London Visitor Guide

London Attractions, Activities and Things To Do!

London Museums


Museums described on this page include:

Bank of England Museum
The British Museum
Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum
Victoria and Albert South Kensington
Clockmakers’ Museum
Design Museum
The Florence Nightingale Museum
The Foundling Museum
Handel House Museum
Horniman Museum
Imperial War Museum
The Jewish Museum
Kew Bridge Steam Museum
London Transport Museum
Museum in Docklands
Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood
Museum of Garden History
Museum of London
Natural History Museum

National Maritime Museum
RAF Museum London
Science Museum
Sir John Soane’s Museum
The Wallace Collection
HMS Belfast


Bank of England Museum

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 Museum.

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.

Temporary exhibitions 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.

Opening hours: Monday-Friday 10.00-17.00 (closed at weekends and on public and bank holidays)
Bank of England Museum, Bartholomew Lane, EC2R 8AH
Phone: 020 7601 5545
Email: museum@bankofengland.co.uk Web:
www.bankofengland.co.uk


The British Museum

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.

The museum’s 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 Century AD.

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.

Opening hours: 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
Email: information@britishmuseum.org Web:
www.britishmuseum.org


Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum

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 Churchill Suite’.

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.

Opening hours: Daily 09.30-16.00
Closed 24-26 December
Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, Clive Steps, King Charles Street, SW1A 2AQ
Phone: 020 7930 6961 Fax: 020 7839 5897
Email: cwr@iwm.org.uk Web:
cwr.iwm.org.uk


Victoria and Albert South Kensington

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 Garden Café.

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.

Opening hours: 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
Web:
www.vam.ac.uk


Clockmakers’ Museum

The Clockmakers’ 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.

Opening hours: 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
Email: printedbooks.guildhall@corpoflondon.gov.uk Web:
www.clockmakers.org


Design Museum

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.

Self-guided group 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.

Opening hours: Daily 10.00-17.45
Closed 25-26 December
The Design Museum, 28 Shad Thames, SE1 2YD
Phone: 0870 909 9009 Fax: 0870 909 1909
Email: info@designmuseum.org Web:
www.designmuseum.org


The Florence Nightingale Museum

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 the Lamp’.

Florence Nightingale 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.

Library sources 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.

Opening hours: Daily 10.00-17.00
Closed Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Sunday, 22 December-2 January
Florence Nightingale Museum, St Thomas’ Hospital, 2 Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7EW
Phone: 020 7620 0374 Fax: 020 7928 1760
Email: info@florence-nightingale.co.uk Web:
www.florence-nightingale.co.uk


The Foundling Museum

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 exhibitions.

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 snacks.

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
Email: enquiries@foundlingmuseum.org.uk Web:
www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk


Handel House Museum

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 original features.

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 12.00-18.00
Closed Mondays and bank holidays
Handel House, 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, W1K 4HB
Phone: 020 7495 1685
Email: mail@handelhouse.org Web:
www.handelhouse.org


Horniman Museum

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 status.

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
Web:
www.horniman.ac.uk


Imperial War Museum

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
Email: mail@iwm.org.uk Web:
www.iwm.org.uk


The Jewish Museum

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 challenge prejudice.

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
Email: admin@jewishmuseum.org.uk Web:
www.jewishmuseum.org.uk


Kew Bridge Steam Museum

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 0EN
Phone: 020 8568 4757 Fax: 020 8569 9978
Email: info@kbsm.org Web: www.kbsm.org


London Transport Museum

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 London Transport.

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 seen.

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
Web:
www.ltmuseum.co.uk


Museum in Docklands

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 special functions.

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
Email: info@museumindocklands.org.uk Web: www.museumindocklands.org.uk


Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood

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
Email: moc@vam.ac.uk Web: www.vam.ac.uk/moc


Museum of Garden History

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 10.30-17.00
Closed 22 December-1 January
Museum of Garden History, Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7LB
Phone: 020 7401 8865 Fax: 020 7401 8869
Email: info@museumgardenhistory.org Web:
www.museumgardenhistory.org


Museum of London

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 old.

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
Email: info@museumoflondon.org.uk Web: www.museumoflondon.org.uk


Natural History Museum

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 seen working.

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 conferences.

Opening hours: Daily 10.00-17.00
Closed 25-26 December
Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD
Phone: 020 7942 5000
Web: www.nhm.ac.uk


National Maritime Museum

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 Britain.

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


RAF Museum London

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
Email: london@rafmuseum.org Web: www.rafmuseum.org.uk/london


Science Museum

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
Web: www.sciencemuseum.org.uk


Sir John Soane’s Museum

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 building fabric.

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 purposes.

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 receptions.

Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10.00-17.00
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
Web:
www.soane.org


The Wallace Collection

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 1900.

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
Email: visiting@wallacecollection.org Web: www.wallacecollection.org


HMS Belfast

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 February
Closed 24-26 December
HMS Belfast, Morgan’s Lane, Tooley Street, SE1 2JH
Phone: 020 7940 6300 Fax: 020 7403 0719
Web:
hmsbelfast.iwm.org.uk