When I was a study abroad student at the University of Sussex, I wasn’t far from London so I was able to make many trips there and spend my day exploring some of London’s better known tourist attractions and museums. But now I have been living in London for eight months, so when I take trips they are to places outside of London, and my normal weekends are spent within the capital city. After living here for a while, I have not only seen most of the mummies at the British Museum and most of the paintings at the National Gallery, but I have also realised that London has far more things to see than what appears on a top-ten list. Here are a few of my favourite museums that are smaller, further or more underground (literally) than some of the more famous London attractions.
The V&A Museum of Childhood
This may be a museum about children, but it is by no means only a museum for children. The ground floor is filled with a collection of popular toys and other childhood objects from the last few centuries, and it’s fun to see what toys have lasted and what have been replaced with more modern forms of entertainment. The museum also has a temporary and fascinating exhibit (until 12 June, 2016) about child migrants who were sent out of Britain to the Commonwealth countries between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. The museum is small and can be done in two hours if you’re in a crunch for time, but its unique and diverse content will certainly keep you interested for much longer.
The Museum of Childhood is in Bethnal Green and open from 10am until 5:45pm daily.
The Imperial War Museum
I went to the Imperial War Museum a couple of years ago and a couple of weeks ago (it went through a major renovation between my two visits), and both times I went with my parents. The first time we went, it was their idea. I didn’t think I would like it since I had little interest in war, but by the end of our visit my opinion had completely changed. The museum has captivating stories about modern war (World War I until today), including exhibits about spies, civilians during wartime, and much much more. On my family’s more recent visit to the museum, it was my idea to go. This museum is well worth a visit (or two or three).
The Imperial War Museum is in Elephant & Castle and open from 10am until 6pm daily.
The Churchill War Rooms
Unlike the other two museums described above, the Churchill War Rooms are not free but I think they are worth the price of admission (which includes an audio guide) if you are interested in World War II and Winston Churchill. Also unlike the other two museums, this one is in very Central London, just a stone’s throw from Big Ben, but may be hard to find since it is literally underground. The War Rooms are where Churchill and his War Cabinet planned, slept and lived during World War II, and a visit there feels as if you are stepping back in time because everything looks how it did during the War. There is also a museum within the museum about Winston Churchill, from his childhood until his death ninety years later. This is a unique experience and one that is difficult to find elsewhere.
The Churchill War Rooms are in Westminster and open from 9:30am until 6pm daily.