Museums of London

The British Museum | Tate Modern and Tate Britain | The Science and Natural History Museum | Imperial War Museum | Buckingham Palace | The Museum of London |
The Tower of London | Madame Tussaud's and the Planetarium

Going to London this summer? Then you are in for a treat. The nightlife is the best in Europe and the shopping is pretty good, as well. But when visiting any foreign city you will want to pop into at least one museum. London has over 300 of them, so you will be spoilt for choice. What is even better news is that 70 of these are absolutely free to get in. Below is WoE's guide to the ten most popular museums and places of interest in London.

The British Museum

This is home to the largest and most comprehensive ancient Egyptian collection outside Cairo. Marvel at African textiles, discover what Afghanistan was like before it was a war zone, admire Japanese art, and much, much more. As you have probably noticed, there is not much British stuff in the British Museum, but who's complaining? Fantastic museum to spend all day in, and there is no charge!

Opening Hours: Saturday to Wednesday 10.00 am to 5.00 pm, Thursday/Friday 10.00 am to 8.30 pm
Admission: free
Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road


Tate Modern and Tate Britain

Two different art museums situated on the north and south banks of the Thames. Tate Britain houses British art from 1500 to the present day. It includes works by Turner, Constable, Hockney and Hirst. The Tate Modern opened in 2000 and is already one of the finest international modern art museums in the world. If the art by Warhol, Picasso and others doesn't impress you, then the building will. It is a disused power station and a great setting for an art collection. The Tate Modern is open late on Friday and Saturday so it's perfect for a little culture before you hit the pubs and clubs. Both galleries are free apart from special and temporary exhibitions.

Opening Times: Tate Modern, Sunday to Thursday 10.00 am to 6.00 pm, Friday and Saturday, 10.00 am to 10.00 pm. Tate Britain, everyday from 10.00 am to 5.50 pm
Admission: free
Nearest Tube: Tate Britain, Pimlico; Tate Modern, Blackfriars


The Science Museum and the Natural History Museum

These are a must for any visitor to London with an interest in the world around them. The two museums are situated next door to each other so you can visit both at the same time. Top exhibits this summer are the Earthquake Experience in the Natural History Museum, and Naked Science: the 2001 Nobel Prize Winners, at the Science Museum. Lots of interactive exhibits, so the kids won't get bored.

Opening Times: 10.00 am to 5.30 pm
Admission: free
Nearest Tube: South Kensington


Buckingham Palace

Not really a museum at all, but during August and September the Queen packs her bags and leaves for a little holiday. Only then are the public allowed in to look around. Many critics have complained that the place is just not organised for tourists, and that actually
it's a bit boring. This hasn't put off the hundreds of thousands of people who have gone to "Buck House" every summer since the Queen opened the doors to the public ten years ago. Highlights include the restorations and interiors by Victorian architect John Nash, and some of the Queen's vast art collection. Access is limited to a few of the rooms such as the Ball Room and the Throne Room. Don't expect to get to see the Queen's bedroom or any of the other private apartments, as these are strictly "off limits".

Opening Hours: August & September, daily 9.30 am to 5.50 pm
Admission: £10
Nearest tube: St James's Park


Imperial War Museum

This is the national museum of war and conflict. Experience what it must have been like to be in a trench in the First World War. See the mock-up of London streets during the Blitz of World War II. The centrepiece of the museum is the new Holocaust Exhibition, which occupies 1,200 square metres and took the curators four years to prepare. It all sounds a bit depressing, but isn't. It is a museum dedicated to showing the futility of war, but in a very stimulating way.

Opening Times: Daily, 10.00 am to 6.00 pm
Admission: free
Nearest Tube: Lambeth North


The Museum of London

Follow in the footsteps of the Romans, who founded London 2,000 years ago, and go on a trip through the history of the capital. Take a virtual tour of Victorian London, and see how the city became the planet's first metropolis. This is the world's largest urban history museum with over one million objects in its collection. Don't miss a fabulous oral history exhibition called London Voices, where you can listen to recorded Londoners describing the main events to affect the capital in the last 100 years.

Opening Times: 10.00 am to 5.50 pm
Admission: free
Nearest Tube: Barbican


The Tower of London

Tourists flock to this place every year in their millions. It is 900 years old and used to be where they executed people. Henry VIII had the heads of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard chopped off here. Not a nice way to treat your wives, but a great cure for their dandruff problem. Unsurprisingly, the Tower is said to be haunted. This is also the place where you can see the Queen's Crown Jewels. The site is very popular, so go early in the morning to avoid the crowds. It's a bit expensive, but better value than Madame Tussaud's.

Opening Hours: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm
Admission: Adults £11, children (under 15) £7.50
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill


Madame Tussaud's and the Planetarium

Over two million visitors a year come to see the rich and famous depicted here in lifelike wax. The Royalty Room features figures such as Princess Diana and Henry VIII, whilst The Chamber of Horrors includes serial killers and other monsters. A model of Michael Jackson can also be seen, although in another part of the museum. Some of the wax dummies are very lifelike, others are not. The Planetarium is next door and presents a working, computerised representation of the universe and our solar system. The museum is always packed full of people, and there is always a long queue waiting outside to get in. Madame Tussaud's is also expensive, so think twice before going if you are on a tight budget.

Opening Hours: Daily, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm
Admission: Madame Tussaud's and Planetarium: adults £14.50,
children (under 16) £10
Madame Tussaud's: adults £12, children £8.50
London Planetarium: adults £7.00 children £4.50
Nearest Tube: Baker Street