You’ve probably heard of the Natural History Museum, the V&A and Tate Modern, but London has museums dedicated to just about every subject you can imagine. Whether you have an interest in banknotes, ancient Roman temples or medical antiquities, there’s a quirky museum in the capital to pique your interest.
Bank of England Museum
Learn all about the banking system in the UK at the Bank of England Museum. From its foundation in 1694 right through to the present day, the bank’s history is explored through five individual galleries.
In the Stock Office, you will step inside an authentic reconstruction of an 18th-century banking office, as designed by Sir John Sloane. The Banknote Gallery is a highlight for many visitors and a real eye-opener about the complexities of this form of currency.
Having reopened in 2017 after a period of renovation, the Garden Museum is a fresh new approach to the idea of a museum. It was originally set up to rescue an abandoned church and save the knot garden where John Tradescant the Elder and Younger, the famous botanists, were buried.
Its refurbishment has stayed true to the original ethos and is a celebration of British gardens and gardening. Expect to find out more about how this popular pastime has developed over the years, inspect vintage tools and understand more about garden design.
The London of today can traced back to Roman times, so it’s not surprising that remnants from the period are sometimes unearthed during building works. In 1954, this meant the discovery of the Temple of Mithras, which dates back more than 2,000 years, on a street in the City of London.
As well as seeing the temple itself, the Mithraeum also showcases Roman artefacts and art commissioned in response to the archaeological find. It’s a fascinating museum and a must-visit for history buffs.
Florence Nightingale Museum
Want to know more about the pioneering nurse known as The Lady with the Lamp? Then head to the Florence Nightingale Museum, which is housed within St Thomas’ Hospital. The collection features some of Nightingale’s personal belongings, such as the medicine chest she carried with her on the battlefield.
Find out more about Nightingale’s legacy and how she has influenced nursing today through the educational exhibits. Another nurse, Mary Seacole, who was born in Jamaica and worked behind the lines at the Crimean War, is also celebrated at the museum.
Continuing with the theme of health, the Wellcome Collection exhibits a wide selection of medical antiquities amassed by Henry Wellcome in the 19th century. From Napoleon’s toothbrush and George III’s hair to a cartoon showing bloodletting by leeches, it’s an interesting, if at times grisly, social history.
A second part of the exhibition space explores medicine in modern times and contrasts with the items from 150 years ago or more. The kids will be so enthralled they won’t even notice they’re learning as they go round the museum.
Travelling to London
The most convenient way to get to London and explore some or all of these museums is to hire a coach. Your whole party can travel together without the hassles usually associated with such a trip.
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