Saturday, March 22, 2014

Museum Mile - Touring Tuesday (updated November 27, 2015)

Matt came across a map of the Museum Mile a shortly after moving to London.  It is a compilation of thirteen+ museums all within a reasonable walking distance of each other.  I don't think one is meant to visit all thirteen on the same day, but the transportation/walking links to them are pretty good so I can see why they are marketed together.  Some museums are free and others have an admission fee.

One thing I liked about the Museum Mile was that the museums were quite varied.  Also, many of them were close to Matt's office so we usually had lunch on the days I visited the museums.  I included links to the museums' websites and my own blog posts if I have them.

British Library (free) - I visited a while back, and the amount of actual books a general visitor can see is limited.  If I was researching something, then I'd have an amazing assortment of literature.  The central column of the King's Library is beautiful.  The library's treasures room is what makes the British Library stupendous.  I've seen the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, John Lennon's song lyrics, and many other first edition or hand written versions on books.  There is also an exhibition in the main space that seems to change quite often.    

British Museum (free) - I could go on for days about the British Museum.  I love the mummies, the Elgin Marbles, and the Rooms of Enlightenment the most.  The main lobby is a highly photographable location (aka Instagram gold).  I wish I could sleep here I love it so much.  

Brunei Gallery (free) - The exhibition I saw was titled Empire, Faith & War - The Sikhs and World War One.  It showed how Sikh soldiers fought valiantly for their commonwealth.  The fascination aspect of the exhibit was how the Sikh soldiers represented a tiny percent of the overall commonwealth population, yet they were a large percentage of the fighting soldiers.     

The Cartoon Museum (£7) - This small museum is comprised of, you guessed it, cartoons.  It focuses on British-based creators, and the current exhibit is about cartoons made during WWI.    

The Dickens Museum (£8) - Dickens' London house is situated on a street full of Georgian terraced houses.  The rooms are decorated in the way Dickens used them.  The museum also displays many letters and articles written by Dickens.  

The Courtald Gallery (£6) - What a delightful museum!  It is located at Somerset House and has fantastic transportation links.  I feel this museum had a nice balance of art genres: the usual religious art & sculpture, portraiture, Impressionist pieces, and high quality temporary exhibits.  I toured the museum in about an hour and felt it was worth the admission price.

The Foundling Museum (£8.25) - When I visited the Foundling Museum, it immediately found a spot in my heart.  Thomas Coram created the Foundling Hospital to take care of the abandoned children in the late 1700s.  The parents left tokens (coins, fabric, etc) as claim tickets for their children to retrieve their children in the future (sadly many never claimed their children).  The legacy of Thomas Coram lives on today next door where the Coram building provides parent/carer training and adoption services.   

The Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons (free) - This museum is beautiful!  The focus of this museum is on the study of human and plant specimens in various stages of typical and abnormal.  The specimens are displayed in well-lit cases and the upstairs history of surgery exhibit made me happy to live in this day.

The Freemason Museum (free) - I'd walked by this museum near Covent Garden several times not knowing what was in the hulking building.  I did not know much about Freemasons, so I had high hopes for this museum.  The tour of this museum, which was situated on only one part of the first floor, did not help my confusion.  I thought maybe I'd missed a wall plaque or seven of Freemasons descriptions, but that was not the case.  The display cases were full of ornate medals, aprons, and other regalia.  The information about the items, while descriptive, really did not help me understand what it was all about.  I walked away knowing that Winston Churchill was a Freemason and they have a lot of ceremonies and secret ceremonies.  I did not write a blog post about the Freemason Museum since the only photo allowed was of the outside of the building.  A visit here is probably not worth your time unless you have some background of the Freemason society.  However, that is just my opinion.

London Transport Museum (£15 and under 17 free) - I took the kids here when we were still in the apartment, and it is a great museum!  The museum starts at the beginning of transport in London to present day.  We could sit in carriages, train cars, and busses.  The admission ticket can be turned into an annual ticket with for no additional fee.  That's a bargain!  We've visited several times, and it never gets boring.  If you choose not to see the museum, the gift shop is totally worth your time for Transport for London related items.  

Sir John Soane Museum (free) - This museum is not far from the British Museum, The Huntarian Museum, or Holborn Station.  The security in this museum is by far the most overt of any museum I've visited.  Other museums have staff stationed at the doors of the different galleries, but this place takes the cake, for good reason.  I had to put my purse in a clear plastic bag to carry with me instead of on my arm.  They followed me through the rooms, which were really small and compact.  No photos were allowed and they made sure of that.  The museum is Sir Soane's former home and filled to the brim with antiquities.  There's a sarcophagus in the lower level for goodness sakes and books galore on the main floor.  If you are lucky, you'll get to see the original set of William Hogarth's A Rakes Progress in the art gallery.  Lincoln's Inn Field is in front of the house and would be a nice spot to eat on a sunny day.    

UCL Museums & Collections - The UCL Museums is a collection of two museums.  

  • The first museum I visited at the UCL campus was The Grant Museum of Zoology (free) - This small museum presents animal specimens in jars and skeleton forms.  The animals presented span all species.  The anaconda skeleton is particularly impressive.  The domesticated animals are sad to see, but it's all in the name of science.  

  • The Petrie Museum (free) -This museum has one of the largest collections of Egypian artifacts in the world.  Matt and I were awe struck at how the artifacts survived in tact for so many years.  At the time of our visit, they had an area set up for children to explore Egyptian hieroglyphics.  

Wellcome Collection - I had the opportunity to visit the last of the Museum Mile participants last week.  Their new exhibit is titled the Institute of Sexology.  As you can expect, not photos were allowed.  In the months after, the museum has added a few more exhibitions to the museum.  The best part has to be the reading room on the top floor.  It has a gorgeous "chaircase" that's perfect for cozying up with a book.   

Well that's it for the Museum Mile!  If you visit any of these museums, please leave a comment.  I'd like to know which is your favorite!


  1. You've got some great pics here!

    1. Thank you! It helps when the subject is pretty awesome.