What to do in London
Achilles gets a bath in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
British Museum | Natural History | Victoria and Albert | Science Museum | Museum of London
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London may have less romance than Paris and worse weather than Rome but what it does exceptionally well is to offer astonishing quantities of well-organised knowledge, art and history, for free, in stylish surroundings.
And not just museums, large Art Galleries are free too!
There are five reasons to choose London museums over the European competition:
* they're free to enter. They do, however, often hold special exhibitions that require an entry fee. Fair enough, you don't have to enter them and there're plenty of permanent exhibits.
* because they're free there are almost never queues. Check out the Louvre lines in Paris! To be fair in mid-summer we've seen short lines for 10 minutes to enter the Natural History Museum just to avoid a crush inside, balancing visitors leaving with visitors arriving. NHM is especially popular in the summer with British families.
* British travellers have been gathering outstanding artifacts from around the world for hundreds or years, studying them, cataloguing them, displaying them. And with such experience their exhibitions are particularly intelligent, creative and very well-informed.
* Long opening hours: Most of the museums are open every day of the year, except 3 days over Christmas, from 10am to 6pm.
* Explanations adjacent to artifacts are generally clear, extensive and most importantly to many of us, in English!
Here in a common order of popularity are photos from London's best five museums. Click the pictures to see more large photos of that museum along with compact, useful information.
p.s. the bugcrew like the V&A best, partly because we like shiny weird stuff but also because both the British Museum and Natural History Museum get very busy in the summertime.
The British Museum for Human Culture artifacts. Entry Free.
Assyrian gateway security guard, 900-612 BC. Love the handbag squire! British Museum Pictures.
The British Museum is the oldest museum in the world and contains treasures from around the world telling the story of human culture since the beginning, gathered since 1753 though in this location since only 1850. The museum contains a hundred galleries and six million artefacts, as well as two cafés and a restaurant.
The Natural History Museum for exhibits and information on Earth's geology, animals and plant life. Entry Free.
An animatronic T-Rex from one of the brilliant but busy summer exhibitions. Natural History Museum Pictures.
The Natural History Museum houses 70 million specimens but it's the lively presentation and innovative hands-on exhibits that really count here. British families love the place during the summer holidays and not just for the dinosaurs. Get there early!
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) for historic decorative arts. Entry Free.
A huge silver-gilt vessel for washing glasses at the table, 1825. V&A Museum Pictures.
The V&A displays an incredibly eclectic selection of worldwide, historic art forms, though displays lean towards Europe, India and the Far East. Galleries include sculpture, jewellery, silverware, glasswork, metalwork, textiles, ceramics.
The latest gallery is a superb collection of Medieval and Renaissance rooms telling the story of arts and crafts in Europe chronologically from the fall of the Roman Empire in 300 AD to the Renaissance in 1600 AD. This amazing space is uncrowded with visitors but crowded with dazzling goodies.
The Science Museum for exhibits and interactive information on science and technology, new and old. Entry Free.
Interactive Brain and Genetic exhibits in the Welcome Wing. Science Museum Pictures.
Though externally dull the Science Museum houses seven floors of fascinating and educational exhibits, including Puffing Billy, the first steam locomotive, the actual Apollo 10 Command Module, Interactive Brain and Genetic Studies (photo above), a Pattern Pod aimed at under 8s, key science principles in fun formats for kids, a time-eating clock and much more.
Get there early to ensure easy access to all the cutting-edge technology. This is another brilliant space for all the family and just around the corner from the other super-kid-friendly building, the Natural History Museum.
The Museum of London for exhibits and information on the history and development of London. Entry Free.
A picture of the Great Fire of London in 1666 with accompanying explanation. Museum of London Pictures.
Primarily for those interested in the history of London from prehistoric times through the influential Roman era to the medieval period and beyond, the Museum of London is well-organised, creative and informative but a bit out of the way, fairly small and of limited interest to the average tourist.
nb. The Tower of London is not a museum, though it bears many similarities. Pictures of the Tower of London appear in a different category.
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