Ben Franklin House
This is the world’s only remaining home of Ben Franklin, who lived in London for nearly 16 years. The house visit takes about 45 minutes – 1 hour in its totality and is seen through a unique guided tour, which the museum describes as a “historical interactive experience”. The guide is actually an actor playing Polly Hewson, the daughter of Franklin’s landlady with whom he had a fatherly relationship. You are taken through the various rooms of the house and through a combination of Polly’s stories and various video and audio recordings, are told about Franklin’s life. The house is open Wednesday through Sunday afternoons and tickets are £7. Website
The British Museum is one of the most visited museums in the world, and hosts an unrivalled collection of historic and cultural specimens. The highlight of the collection is of course the Rosetta Stone, which was confiscated by the British Army and brought ot the British Museum in 1803, but the museum also boasts many important Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, and other historic relics. The entry hall is noteworthy in and of itself for its modern glass ceiling.
The museum also offers free tours, including one specifically dedicated to the Rosetta Stone.
Charles Dickens House
This is the only remaining London home of Charles Dickens. It houses books, paintings, photographs and personal objects that give insight into his life and work. It is a self-guided museum, though you are provided a booklet describing each room you enter. The rooms are numbered, so there is an order to follow. In total, the visit takes 45 – 50 minutes. There is a small bookshop and café and staff members are available to answer any questions. This museum also hosts a number of guided themed tours and various other events and workshops throughout the year. Tickets are £9. Website
Called the “museum of the home,” the Geffrye Museum explores the development of the home starting in the 1600s and progressing to modern day. The museum is a series of period rooms that show how homes and home life have changed over time. You can see the evolution of styles, tastes, and life by navigating the eleven chronologically presented period roods. There are descriptions and literature in each room, but an audio guide is also available for £4. It’s a unique and interesting museum to pop into for a quick visit as you can see the entire museum in an hour. Entrance is free.
The museum also has almshouses from the early 1700s, one of which can be visited. This almshouse shows the living conditions of poor pensioners in the 18th and 19th centuries, though the only way to see it is to go on a day on which an almshouse guided tour is offered (4-5 times per month). The guided tours are £4 and last about 30-40 minutes. Website
Museum of Brands (we recommend!)
Another museum we love is the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. This museum, which is not free but is well worth the cost for those interested in such things, provides thousands of examples of the use of packaging and advertising throughout the history of the UK. You can see some of the earliest advertising campaigns of current or now-defunct companies, see World War II board games, and learn a great deal about the interaction between societal changes and products and advertising. Website
Museum of London (we recommend!)
One of our favorite museums is the Museum of London. Admission is free, but the best part is the free tours that run hourly. A tour guide takes you through one of several sections of the museum, each dedicated to a particular era in the history of London, and provides an hour-long narrative about what was going on in London throughout this period. You can call on the day you want to visit to find out which eras are being discussed and at which times so you can plan your visit accordingly. The tour guides are excellent and really hold your interest, and when told in narrative form by someone who truly understands it, the history of London is surprisingly fascinating. Website
The National Gallery, founded in 1824, is an art museum in Trafalgar Square and home to over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. The museum is open daily and has free admission with countless talks, seminars, courses, events, tours, and workshops happening daily. Most events are free and are usually first-come, first-served, though some need to be reserved ahead of time. For others (courses, workshops) there may be a fee and these should generally be booked in advanced as they tend to sell out in advance. Website
National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery, founded just over 30 years after the National Gallery, was the first portrait gallery in the world and is located adjacent to the National Gallery. It houses a collection of portraits of historically important and famous British people. Like the National Gallery, the museum is open daily and has free admission with many daily events and happenings. Website
New London Architecture
NLA is an organization who holds exhibits, discussions, and debates related to architecture, planning, and construction. They are housed at The Building Centre in central London, which is worth a visit for its nearly 13 meter-long interactive model of the city of London. It’s free to see and is open daily save Sundays. Website
Royal Academy of Arts
RA is an art institution in Piccadilly, founded to promoted the creation, enjoyment, and appreciation of the visual arts through art education, exhibitions, and debate. RA is an academy, not technically a museum and it promotes the practice of art, support artists, and is even led by artists. On any given day, there are many talks, tours, workshops, courses, and special events, though admission is based on booking a ticket for a specific exhibition. A list of all the exhibits can be found on the website and tickets can be booked online or in person. We recommend taking the free guided tour, which runs daily from 12 – 1 pm. The tour provides access into some rooms that are generally closed to the public and details the history of the academy. Website
The Soane Museum was the former home of the neo-classical architect Sir John Soane and today houses his collection of paintings, drawings and antiques as well as some of his own drawings and models. The museum is small and takes about an hour to an hour and a half see in its entirety. It is open Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free, but because it is a small museum, there are a limited number of entrants permitted at any given time, which means that there can be a queue to enter during peak times (mostly weekend afternoons). Website
The Tate Britain is one of four Tate galleries in England (the others being Tate Modern (described below), Tate Liverpool, and Tate St. Ives). The Tate Britain is the oldest of the four and it houses a very large collection of British art dating back to the time of the Tudors with works from artists such as John Constable, William Blake, and J.M.W. Turner. The museum is open daily and has free admission, except for special exhibitions. There are also a number of events, workshops, and tours held throughout the year worth checking out on the museum’s website in advance. They also have several free tours a day, each with a different theme, and it’s a great way to focus on a specific part of the museum. Website
The Tate Modern houses modern British art from the 1900s to the present day and has a number of very innovative and contemporary exhibits. Like the Tate Britain, it is also open daily and has free admission, except for special exhibitions, and there are daily events, workshops, and tours. Website
This free museum is a private art collection comprising a huge range of fine and decorative arts from the 15th to the 19th centuries. It specifically features a large number of French 18th-century paintings, furniture, arms & armor, porcelain, and Old Master paintings. These works were collected in the 18th and 19th centuries by Sir Richard Wallace and was opened to the public in 1900. The museum is open daily. While the museum is visually quite rich and can certainly be explored independently, we’d recommend joining one of the daily free highlights tours that feature some of the collections finest pieces and provide a great introduction and context to the works. The guides are quite knowledgeable. Website
The Wellcome Collection is a free museum which explores the connections between medicine, life, and art. They have several permanent and temporary exhibits and it’s also home to a café, shop, and restaurant. There are a number of talks, workshops, and interactive events that take place weekly. Part of the Wellcome Collection is the Wellcome Library, which has more than 750,000 books and journals related to medicine and society. The museum is open daily save Mondays. Website