When most people hit London for the first time, they think of visiting all the usual subjects; London Eye, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Nelsons Column, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, the list goes on.
There’s no denying London has an abundance of things to do and see.
But, London’s real charm lies in it’s unusual secrets. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or just want to be a tourist in your own city, I will be running a series on not-your-average sightseeing, titled “Hidden Gems”.
First up, check out these quirky museums in London!
NUMBER ONE: Grant Museum of Zoology
A must do for anyone who loves the weird and the wonderful, The Grant Museum of Zoology showcases animals specimens in jars, taxidermy and animal skeletons from around the world.
The collection will leave you agape as you explore this plethora of fascinating zoological specimens. Make sure you check out the incredibly detailed Micrarium – pictured above.
Though the museum is mostly used by zoology students, it’s free for the public to visit, and worth a pitstop.
Average Visiting Time: around 30 minutes
Don’t forget.. The museum is open 1-5PM. If you’ve got time to kill in the morning, visit the nearby British Museum, to make a full morning of it.
Website: Grant Museum of Zoology
NUMBER TWO: Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret
The Old Operating Theatre was home to some of London’s first operations, complete with public viewing gallery for fellow medics to learn as they operated. Still sitting next door to a modern day hospital, the museum is set in the attic of an 18th century church which is pretty incredible in its self, aside from the really interesting treasures this museum holds.
As much as the gruesome selection of works, like the book on how to amputate a leg, might raise an eyebrow from those of a weaker disposition, the displays of herbs and old fashioned medicine techniques is truly interesting and educational.
Average Visiting Time: 45 minutes
Cost: 6 pounds 50 pence for Adults / 5 pounds for Concessions
Don’t forget.. Religious or not, the very nearby Southwark Cathedral is incredibly beautiful and worth a wander through.
NUMBER THREE: Sir John Soane’s Museum
The Soane’s Museum is one of my favourite museums in London, and free to boot!
Sir John Soane was an amazing man. Not only a masterful architect of his time, whose buildings are still revered to this day, he was a stoic philanthropist who believed in making education accessible to all.
Soane was an avid collector of all things, from Egyptian artefacts to books, to fine art work to ceramics, he was interested in everything. Upon his death it was his wish that his original house, overlooking Lincoln Inn Fields, would remain as a museum for educational purposes.
So it stands to this day, tucked behind Holborn, filled with oddities and antiquities. Take your time exploring every nook and cranny of this stunning building and collection, and make sure you don’t miss the breathtaking ‘painting room’ set in the wall recess (viewings hourly).
Average Visiting Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Don’t forget.. The museum has limited space so advisable to arrive early, as queues often form outside for a ‘1 in 1 out’ policy. It also holds regular ‘museum by candlelight’ nights for more atmosphere. Check the website for more details.
NUMBER FOUR: Leighton House Museum
Leighton House was home to Lord Leighton until 1896, Leighton was very inspired by his trips to the Middle East, which is prevalent in his fabulous taste for Arabian inspired mosaic, stunning Islamic tiles and a keen eye for design.
Leighton’s house stands as an iconic design-piece to this day, after taking several years to complete – it’s truly breathtaking. Aside from the house its self being a show-stopper, inside is an impressive art collection and a pretty garden.
Average Visiting Time: 45 minutes
Cost: 12 pounds for Adults / 10 pounds for Concessions
Don’t forget.. Pop to Kensington for a cuppa or stroll through Holland Park just a few minutes walk away.
Website: Leighton House Museum
NUMBER FIVE: Charles Dickens Museum
For me, London is synonymous with Charles Dickens tales. Shady characters lurking in foggy streets, high society in beautifully adorned houses, and Dickens telling their stories.
This museum is a great way to learn how Dickens was inspired by London, why he brought these colourful stories alive in his books, and his deep sense of social responsibility that motivated a strong protest for those less fortunate than himself, throughout his entire life.
It’s also a great opportunity to see how people lived in Dicken’s era and what life would have been like in 1800s London. The house is filled with original decor and furniture, true to how it was back then and with detailed information on the lives of different members of society.
Average Visiting Time: Around an hour
Cost: 9 pounds for Adults / 6 pounds for Concessions
Don’t forget to.. Top the day off with a visit to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street. A favourite haunt of Dickens, which he used as inspiration in some of his books. The pubs’ site dates back to at least 1538, and was rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1666. For a less authentic but no less fun photo opportunity, visit The Old Curiosity Shop front at 13 Portsmouth Street, Holborn.