ
Phone: 020 7841 3600
The museum is located on the upper
floors of 23 and 25 Brook Street. The latter was home to George
Frideric Handel from 1723 until his death in 1759 and is where he
composed some of his greatest music. The upper floors of the former
property were home to rock musician Jimi Hendrix from 1968-9.
Both properties have undergone
meticulous restoration and are now as close as they can be to the
original interiors. The work included removing and re-instating walls
according to the early Georgian sequence of rooms and replicating
The museum celebrates Handel’s life and
works, with portraits of Handel and his contemporaries in the finely
restored Georgian interiors. The collection continues to grow, with a
major Handel collection being added in 1998 and two important oil
paintings in 1996 and 1998.
The upper floors of 25 Brook Street
house the permanent Handel collection while number 23 is used for
changing exhibitions and events. Live music is maintained in the house
by recitals every Thursday evening and regularly at weekends. There
are also displays and special exhibitions that explore Handel’s music,
the lives of his contemporaries and the history of the house.
Group guided tours are available and
may include private live music recitals. There is also an education
programme through a series of lively events and the incomparable venue
can be hired for a unique and intimate private function.
Opening hours: Tuesday,
Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 10.00-18.00, Thursday 10.00-20.00, Sunday
Closed Mondays and bank holidays
Handel House, 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, W1K 4HB
Phone: 020 7495 1685
Founded by Victorian tea trader John
Horniman, who began collecting specimens and artefacts in the 1860s,
the museum opened in 1901. Through its collections, exhibitions and
events, it seeks to encourage a wider appreciation of the world, its
people, their cultures and its environments.
The Horniman’s three main collections
are Anthropology, Natural History and Musical Instruments. The
Anthropology collection is the third most significant ethnographic
collection in the UK, after the British Museum and the Pitts-River
Museum in Oxford. It has around 80,000 objects from around the world,
many specimens being of major national and international significance,
The Musical Instruments collection is
one of the most comprehensive in the UK with over 7,000 objects made
to produce sound. The Natural History collection covers the entire
range of natural science areas and has more than 250,000 specimens.
The collections are recognised as being of national importance, with
the Ethnography and Musical Instruments collections having Designated
Over 3,700 objects, drawn from the
three main collections, are included in the Education Handling
exhibition, so that visitors can handle the objects in the museum’s
Hands On Base. Various other learning opportunities are available,
including discovery trails, stories, workshops or longer courses.
The Horniman has one of London’s oldest
surviving aquaria, founded in 1903. A modern aquarium was opened in
2006 and has fifteen vibrant displays. A library has been built up
over 100 years, with over 20,000 items that reflect the subject areas
of the museum.
Outside, the Horniman Gardens comprise
sixteen acres of beautifully maintained formal and natural landscapes.
The Gardens have Grade II listed status, were voted Best Park for the
South East of England in 2005 and have received the Green Flag Award
for five consecutive years to 2007.
Opening hours: Daily 10.30-17.30
Closed 24-26 December
Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ
Phone: 020 8699 1872
Located in a Grade II listed building
that was originally the Bethlem Royal Hospital (popularly known as
Bedlam), the Imperial War Museum was originally set up by Act of
Parliament to record the story of the Great War. Its remit was
subsequently extended to include the Second World War and then later
to all military operations in which British or Commonwealth forces
have been involved since August 1914.
The Imperial War Museum is now the
national museum of 20th Century conflict and illustrates and records
all aspects of modern war. Covering the causes, course and
consequences of conflict, it has an essentially educational purpose.
The museum has a wealth of material,
including 19,000 paintings, drawings and sculptures, 15,000 posters,
120 million feet of cine film, 10,000 hours of videotape, 56,000 hours
of historical sound recordings, over 10 million photographs, more then
15,000 collections of diaries, letters, memoirs and other papers,
270,000 library items and thousands of objects that include uniforms,
medals, firearms, vehicles and aircraft. The Imperial War Museum is
therefore also a major national art gallery, national records archive
and research centre.
The permanent exhibitions are shown in
galleries, with the Large Exhibitions Gallery having weapons and
vehicles. There are galleries dedicated to the First and Second World
Wars, to conflicts since then and the Holocaust Exhibition tells the
story of the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Other galleries are devoted
to crimes against humanity, espionage activities, art exhibitions, the
Victoria Cross and George Cross, and to Field Marshal Montgomery.
The museum also stages featured events,
allows pre-bookable group visits, supports educational programmes and
can be hired for corporate and other functions.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-18.00
Closed 24-26 December
Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, SE1 6HZ
Phone: 020 7416 5320 Fax: 020 7416 5374
The museum is currently undergoing a
major expansion programme and is closed, with re-opening scheduled for
2009. Until that time, events and exhibitions are being run with other
organisations and touring exhibitions are being arranged.
Jews have lived in England since at
least the Norman Conquest in 1066 and, in the late 19th and early 20th
Century, there was a major influx of around 150,000 who were fleeing
persecution and economic hardship in Eastern Europe. The Jewish Museum
was established in 1932 and is London’s only museum dedicated to the
history and heritage of a cultural minority or individual faith. It
aims to explore and preserve Jewish heritage, celebrate diversity and
The museum selects and exhibits
material relating to Jewish history, culture and religious life. It
has one of the finest collections of Judaica (Jewish ceremonial art)
in the world, which has been awarded Designated status for its
outstanding national importance.
The Jewish Museum has collections
covering Jewish history in Britain until 1880 and from 1880 onwards.
It has a small but important collection of high quality paintings and
has a photographic archive comprising mainly black and white images
from the late 19th Century onwards.
Education is at the heart of the
museum’s work and it organises a programme of events, including
thought-provoking Holocaust education sessions.
The development of the new museum will
triple the museum’s space and provide new galleries that will enable
all collections and activities to be on a single site.
The Jewish Museum, 4 Shakespeare
Road, N3 1XE
Phone: 020 8371 7373 Fax: 020 8371 7374
Located in what was originally a
Victorian pumping station built to supply London with water, the Kew
Bridge Steam Museum is recognised as the most important historic site
of the water supply industry in Britain. It won the Classic Award in
the 2006 Museums and Heritage Awards for Excellence.
The museum has the world’s largest
collection of steam pumping engines, including the Cornish engines in
their original engine house and the rotative engines that have been
collected from pumping stations across the country. A selection of
these engines can be seen running every weekend throughout the year.
The museum has a Water for Life Gallery that explores the fascinating
history of water supply and usage in London.
Many Victorian waterworks had their own
railway and at Kew Bridge there is a short line with a steam
locomotive for visitor rides. This runs every Sunday and Bank Holiday
Monday from March to November, plus the weekends when the Cornish
engines run and special event days.
Various special events occur at set
times through the year and group visits are available. These can be
self-guided visits at discount rates or may include a special weekday
steam up of the engines and a guided tour. School parties can attend
before the official opening time and various educational programmes
are provided. The museum is also available to hire for functions such
as corporate events, wedding receptions and birthdays with an events
manager to help.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday
11.00-16.00, open Monday on Bank Holidays
Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8
Phone: 020 8568 4757 Fax: 020 8569 9978
The museum, located in Covent Garden,
is dedicated to transport preservation and education in London. Its
collections are displayed across several object-based galleries,
covering 19th Century London, Travelling Underground, London’s
transport at war and other themes.
Over eighty road and rail vehicles are
in the museum’s collection with around twenty being on display at any
time. It has more than 100,000 photographs, prints, paintings and
drawings, covering the last 200 years of London and its transport. The
museum has one of the best poster archives in the world, featuring 100
years of high quality graphic art that publicises the Underground and
Printed material ranges from a
Victorian peep show souvenir to comic postcards and notices about
sheltering during the Blitz. A large collection of signs is displayed
and tickets, maps and timetables are also shown together with
uniforms, badges and equipment worn since the end of the 19th Century.
Scale models give a three-dimensional impression of large items while
numerous objects associated with public transport in London can be
The museum’s Upper Deck café and bar’s
stylish interior features seating upholstered in a unique fabric
design based on the pattern used in the Northern line in the 1930s.
Group visits and guided tours are available and numerous educational
facilities are provided.
The museum can only show a small
proportion of its collection at any time. The remainder of the 370,000
items are stored in the Museum Depot at Acton, which is open for
special events and themed weekends.
Opening hours: Saturday-Thursday
10.00-18.00, Friday 11.00-21.00
London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Plaza, WC2E 7BB
Phone: 020 7379 6344
Spread over five floors of a splendid
late Georgian warehouse on West India Quay, the museum explores the
story of London’s river, its port and people, from Roman settlement
through to the recent restoration of London’s former docklands — a
period of 2,000 years.
The museum has twelve major permanent
galleries, a children’s gallery, temporary special exhibitions that
change regularly throughout the year, education services, function
suites, a restaurant and a shop. As Canary Wharf’s only Grade 1 listed
venue, the museum offers a distinctive background for entertaining and
The galleries show how the docklands
region has been at the heart of social and economic change. The
permanent displays pay homage to the people who built, and continue to
build, the shape of the City of London.
The main collections are broken down
into the artefact and object collections, with around 70 percent being
from the archive of the Port of London Authority and its predecessor
companies and bodies. The Sainsbury’s business archive is also held.
A number of themes are seen throughout
the museum’s galleries, each relating to the Thames and London’s
docklands. These themes include the development of the docks, the
River Thames, the docks at war and the regeneration of the docks.
Community and special exhibitions are
staged while various learning opportunities have been developed. Over
35,000 images are available in the museum’s picture library.
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday
10.00-18.00 (first Thursday each month until 21.00)
Closed 24-26 December and 1 January
Museum in Docklands, West India Quay, Canary Wharf, E14 4AL
Phone: 0870 444 3851 Fax: 0870 444 3858/020 7001 9801
The museum houses the UK’s national
collection of childhood-related objects. Dating back to the 16th
Century and one of the world’s finest collections of its kind, it
represents the diversity of childhood experiences across the full
economic, cultural and historical spectrum. The V&A Museum of
Childhood aims to encourage everyone to explore the themes of
childhood and develop an appreciation of creative design through its
collections and programmes.
The museum’s permanent displays are
arranged in four main sections. The Front Room Gallery uses the V&A’s
collection of toys, games, doll’s houses, furniture and children’s
clothing as a learning resource for schools, community and art centres
and cultural interest groups.
The Moving Toy Gallery features toys
that move, from push and pull toys to clockwork and battery-operated
toys. The Creative Gallery looks at how children express their
creativity with different sections that allow children and adults to
express their creative ideas. The Childhood Galleries house the V&A’s
permanent displays relating to the social history of childhood and are
organised into various themes.
The museum’s Children’s Lives section
covers the different aspects of the history of childhood. It runs
workshops and courses for families, young people and adults and has a
full programme of exhibitions, displays and events.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-17.45
Closed 25-26 December and 1 January
V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9PA
Phone: 020 8983 5200 Fax: 020 8983 5225
Founded in 1977, the museum is located
on the banks of the River Thames, next to Lambeth Palace and opposite
the Houses of Parliament. It occupies a building that was previously
the historic church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, which was saved from
demolition when the museum was created.
The Museum of Garden History is the
world’s first museum dedicated to the history of gardens and
gardening. It aims to enhance understanding and appreciation of the
history and development of gardens and gardening in the UK.
The museum collections fall into three
main categories. The tool display is one of the finest on display in
the country and includes garden-related artefacts. The ephemera
collection is a paper archive that includes prints, photographs,
bills, receipts, catalogues and brochures. The library collection has
historic and contemporary books and catalogues, and is available to
Friends of the Museum only by appointment.
A recently developed multi-media
display tells the story of the local area, its history, people and
sites of historical, horticultural and social significance. In
addition to its permanent displays, the museum has a variety of
temporary displays, runs various events and welcomes group visits with
an optional guided tour. There is a shop and café and the venue is
available for hire.
Outside, the museum has developed a
reproduction 17th Century knot garden in what was previously the
graveyard. This features the traditional geometric design and has
historically authentic planting.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday
Closed 22 December-1 January
Museum of Garden History, Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7LB
Phone: 020 7401 8865 Fax: 020 7401 8869
The museum’s mission is to inspire a
passion for London by communicating its history, archaeology and
contemporary cultures to a wider world and by participating in
debates, cultural and educational networks. It is currently undergoing
a major redevelopment and its lower galleries, which explore London’s
history from 1666 onwards, are closed until 2009. However, all other
areas remain open.
The museum has four permanent galleries
that explore different areas of London’s development. The London
before London exhibition covers the Thames Valley from 450,000 BC to
the founding of Londinium in 50 AD. It contains the remains of one of
the oldest people found in the region, between 5640 and 5100 years
The Roman London gallery covers the
period from 50 AD to 410 AD, when the Romans built the original city,
bridged the Thames and constructed a road network. The Medieval London
gallery deals with over a thousand years of history, from Anglo-Saxon
settlement in the 5th Century, through Viking raids and the Norman
Conquest of 1066, to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and
the early Tudor period.
The Tudor and early Stewart London
gallery is partially closed due to redevelopment work. It covers the
expansion of London beyond the Roman walls and culminates in the Great
Fire, the most famous disaster in London’s history.
The museum stages special exhibitions
in the foyer and has a number of community exhibitions plus a series
of events and learning opportunities.
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday
10.00-17.50 (first Thursday of each month until 21.00)
Closed 24-26 December and 1 January
Museum of London, London Wall, EC2Y 5HN
Phone: 0870 444 3851 Fax: 0870 444 3853
The museum has excellent collections,
fantastic exhibitions and cutting edge research facilities. It aims to
promote the discovery, understanding, enjoyment and responsible use of
the natural world.
The museum’s collections are displayed
across various galleries, with different zones covering specific
themes. The Red Zone explores the ever-changing planet and the natural
forces that shape it, including volcanoes and earthquakes. It covers
the effects of inhabitants on the planet and its place in the
universe. A dramatic sculpture of the Earth takes visitors to the
centre of the globe so they can begin their journey around the planet.
The Green Zone was part of the original
Natural History Museum and has some of its earliest collections. It
investigates Earth’s ecology and deals with the environment and
evolution. The Blue Zone covers the amazing diversity of life on the
planet, including creatures that range from the smallest invertebrate
to the giant Blue Whale.
The Orange Zone has the Wildlife
Garden, which is open from 1 April to 31 October and is home to
thousands of British plant and animal species. There is also the
Darwin Centre that has behind-the-scenes tours where scientists can be
The museum is a world-class resource
for learners and has an active schools programme. It has two areas to
hire for spectacular evening events and two spaces for daytime
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-17.00
Closed 25-26 December
Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD
Phone: 020 7942 5000
Maritime Greenwich, the home of the
National Maritime Museum, is a World Heritage site that is noted for
its magnificent architecture, beautiful parkland and a lively town
centre. The museum actually comprises three sites: the Maritime
Galleries, the Royal Observatory and the Queen’s House. These
constitute one museum that illustrates the importance of the sea,
ships, time and the stars and their relationship with people.
The National Maritime Museum was
established by Act of Parliament and opened to the public in 1937. It
has the most important holdings in the world on the history of Britain
at sea and includes maritime art, cartography, manuscripts, ship
models, navigational instruments and more. The Caird Library is the
most comprehensive reference library of its kind in the world.
The Royal Observatory is one of the
world’s most important historical sites. It is home to Greenwich Mean
Time and the Prime Meridian line, placing it on the boundary between
the eastern and western hemispheres and, by international decree, is
the official starting point for each new day, year or millennium.
Shows at London’s only planetarium offer a fantastic journey through
time and space.
The 17th Century Queen’s House
showcases the museum’s fine art collection and has an on-going
programme of displays, exhibitions and events. In addition to its art
galleries, it features a visually stunning Great Hall and the elegant
Tulip Stairs, the first geometric, self-supporting spiral stairs in
There are twenty galleries and
exhibitions at the Museum, Observatory and Queen’s House. These
feature world-class collections about the sea, ships, stars and time,
astronomy, art and exploration.
Group visits can be booked in advance
and guided tours are available. Numerous events, activities and
exhibitions are staged. Refreshments are provided and areas of the
museum can be hired.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-17.00
Closed 24-26 December
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, SE10 9NF
Phone: 020 8858 4422 Fax: 020 8312 6632
Opened in 1972 and located on the
historic site of the London Aerodrome, the RAF Museum is Britain’s
only national museum dedicated wholly to aviation. Comprising five
mammoth buildings with more than 100 aircraft and numerous artefacts,
aviation memorabilia, fine art and photographs, it is one of the
greatest and biggest aviation museums in the world.
Various exhibitions are provided in
separate buildings. The Milestones of Flight exhibition covers the
great achievements of the first 100 years of flight, particularly the
major contributions of the Royal Air Force. Featured flying machines
include an early airship gondola, a Bleriot from 1909 through to a
modern Eurofighter Typhoon.
The Bomber Hall follows the development
of the bomber from its first appearance in World War One to today’s
machines. It covers the achievements of RAF Bomber Command and the US
Army Air Forces in World War Two and includes a Lancaster, Vulcan,
Halifax and Fortress.
Historic Hangars is located in a listed
building and has separate exhibitions covering the earliest rotary
winged aircraft (autogiros), over water aircraft, fighters and the RAF
overseas. Featured aircraft include a Spitfire and Bristol Bulldog.
The Aeronauts Interactive Centre has
over 40 hands-on experiments while the Battle of Britain Hall tells
the story of the world’s first decisive air battle and has a Hawker
Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, Messerschmitts, Junkers and others.
The Grahame-White factory features many of the oldest aircraft, such
as a Sopwith Triplane, Hanriot and SE5-A fighter from World War One.
The museum stages various events,
exhibitions and displays. Group visits, educational visits and tours
are pre-bookable and parts of the venue can be hired for conferences,
meetings, exhibitions and other functions.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-18.00 (times
vary for some areas)
RAF Museum London, Grahame Park Way, NW9 5LL
Phone: 020 8205 2266
Founded in 1857 with objects that had
been shown at the Great Exhibition held in the Crystal Palace, the
Science Museum is now world renowned for its historic collections,
awe-inspiring galleries and inspirational exhibitions. The museum’s
collections, which are updated constantly, comprise hundreds of
thousands of objects that range from aircraft to microchips. The
collections are displayed in a number of themed galleries.
The Hands-on Galleries comprise an
Energy gallery that deals with the importance of energy and a Who Am
I? exhibition that includes new discoveries in genetics, brain science
and psychology. The museum’s most popular gallery, the Launchpad, has
fifty hands-on exhibits and shows.
Several object-rich galleries include a
Making the Modern World gallery that presents 150 of the museum’s most
significant items from 1750 to 2000. The Energy Hall has a number of
steam engines while the Exploring Space gallery covers the moon
landing and other space achievements.
Other galleries deal with the
environment, medicine and biology, the weather and the science and art
of medicine. Many of the exhibits are categorised by age range, with
items suitable for under fives through to teenagers and adults.
The museum even has its own art gallery
and its IMAX 3D Cinema shows a series of films. Demonstrations are
given, there is a daily programme of drama performances and numerous
special events and exhibitions are staged. The museum is a unique
venue for birthday parties and its Science Nights provide an evening
of fascinating activities followed by overnight camping. Education
visits and guided tours are also available. Two main cafes, a shop and
a picnic area are provided.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-18.00
Closed 24-26 December
Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, SW7 2DD
Phone: 0870 870 4868
The museum was originally the house of
Sir John Soane, one of Britain’s greatest architects, who was
appointed as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806.
He arranged the books, casts and models in his house so that the
students of the Academy could have easy access to them and
subsequently negotiated an Act of Parliament to preserve the house and
collection for the benefit of ‘amateurs and students’ in architecture.
The museum that exists today contains
the collections and personal effects that were acquired by Sir John
Soane from the 1780s until his death in 1837. The collections comprise
Egyptian, Classical, Medieval and Renaissance antiquities, 17th-18th
Century and Neo-Classical sculpture, casts, oriental objects,
timepieces, furniture, stained glass, paintings, picture frames and
The brief of the Trustees for the
museum has always been to allow free access and to keep it as nearly
as possible in the state it was left on Soane’s death.
Group visits are allowed by prior
booking and a public lecture tour is given by a member of the
curatorial staff every Saturday morning at 11.00. A six-weekly meeting
of the Soane Museum Study Group discusses new work on architectural
history while study visits for groups can be arranged for educational
Drawing classes are run and two series
of lunchtime ‘gallery talks’ (four in each series) are held annually,
where a member of the curatorial staff leads tours that trace
particular themes in the museum’s collection. A special candlelit
opening occurs on the first Thursday evening of each month from
18.00-21.00. An annual Soane Lecture is given at the nearby Royal
College of Surgeons.
The museum can be hired for dinners and
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday
Closed Bank Holidays, 22-26 December, 1 January
Sir John Soane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP
Phone: 020 7440 4263 Fax: 020 7831 3957
Displayed in a domestic setting at the
main London town house of its former owners, Sir Richard and Lady
Wallace, the Wallace Collection originated as a family collection but
is now a national museum. It contains the wonderful works of art that
were collected in the 18th and 19th Centuries by the first four
Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the fourth
Marquess. The collection was bequeathed to the nation by Sir Richard’s
widow, Lady Wallace, in 1897 and the museum opened to the public in
The museum’s 25 galleries have
unsurpassed displays of French 18th Century paintings, furniture and
porcelain, with superb Old Master paintings and a world-class armoury.
It is probably best known for its paintings by artists such as Titian,
Rembrandt, Hals and Velazquez but has many other items of interest.
In accordance with the terms of Lady
Wallace’s bequest, the Wallace Collection is a closed collection and
so nothing can be added or taken away. Nevertheless, many changes have
been made in the way it is presented, not least the Centenary Project
of 1997-2000 that created many new spaces and facilities. These
included the highlighting of conservation work, illustration of the
manufacture of veneered wood and other items, and a display of
Renaissance armour that includes a handling collection.
A research library and archives are
open to the public by appointment. The library contains around 15,000
books and other publications while the archives have material about
the founders of the collection and the history of the museum.
Dynamic and active learning
opportunities are offered, gifts are available from the shop and the
house and courtyard can be hired for dinners and private parties. A
public tour takes place daily at 13.00, lasting one hour.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-17.00
The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1U 3BN
Phone: 020 7563 9500 Fax: 020 7224 2155
London’s floating naval museum, HMS
Belfast, is a 6-inch cruiser (denoting the size of its guns) that
served throughout the Second World War. It was designed for the
protection of trade, for offensive action and as a powerful support
for amphibious operations. This powerful warship played a leading part
in the destruction of the battle cruiser Scharnhorst and was heavily
involved in the Normandy Landings.
The ship was in service with the Royal
Navy until 1965 and was saved for the nation in 1971 as a unique
reminder of Britain’s naval heritage. It has been successfully
preserved to reflect the different decades of its service and the
campaigns in which it served. The vessel’s nine decks of living
history are available for visitors to explore.
HMS Belfast has a range of events and
activities that often include the re-enactment of specific episodes in
its past, such as the D-Day landings. Hands-on and interactive
displays are also featured. Education groups who visit the ship can
stay overnight in the ‘kip in a ship’ sleepover accommodation.
The Walrus Café provides meals and
snacks. Four function rooms and two decks are available for hire to
provide an unusual setting for a variety of private events.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-18.00
from 1 March to 31 October, 10.00-17.00 from 1 November to 28
Closed 24-26 December
HMS Belfast, Morgan’s Lane, Tooley Street, SE1 2JH
Phone: 020 7940 6300 Fax: 020 7403 0719