10 unusual museums in London
London has got some amazing and beautiful museums. But as well as the established stalwarts, there’s an array of odd and interesting museums that will guarantee you a fun and fascinating trip.
Churchill War Rooms
Explore the underground bunker that protected the heart of Britain's government during the Second World War as Churchill and his inner circle plotted the route to allied victory. The Map Room remains exactly as it was left on the day the lights were switched off in 1945.
Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret
In the roof space of St Thomas’ Church is this little gem - the Old Operating Theatre. The theatre was built in the early 1800s adjoining St Thomas’ Hospital. Students would come here and watch operations performed live and without any anaesthetics other than opiates and alcohol. Please see website for timings of live operations. Only joking. Thankfully the theatre was no longer used once antiseptic surgery was invented.
Clink Prison Museum
This Southwark museum is built on the original site of The Clink Prison which dates back to 1144 making it one of England’s oldest and most notorious prisons. Southwark used to be a much more bawdy and badly-behaved place and the prison was home to a motley bunch of drunks, heretics and harlots. Sadly they’re not there anymore but on your visit you’ll still hear lots of gossip and scandal with a bit of torture thrown in too.
The Musical Museum
You know those weird ‘ghost’ pianos that play themselves? Well there’s a whole museum of them plus other self-playing instruments at The Musical Museum. There’s a range of musician-less contraptions from tiny musical boxes to the "Mighty Wurlitzer" cinema organ which rises up from beneath the stage to entertain visitors as it did in the ‘Golden Age’ of cinema. Check the website for details of guided tours.
The Fan Museum
In two elegant 18th-century Greenwich town houses you’ll find The Fan Museum. The collection dates from the 11th century and highlights include a late 19th century fan leaf painted by Paul Gauguin. Traditional afternoon teas are served on Tuesday and Sunday from 3pm and fan-making workshops are held on the first Saturday of each month. Booking is advised for both. Contact the Museum for further details.
The Cartoon Museum
See great British cartoon and comic art from Steve Bell, Matt, Hogarth, Ronald Searle and many more plus famous creations such as Dennis the Menace, Dan Dare and Watchmen. Get involved in Comic Creator projects or kids cartooning workshops and don’t forget to visit the shop as it’s full of funny books and cards.
Florence Nightingale Museum
Florence Nightingale was the most influential woman in Victorian Britain after Queen Victoria herself. Here at this museum get to know her a little better via three pavilions that will show you her childhood, her experiences in the Crimean War and how she pioneered modern nursing practice. See how the themes of superbugs and care of soldiers were just as relevant then as now.
London Canal Museum
In this attractive mid-19th century canalside building you will learn how London’s canals went from important trade routes to today's more leisurely pursuits. Learn about the cargo and people who made a living on the canals, and the horses that pulled the boats. Plus you’ll get to see inside a narrowboat cabin and work a boat through a model lock.
In beautiful Hampstead you’ll uncover The Freud Museum, the final home of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, who came here in 1938 after fleeing Nazi-occupied Vienna. His London home has been preserved just as it was during his lifetime. In his study, among the book-lined walls, you will find his original psychoanalytic couch. You might want to leave your parents at home for this one.
Museum of Brands
Around the corner from Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill is this treasure trove of vintage and modern design. The museum has more than 12,000 items displayed in decade-by-decade galleries showing what made British consumers part with their cash.