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There are hundreds of museums in London - many within 30 minutes of our centres in Holland Park Gardens and Westcroft Square. All the most important London museums are free, although they may charge for some special visiting exhibitions. We sometimes visit museums as part of our social programme, so if you would like to go as a group check the programme when you are at the school.
It's no surprise that the British Museum, one of the greatest museums in the world, gets more visitors than any other museum. Founded in 1753, it is also the oldest museum in the world and it has over two million years of world history and culture. With over 94 galleries and thousands of artefacts, the British Museum is well worth a visit. The most famous exhibits include the Elgin Marbles - sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens, Egyptian mummies and the Rosetta Stone. The Reading Room, which was recently incorporated into the Great Court (a stunning covered courtyard) has been visited by Karl Marx, Mahatma Ghandi and George Bernard Shaw. Admission is free and there are lots of events and special exhibitions taking place throughout the year.
Tube: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street. Buses: Routes 1, 7, 8, 19, 25, 38, 55, 98, 242, 10, 14, 24, 29, 73, 134, 390, 59, 68, X68, 91, 168, 188 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the British Museum website.
Natural History Museum
Housed in a huge Victorian-style Italian-Renaissance building, the Natural History Museum is impressive both in size and design. The museum first opened in 1881 and now has over 78 million specimens and more than one million books, artworks and manuscripts. Visitors enter through the highly decorative arches and columns which were inspired by Fingal's Cave in Scotland and are greeted by sculptured creatures and foliage, clinging to columns and peering down from arches and doorways. The exhibitions address scientific issues from our ecology to the origin of species and dinosaurs to woodlice.
Tube: South Kensington. Buses: Routes 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414 and C1 all stop nearby. Click here to visit the Natural History Museum website.
Home to the world's most magnificent collections of science, industry, technology and medicine, the Science Museum is one of London's most hands-on and interactive museums. It first opened in the nineteenth-century, funded by the profits of the Great Exhibition of 1851, as part of Prince Albert's grand scheme to promote industrial technology. Today it is in a purpose-built gallery and contains 300,000 objects, covering the entire history of western science, technology and medicine. Visitors are invited to learn about forces and motion in the Launch Pad and discover how aircraft are built in the Flight Lab. The more recent Wellcome Wing allows visitors to morph (change) their faces to look older or younger, manipulate their voices, create digital music or be sucked into the 3-D world of the IMAX cinema.
Tube: South Kensington. Buses: Routes 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414, 430 and C1 all stop nearby. Click here to visit the Science Museum website.
Victoria and Albert Museum
The V&A, as it is known, is the most influential museum of decorative arts in the world. With over 145 galleries to explore, covering 7 miles, the museum is a visual feast of fine and applied arts. Originally founded in 1852, to enthuse and educate British manufacturers and designers, the V&A is home to a collection of four million artefacts ranging from ceramics and costume to metalwork and sculpture. Often said to have the greatest collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture outside Italy the V&A also has an amazing collection of textiles, jewellery and twentieth-century art and design. The British Galleries, which opened in November 2001, explore British design from Chippendale to Morris, and Adam to Mackintosh. Highlights include the Great Bed of Ward, as mentioned in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, and James II's wedding suit.
Tube: South Kensington. Buses: Routes C1, 14, 74 and 414 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum website.
National Maritime Museum
Located in the heart of historic Greenwich, the National Maritime Museum houses the most important collection of objects relating to the history of Britain at sea. The collection dates back to 1823 when a National Gallery of Naval Art was established, featuring 300 portraits, paintings and artefacts. The museum occupies a former asylum and hospital school and has fantastic views of the Thames. With the recent addition of the covered Neptune Court, the museum now has galleries dealing with topics ranging from navigation, naval exploits and Nelson to exploration, the ecology of the sea and emigration. Visitors can try signalling and gunnery, explore the expansion of the Empire or just find out more about the power, majesty and romance of the sea through poetry, painting and photography.
DLR station: Cutty Sark. Buses: Routes 177, 180, 188, 199, 286, 386, 53, 943 all stop nearby. Boat: sightseeing cruises operate from London Eye, Westminster, Tower and St. Katherine’s piers and terminate at Greenwich Pier.
Click here to visit the National Maritime Museum website.
Imperial War Museum
Occupying the former Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane ('Bedlam') the Imperial War Museum is the national museum of twentieth-century conflict. Founded in 1917, the museum not only contains a fascinating display of the vehicles and weapons of war, but also makes an in-depth study of the social effects of conflict. From the M4 Sherman tank, the V2 rocket and Polaris missile to the walk-through recreation of a front line trench from the Somme, the Imperial War Museum represents all facets of fighting and its aftermath. The two World Wars are chronicled with thought-provoking displays of poetry and painting and a reconstructed air raid shelter and blitzed street from 1940. The sights, sounds and smells have been carefully recreated to really bring the experience to life. Over 15,000 paintings, 120 million feet of cine film and 30,000 posters help make this a unique collection.
Tube: Lambeth North, Waterloo, Southwark, Elephant & Castle. Buses: Routes 1, 3, 12, 45, 53, 59, 63, 68, 100, 159, 168, 171, 172, 176,188, 344, 360, 453, C10 all stop nearby.
Click here to visit the Imperial War Museum website.
Museum of London
To get a real taste of London life over the last 2000 years, head for the Museum of London - the world's largest urban history museum. Documenting the growth of this huge city from the prehistoric to the present day, the museum contains over 1.1 million objects, many rescued from archaeological digs or during building works in the City of London. Visitors can enjoy the impressive collection of over 47,000 objects from Roman London, the buckles, brooches and belt-fittings of the Medieval period or the extensive glass collection from the seventeenth-century. Favourite displays include recreated street scenes, interiors and the Victorian shop fronts. The Galleries cover topics ranging from Macabre London to London Children and London Entertains. See at first hand the paraphernalia from the suffragettes' movement, the skulls of those thought to have been massacred by Queen Boudica (AD 60-61) and the Lord Mayor's coach (1757) which is still used during the Lord Mayor's Show today. The new World City Galleries explore London between 1789-1914, highlights include Wellington's boots and Queen Victoria's parliamentary robes.
Tube: Barbican, St Paul's, Moorgate. Buses: Routes 4, 8, 25, 56, 100, 25, 172, 242, 521 all stop nearby. Click here to visit the Museum of London website.
This was the first museum in the world to focus on the exhibition of mass produced items and today has a popular collection of everyday objects from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Whilst the items allow visitors to reminisce about the past the Design Museum provides an opportunity to examine innovative prototypes for the future. The objects relate to engineering, technology, furniture, fashion and architecture. Housed in a 1950s building, re-designed by the Conran group, the museum is close to Butler's Wharf and the old spice importing warehouses.
Tube: London Bridge, Tower Hill. Buses: Routes 42, 47, 78, 188, 381, 100, 225 all stop nearby. Click here to visit the Design Museum website.