Museums and Galleries

  • Apsley House (The Wellington Museum),  Duke of Wellington Pl/169 Piccadilly (tube: Hyde Park Corner), ☎ +44 20 7499 5676. W-Su 11:00-17:00. £5. The former home of the 1st Duke of Wellington, boasting an impressive collection of paintings, sculpture, medals and swords. £4.50.
  • Handel House Museum,  25 Brook St W1K 4HB (tube: Bond Street), ☎ +44 20 7495 1685, e-mail: Tu W, F Sa 10:00-18:00, Th 10:00-20:00, Su noon-18:00. £2-5. Home to the baroque composer George Frideric Handel from 1723 until his death in 1759. Some of the greatest classical music ever composed was done so at this address. The museum charts Handel’s life and works and offers recitals of music in the magnificent setting of the period rooms. By means of contrast, next door was home to Jimi Hendrix when he lived in London in 1969!
  • Madame Tussauds and the London Planetarium,  Marylebone Rd (tube: Baker St), ☎ +44 (0) 871 894 3000. M-F 10:00-17:30, Sa Su 09:30-17:30. £10-20 (‘fee includes access to both attractions, but pricing depends on time of visit, price decreases as closing time approaches, and whether visitors wish to pass through the Chamber of Horrors’). Madame Tussaud’s is a world famous waxwork museum, best known for its Grand Hall, with a collection of international royalty, statesmen and world leaders. Visitors generally report that the entrance fee does not warrant the selection of waxworks on show, which rarely resemble the celebrities. Also, there is usually a long queue stretching down the road. The Planetarium offers a good mix of education and entertainment, however.
  • The Royal Academy of Arts,  Burlington House, Piccadilly (tube: Piccadilly Circus), ☎ +44 20 7300 8000. Su-Th 10:00-18:00, F 10:00-22:00. £7-9 (‘admission price varies between exhibitions). The Royal Academy no longer has a permanent exhibition space, instead hosting art exhibitions. Notable recent exhibitions have included the paintings of Monet, contemporary art associated with the theme of apocalypse, and Aztec art. Each Summer, the Royal Academy gives exhibition plays host to a Summer Exhibition, displaying 1,200 new works by established and new artists selected by the academy, most of which are available for visitors to buy. Each member has to donate a work of art, so over the years, the academy has built a sizable collection. Exhibitions are invariably excellent, and it is worth paying for audio guides, if they are not included. Visitors should book tickets in advance, as exhibitions are often very popular – particularly shortly after opening.
  • Sherlock Holmes Museum,  239 Baker St (Also known as 221B Baker St), ☎ +44 20 7935 8866. 09:30-18:00 daily. £6. Discover mementos of this famous fictional detective.
  • Wallace Collection,  Manchester Sq (tube: Bond St), ☎ +44 20 7563 9527. 10:00-17:00 daily. Free. The Wallace Collection is one of the world’s finest private art collections, the best known of which is Frans Hals’s work The Laughing Cavalier. Other artists on display include Rembrandt, Titian, Poussin, and Reynolds. Well worth escaping to after the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street.
  • Haunch of Venison Gallery is one of several commercial, boutique art-galleries scattered around the area.
  • Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A),  Cromwell Rd, ☎ +44 20 7942 2000, e-mail: 10:00-17:45, F until 22:00. Free/donation. Named in honour of Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert, this museum has existed for over 150 years. It contains a huge collection of decorative arts from all over the world and far back in time, trying to see everything in one day would be exhausting. There are regular exhibitions concentrating on a particular theme from Chinese art to fashion designers. Frequently they put on children’s activities and late DJ nights.
  • Natural History Museum,  Cromwell Rd, ☎ +44 20 7942 5000, e-mail: 10:00-17:30. Free/donation. Probably the most popular of all the museums here and a must see for many visitors to London. Home to no less than 70 million specimens from across all the life sciences. It’s difficult to say what the most popular exhibit here is; the diplodocus which towers over the entrance hall, the (now slightly tacky-looking) animatronic tyrannasaurs in the dinosaur gallery, or the life-size model blue whale in the mammals gallery. Also well worth a check are the recently-opened Darwin Centre (book on a free tour to see some of the most interesting, and sometimes gruesome, specimens not on public display); and the studio dedicated to BBC wildlife personality extraordinaire, David Attenborough. The NHM’s “Earth Galleries” were once the adjacent Geological Museum, an independent institution until the 1980s, and still located in a separate building with a separate entrance.
  • Science Museum,  Exhibition Road, ☎ +44 870 870 4868, e-mail: 10:00-18:00. Free/donation. Dedicated to scientific exhibitions and collections bar those related to the life sciences. A number of famous historical machines and inventions are housed here including Stephenson’s Rocket. The space exhibits are especially popular. Exhibitions tend to concentrate on explaining scientific principles with working models and there is a strong emphasis on education and attracting children. The Science Museum first opened a “Children’s Gallery” in the 1930s and it continues to lead the way in this area; now, there are three separate galleries aimed at all ages of younger visitor, from 5 to 16. The museum also runs “Science Nights” whereby children spend an evening learning principles and participating in experiments before spending the night sleeping in the museum with the exhibits. Also houses a vast library of scientific and medical books and journals.
  • The Geological Museum (The Red Zone),  Cromwell Rd. 10:00-17:30. Free/donation. This venerable old institution was absorbed by the neighbouring Natural History Museum in 1985 but still has something of a separate identity. Unsurprisingly, devoted to all things geological with especially popular exhibits on vulcanology and earthquakes and fossils of all types. Very popular with kids and often under-rated.