The interactive components and jaw-dropping technology inside London’s museums are up there with the greatest in the world, motivating the next generation to take on the mantle of Marie Curie and Sir David Attenborough. The permanent collections, which focus on science, nature, art, culture, and history, are huge and intriguing, and there’s always something new to see at the changing exhibitions. Below are some of our favorite places to visit in London.
1. Museum of London, Barbican
The Great Fire of London and the Plague are well documented here, however, this is a one-stop essential for school-aged children learning about both, filled with horrible details that will help feed the imagination. The well-drawn images and paintings depicting the iconic fire at a Pudding Lane bakery in 1666 serve as a sharp image of how much London’s environment changed irrevocably. One of the highlights of the museum is the superbly designed Victorian Walk, which takes you on an authentic 19th-century tour down cobblestone London streets, past everything from a tobacconist to a toy shop.
2. V&A, South Kensington
The V&A has a very uplifting vibe to it. It’s the place to go for historical as well as contemporary, cutting-edge art and design. Fashion, photography, and art — including a spectacular collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture – are all studied over the ages, with no porcelain vase left untouched. Workshops and family-friendly activities abound, however, pay attention to the 2023 arrival of Youth V&A, the long-awaited replacement for the now-defunct V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.
3. Natural History Museum, South Kensington
When you enter Hintze Hall, you’ll be welcomed by the majestic skeleton of Hope the blue whale, a dramatic symbol to pound home how a viable future is achievable. This neatly sets the stage for what’s to come, from the millions of preserved reptiles, fish, mammals, and wildlife specimens to the Atlantic bird collection. Archie the exceedingly unusual big squid (8.62 meters in length), frozen entire after being caught accidentally by a fishing boat is hard to overlook. Every museum exhibit emphasizes the wonders of planet Earth and why they must be preserved.
4. Wellcome Collection, Euston
The main focus of this museum and library, founded by 19th-century pharmacist Sir Henry Wellcome, is on health, and it particularly promotes research into human health, with a staff that crafts thought-provoking art and science displays around this. There are often highly unique visiting shows in complement to the permanent collection, which includes unusual medical contraptions (some of which are terrifying) and intriguing antiques. The Wellcome also has fantastic youth programs that include activities and research for ages 14 to 19, and be sure to check out the newly renovated reading area.
5. Horniman Museum & Gardens, Forest Hill
One of the great talking points of the Horniman, aside from the beautifully manicured grounds, is the enormous stuffed walrus — supposedly over-filled due to a basic Victorian era blunder that failed to account for its naturally baggy-skinned appearance. It’s flanked by a slew of other taxidermied creatures in glass cases, which gives it a more polished appearance. The museum also has a large anthropology collection that includes thousands of historically significant objects and artifacts from around the world. The aquarium, which features a Fijian coral reef and a captivating jellyfish exhibit, or the on-site butterfly house with tropical gardens, where there are plenty of fluttery on-sleeve landings, are both good options for some real live action.
6. British Museum, Bloomsbury
When you live in London, it’s easy to forget that the city’s British Museum houses one of the biggest global collections of human history. A voyage spanning six continents and two million years would be difficult for anyone to complete in a single day, which implies there will always be something worth revisiting. With all those preserved bodies — both human and animal – to see up close, Egyptian death and the afterlife is a hit with the youngsters.
7. London Transport Museum, Covent Garden
While a glance back at London’s transportation systems over the last 200 years may not immediately scream “fun,” children find trains, buses, and the subway system endlessly interesting. You only have to recall their passion for the Wheels on the Bus moving round and round, or their hours spent creating wooden railroad tracks. Many of the exhibits are interactive, and you can climb in and out of objects, as well as ride in the driver’s seat of a double-decker bus, which is something that everyone has always wanted to do.
8. Science Museum, South Kensington
Science is a force to be reckoned with. This museum, with all those mind-boggling statistics that will affect our future and a slew of interactive buttons to press, is a must-see for every children’s half-term in London. This implies that even if the kids don’t fully comprehend what’s going on, they’ll have a good time – visit Wonderlab to amp up the educational fun.
9. The Cartoon Museum, Fitzrovia
Comics and cartoons have long amused people of all ages, and this museum showcases everything fantastic and humorous about Britain’s cartoon and comic artwork history, beginning in the 18th century and progressing to the present day. There are many caricatures of aristocracy and celebrities to admire, as well as a large collection of comic books. Year-round, there are also well-run comic sketching seminars ranging from Beano to Manga.
10. Grant Museum of Zoology, Bloomsbury
University College London’s modest but magnificent natural history museum was founded in 1827 by Robert Edmond Grant primarily to enhance university teaching. Nearly 68,000 specimens, many in glass cases, are artfully arranged in the little space, with highlights including an endangered quagga skeleton (only one of seven in existence). The incredibly creepy jar of full preserved moles is also a well-documented renowned exhibit – and you can buy a photographic postcard of them to wow friends with as a remembrance. Look for the Micrarium, a lighted ‘cave’ with thousands of small slides displaying tiny, microscopic organisms.