London is home to world renowned museums such as the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. However, if you’re interested in seeing something a little quirky, London has plenty more to offer. The capital has dozens of small museums housing specialist collections, with themes ranging from magic to medicine.
The Cinema Museum (Kennington)
This museum takes you back to the golden age of cinema, to the days before sweet displays and popcorn counters filled the lobby; when cinema goers were greeted by an attendant who would take their coat and hat. The museum traces the history of cinemas from these early years up to the modern day, through extensive collections of cinema furniture and fittings, uniforms and projectors. Tours need booking in advance.
The Florence Nightingale Museum (South Bank)
Learn all about one of the most influential women in the history of nursing with a visit to the Florence Nightingale Museum. Situated in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital, where in 1860 Florence Nightingale established the first school of nursing The museum also charts the history of the nursing profession in the UK.
Cartoon Museum (Holborn)
Explore the history of cartoons, from 17th century caricatures to modern day cartoons. The museum’s collection includes work by Georgian caricaturists as well as more recent cartoonists such as Gerald Scarfe, Ronald Searle, and Carl Giles. The attached library which houses over 6,000 books on comics and cartoons is open to the public by appointment only. The museum also runs a range of workshops if you would like to try your hand at creating your own cartoon or caricature.
Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising (Notting Hill)
Take a trip down memory lane and see how many brands you recognise from yesteryear. Some of the brands have survived to the present day, whereas others have disappeared over time. From groceries to toys, there’s a vast range of brands on display at this museum.
The Bank of England Museum (The City of London)
Explore the history of the Bank of England, one of the oldest banks in the world. It all began , in 1694 on the site of this museum. Exhibits include old coins, banknotes and displays (behind glass!) of gold bars. If you haven’t seen enough cartoons at the Cartoon Museum, there are more on display here, highlighting historical economic issues.
Museum of Comedy (Bloomsbury)
It is said that laughter is the best medicine, so if the thought of a visit to the Old Operating Theatre leaves you feeling unwell, head to the Museum of Comedy. Artefacts on display come from a wide range of comedic sources, including Spitting Image puppets, and a bear belonging to Steptoe and Son.
The Magic Circle Museum (Euston)
If you’ve ever wanted to discover some of the secrets behind magicians’ tricks, the Magic Circle Museum is the place to go. You can see a range of exhibits from the world of magic, including handcuffs used by Houdini. Advance bookings are essential for this museum.
The Old Operating Theatre (London Bridge)
Not one for the squeamish, the Old Operating Theatre gives you an insight into how operations were performed in past centuries, without the benefits of modern equipment and anaesthetics. The operating theatre was discovered in the 1950s, located in the attic above St Thomas Church, and is the oldest in Europe. Time your visit to coincide with one of the talks if you want to get the most from your trip.
The Fan Museum (Greenwich)
Housing a vast collection of over 5,000 fans, the Fan Museum displays the history of these decorative yet functional items, from the 11th century onwards. In addition to the fan collections, the museum has a charming tea room serving afternoon tea and a shop where you can choose a new fan for your own collection.
World Rugby Museum (Twickenham)
If sports fans are more your thing, take a trip to Twickenham to step into the world of rugby. Located within one of the stands, the museum traces the history of the game, with a large collection of rugby related memorabilia. You can also arrange to go on a tour of the stadium while you are at Twickenham.
Several of these speciality museums require advance bookings so it’s well worth planning ahead. When you’re booking your next trip to London, contact the museums you want to visit to make sure you don’t miss out on London’s little treasures, or ask an assistant at your hotel in London.
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