The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology is one of the museums of the UCL, University College London. It is in the Museum Mile brochure. It is a small museum, kind of hidden away, but a highly recommended visit. One wouldn´t even tell from looking at it from outside that it were a museum, but inside are true treasures. If you want to see dresses older than the pyramids, then the Petrie Museum is the place to visit.
When I arrived the curator gave me a flashlight, with instructions not to shine it into my eyes, as the light were extremely strong. But the flashlight was needed to shine a light into the many showcases, where there was little light. Then he told me to not to forget to visit the showroom with the oldest dresses from Ancient Egypt, as they were very important. And not to forget to open a door on the right leading to another small section of the museum. But I should not try to open a red door, close to the door leading to that special section, as that would trigger all kinds of alarm. I was totally confused, but managed to find all that he had instructed me to find, without triggering all kinds of alarm ;)
At the museum one can see two dresses from Deshasheh, which are the oldest pieces of clothing to survive from Ancient Egypt, dating back to Dynasty 5 (2494-2343 BC). They were found in 1897 in Deshasheh by Petrie. Crimping was used on the fabric to make them stretch. It was very difficult to take a decent photo of the dresses, which were in a showcase, with humidity and temperature levels monitored. But seeing that this part of the museum had such narrow corridors I could only take a photo from the side of the showcase. There were showcases all along the museum walls with various kinds of ceramic jars and beautiful artefacts. And a lot of necklaces/beads made of various semi-precious minerals, found in the graves.
In another showroom there was a 5000 year old tunic on display. And a dress of a dancer made entirely of a net of beats from ca 2400 BC.
There are more than 80.000 objects at the museum, so it takes a while walking through it. The museum contains one of the greatest collections of Egyptian archaeology in the world. And a Sudanese collection as well.
There are such detailed objects in the long showcases, here are shoes, socks and sandals, combs, jewellery, clay artefacts, endless small objects. It gave me a feeling of closeness to these people, living such a long time ago, they were just doing the same stuff we were doing, going about their lives.
There are also several mummy portraits from the Roman period (100-200 AD) - in fact the museum contains the largest number of mummy portraits in the world.
There is a special Egyptian section at the British Museum, which is very good and comprehensive, but walking through the showcases at the Petrie Museum in peace and quiet is also highly recommended.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 13:00–17:00.
William Matthews Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) was a very noted Egyptologist and escavated in many of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt. In 1913 Petrie sold his collection to the UCL. His life-story and work is well worth reading up on, but seeing that my tip has become very long, although I have only touched on few of the objects at the Petrie museum, then I can only urge people interested in archaeology in Egypt to read up on Flinders Petrie.
Now this is an interesting museum, the Grant Museum of Zoology. It is in the brochure "Museum Mile" and is one of the UCL, University College London, museums. It is a small museum, but very extensive, with so many showpieces, as it were. If one wants to see extinct species specimens then this is the museum to visit.
But be warned, it is not really for the squeamish like me or strict vegans or animal lovers for that matter, and the same goes for another museum I visited the day after, the Hunterian museum. But I got through them, although nausea caught up with me in both museums. Here are a lot of animals in formaldehyde. And a selection of brains in formaldehyde. And a selection of bisected animal heads in formaldehyde, including the seal.
I must say though that seeing a dissected cat in formaldehyde proved to be a little too much, but that is just me ;)
It is an excellent museum with so many interesting artefacts, like that of distinct animals as the dodo-bird (extinct in 1681), thylacine (extinct in 1936) and the guagga (extinct in 1883), which is the rarest skeleton in the world. So the museum is well worth a visit.
There are iPads all over the museum, where one can answer questions on controversial topics. And there is a "Top ten Objects" tour, where one has to look for the rarest of species or the most interesting objects at the museum. It is a tour one does by oneself and makes the visit more interesting and enlightening.
One can f.ex. see a skeleton of a dugong, a sea-mammal which triggered the myths of mermaids, take a photo of oneself inside a shark´s row of sharp teeth, see the heart of an elephant, see a way too lively head of a seal in liquid, see the amazing skeleton of an anaconda etc. And see a jar full of preserved moles, which is kind of strange looking at.
The museum was founded in 1827 and is the last remaining University zoology museum in London. The museum is named after Robert Edmond Grant (1793-1874), who was the first Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy in England. He founded the museum for it to serve as a collection for teaching for the University of London. As when he started teaching he had no material to show for teaching, so he started collecting specimens, which are now at the Grant Museum of Zoology. It is not only Grant´s specimens, which are at the museum, other museums and institutions have donated to the museum as well as the London Zoo.
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday from 13:00-17:00.
There is a gallery called the Brunei Gallery at SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies, at the University of London. This is the only University in the UK which specialises in the study on Africa, Asia and the Near and Middle-East.
The Brunei Gallery is a small gallery, which is in the Museum Mile brochure, so I went there to have a look. Its goal is to promote a better understanding of the history, culture and art in these countries.
The gallery is on 3 floors, with some temporary exhibitions, on the ground floor were beautiful, textile, cloth and clothes from different parts of Africa, Asia and the Near and Middle-East. All were made of natural fibres with natural dyestuffs. Walking down steps into another show-room is more beautiful cloth and clothes - it was a pure delight visiting it.
On the ground floor in an additional show-room are real treasures, books and artefacts from Africa, Asia and the Near and Middle-East. Exquisite work of art. There were illustrated books there as well, Chinese and Japanese paintings, a 16th century Islamic book on animal fables, the Bible and the Koran and more and more. It was not allowed to take photos in that show-room, but everybody was taking photos in the other show-rooms, so I gather that it was allowed. But there are photos on their website of some of the artefacts in the show-room.
On the second floor is a photo exhibition from an Indian religious festival in London. On the roof there is a Japanese Roof Garden, but seeing I was alone on this floor I didn´t know if I could go out and have a look, so I just admired it from afar.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday from 10:30-17:00. On Thursdays they are open until 20:00 like many other museums and galleries. Sunday and Monday closed.
There is a lovely small gallery at the UCL, The University College London, The Flaxman Gallery. I had got a brochure "Museum Mile" and three of the galleries were at the UCL. While looking for the UCL Art Museum at the Strang Print Room, which is small and contains drawings, plaster models and prints by John Flaxman, I was told to have a look at the Flaxman Gallery, which is not listed in the "Museum Mile". And they gave me a very good brochure with photos from the gallery.
The Flaxman Gallery is at the UCL Main Library in the Wilkins Building. One has to get a visitor´s pass and sign in and out and go through a security gate.
The Flaxman Gallery is so beautiful, small, round and probably a meeting point for students, but I love sculptures, so I would not have missed it. In the middle of the gallery is a sculpture of St. Michael overcoming Satan (1819-1824). The finished sculpture is at Petworth House in West-Sussex.
John Flaxman (1755-1826) was the leading sculptor in England in his time - his work is so good, it takes one to another world. He studied art in Rome and his work is in Neoclassical style. Here at the gallery one can find the largest single group of work by Flaxman. He was one of the first sculptors to use plaster models. The plaster models are at the Flaxman Gallery. Flaxman became the first professor of sculpture at the Royal Academy.
Larger works of Flaxman are f.ex. the Monument to Lord Nelson at St. Paul´s Cathedral.
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday from 09:30-20:45, Friday from 10:00-20:45, Saturday from 11:00-17:45, Sunday closed.
Somerset House is a truly imposing structure on the north side of the Thames, close to Waterloo Bridge and the Embankment. It has had a sad history, although one that you wouldn’t be able to guess from its current state. It was named after the Duke of Somerset, who commissioned its construction in the middle of the 16th century. The Duke was eventually executed for his attempt to seize power, and the house passed into the hands of the Royals. They maintained it as a residence for the Queen during the 17th century, although it briefly passed into the hands of the state during the Civil War and, after it was returned to the Royal family, began a slow decline into disrepair. In the 1700s, Somerset House ceased to be a Royal residence and instead was taken up as a government installation, to be used as the offices of a number of government agencies. This requires considerable renovation and reconstruction, which were undertaken throughout the 18th century and indeed lasted well into the first half of the 19th century. The result was a magnificent construction that, despite the great cost, still did not take on the full shape of the current building. The government could not pay for the completion of the initial plan on its own, and thus it leased out land for the construction of King’s College, and on a separate plot, land for the construction of homes for the Admiralty. These buildings are still standing today, although the homes for the Admiralty have been taken over and included in the government-managed sections. The House was badly damaged during the blitzkrieg, but was restored in the 1950s. Today, the sections of Somerset House that do not house King’s College are installations for art exhibitions and other cultural events, many of which are temporary in nature. During the winter, there’s even an ice rink in the centre of the terrace.
The Royal Academy of Arts can make the visitor feel as if she is being transported out of London to some country estate owned by an aristocratic patron of the British art scene. Recessed from Piccadilly Street and benefitting from a large courtyard (one that is usually occupied by a monumental temporary exhibit), the Academy is both a school and an exhibition space. The Academy moved to its current location in Burlington House a century after its foundation in the 1760s. While the Academy sought to provide exhibitions for the products of the arts, it also was charged with the mandate of ensuring that artists had access to quality and comprehensive education, and thus is the oldest art school in the United Kingdom. The current school is a post-graduate course, implying that the Academy is not a degree-granting institution along the lines of a university, but nevertheless seeks to foster artistic development and exchange among the various disciplines of the arts in Britain. While the initial purpose, or at least one of the initial purposes of the Academy was to provide a venue in which British artists could exhibit their works to the public, the general development of interest in British arts and culture has allowed the Academy to broaden the scope of its curatorial activities. It continues to promote contemporary and young British artists, but it also provides exhibitions of foreign and historical schools of art. When I visited Burlington House in 2011, they were showing both a collection of works by Degas focusing on dancers and one of futurist and constructivist ideas in Soviet arts from the 1920s and 1930s.
Britain at War is intended to provide visitors and residents to London with a memorial to the hardships and sacrifices that Londoners suffered during the Second World War. While there are, properly put, War Museums and memorials throughout the city and the country, Britain at War is not so much a history of war as a history of privation, a tribute to the daily lives of Londoners, their hopes, aspirations, fears and indignities. While Londoners never lived under occupation, they experienced the constant threat of invasion, made all the more harrowing by the blitzkrieg. While much of the items on display might be tainted by a whiff of kitsch, there has been a genuine effort made to ensure that this is not just an exercise in romanticizing the War Years, but also a compendium of six hard years that provided fodder for the profound changes experienced by Britons in the post-War period.
I stumbled upon this museum by accident, really. It is not flashy, as it were. I was there taking photos of The Bank of England and wanted to get a close up of one of the gold statues on top, when I saw that there was a museum with free admittance. So I jumped at the chance and decided on popping in.
The staff was so lovely and for security reasons they had to search my bag at the security check.
The Museum was opened in November 1988 by the Queen. At the museum one can learn all about the history of the bank, which was founded in 1694. The nick-name for the Bank of England is "The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street" :)
What impressed me the most at the museum was the goldbar, which one was allowed to lift up by putting one´s hand inside the heavily secured glass-case, containing the gold-bar. It was surprisingly heavey (13 kilos). There is a HUGE storage of gold-bars at the Bank of England, the nation´s whole treasure of gold-bars. At the museum one can see and read up on the part gold played in the bank´s history.
What surprised me is that counterfitting was so common - even though the punishment for counterfitting was the capital punishment. In one part of the museum one can see the security features which the Bank of England takes in the fight against forgery. I saw the same thing at the British museum, pound coins whiche were fake, but looked totally real. And the amount of counterfit money that is in circulation is amazing.
At the bank one can learn how banknotes are designed and made. And try to control inflation by a lever... quite difficult. It is the role of the Bank of England to set interest rates and control inflation.
The Bank of England was one of the first institutions in the City to employ women in 1894.
The Bank of England got nationalised in 1946 - from being founded in 1694 as a chartered joint stock company.
As you enter the museum the first room you enter is a reconstruction of the Bank Stock office, which was built in 1793 - by the architect Sir John Soane (see my tip on his home). In 1734 the bank moved to Threadneedle Street (the entrance to the museum is not on that street though). I have always loved the name of this street. When I was studying in London back in 1987 I used to walk down through City from Old street and down to Southwark bridge road, where I lived for a couple of months. The name of this street sounded so nice to me, Threadneedle Street :D The building has been through major alterations through the centuries.
The first bank-manager (governor) was a Huguenot, Sir John Houblon. The bank is the only bank (since 1708) which can issue banknotes. From 1780, when rioters stormed the Bank of England, until 1973, a military guard was employed to guard the bank - that is how the saying "As safe as the Bank of England" originated. Up to the late nineteenth century the bank had private customers, but from that time it became a government´s bank.
There is a lot of silver objects on display as the bank owns a large selection of silver, many of the artefacts date back to the opening of the bank.
No photos are allowed - probably for security reasons as well, so I only add photos from outside the museum.
Entrance fee: Free.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday: 10:00 - 17:00.
This is Englands oldest purpose built art gallery and it was designed by Sir John Soane in 1811.
There is a permamant collection but also visiting collections.
The cafe is good but expensive.
Of note is the fact Sir Gilbert Scott based the design of the classic phonebox on the mausoleum that stands behind the gallery - there is a typical phonebox in the grounds to illustrate this.
I have written a seperate tip about the Priory Church of St. John right in the centre of the City of London. If you are interested, you can find it here. I mention this because it is inextricably linked with the Museum which forms the basis of this tip, and I make no apology for reproducing the introductory explanation here.
"Let us go back all the way to 1099 when the First Crusade had captured Jerusalem from the "Saracens". The Crusaders, at least the officer class, were rich nobles from Western Europe who had seen it as a sacred religious duty to take control of the area, specifically Jerusalem from what they saw as heathens. If you talk to most people about this period they may well speak of the Knights Templar which have been made famous by things like Freemasonry conspiracy theories and the Dan Brown book and subesquent film called the Da Vinci code. However there was also another Order, arguably slightly older, called the Knights of St. John and it is this Order we are concerned with here."
The Knights of St. John were largely concerned with the physical well-being of pilgrims to the Holy Land both by physically protecting them from attack and by caring for their needs should they become ill. The Order were actually known as the Knights Hospitaller from which our modern word hospital derives. For readers in many countries the term "St. John's" is habitually followed by "ambulance" and they do indeed provide voluntary medical services on many parts of the world. For readers not aware, the Order, although it still exists as such, changed it's emphasis over the centuries from being combatant Knights to the current 21st century position where it is effectively a charity focusing on healthcare in various guises. They are keen to stress that it is not a pre-requisite of the St. John's Ambulance to be Christian or have any faith at all. All are welcomed and, indeed, one of the oddest things I saw in the Museum was a photo of a young Muslim woman wearing traditional headdress in the uniform of the charity, for such it is now. changed times indeed.
Given the history of St. John's as outlined briefly above, it is scarcely surprising that the Museum is divided basically into two parts. There is the more ancient history of the Order and the more modern "first aid" section. both are equally fascinating.
Let us start with the building which really is magnificent as I hope my fairly amateur image shows. The Order began in the 12th century and due to noble patronage, encouraged by the Pope, soon had an a huge amount of lands in what was then the outskirts of the City of London. Today, it would be worth tens of millions if not more. Remarkably the Order retains a fair holding here. The Museum is the old building, very ancient and very impressive.
After Henry VIII decided to split with the Catholic Church and form his own, Britain had the "dissolution of the monasteries" as it was called. Effectively, all Church land was seized by the State / King (same thing in those days) and effectively redistributed amongst his supporters. In subsequent years the structure stood duty as office of Master of the Revels, where over 30 Shakesperian plays were licensed, a coffee house run by the father of the famous artist Hogarth and almost inevitably a pub where Dickens used to meet his friends.
Once inside, you will be greeted by one of the extremely friendly and helpful staff. There are regular tours covering this and the nearby Church mentioned above, but I decided to go it alone being a little pressed for time. Whilst a guide would have been nice, I was well able to negotiate the place myself as everything is well annotated. Deciding to go chronologically, I went to the "ancient" section first and there was much to see.
The entire old history of the Order, including their expulsion from the Holy Land and subsequent residence in Rhodes and Malta is very well covered. Incidentally, the modern St. John badge is based on the "Maltese Cross" which derives from this time. The cannon you can see in the image is a good example of this. During it's life, which dates from 1527, it has served in Rhodes, Sicily, Liby and Cyprus. Quite some history. There are also some fine paintings in this section, as you can see in another image. Note the very prominent St. John / Maltese cross in some of the paintings.
Having fully acquainted myself with the older history of the Order, I moved on to the more modern incarnation, first granted a Royal Charter in 1888 by Queen Victoria. Long stripped of it's old chivalric trappings, it was effectively a forerunner of what so many people worldwide are so grateful for nowadays. the last couple of images show this work. From the variety of childs uniforms shown to the mock-up of the WW1 wicker basket also shown, it is a fascinating insight into the workings of the moders St. John's organisation.
I do really recommend you visit this Museum and, if you do, here are the logistics.
It is open Monday - Friday, 10am - 5pm and Saturday, 10am - 5pm. It is free to enter but obviously donations are welcome. If you want to take the guided tour which lasts about 80 minutes there is a suggested donation of £5 or £4 for concessions.
I quote here from the official website regarding accessibility.
"Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the Museum buildings are as accessible as possible, due to limitations resulting from their
Grade 1 Listed status, some parts of the building are not accessible for physically disabled visitors.
"The main Museum galleries are fully accessible for disabled visitors and are on one level. However, the historic rooms on the upper floors are not wheelchair accessible." I should add that I did not visit the upper rooms nor, do I believe, they are open except possibly for the guided tour. there is also a baby changing facility.
I have always loved reading and still do, a situation possibly encouraged by my late Mother having been a librarian for some years during my childhood. It is somewhat surprising therefore that I had never visited the British Library until a couple of weeks ago despite it being a very short journey from my home.
I was not really sure what to expect as I am not registered as a reader so therefore could not access the literally millions of items available for general perusal but I knew you could have a look round inside as a casual visitor. I really should have gone earlier as it is a simply amazing place.
As you approach, the first thing you are struck by is the sheer scale of the magnificent modern building, it is absolutely massive but I suppose it needs to be due to the volume of items they have in there which must stand as one of the most important collections in the world. With three million items requiring six miles of shelving being added per year I wonder just how long it will be big enough.
The British Library was inaugurated in 1973 although this magnificent structure was not opened until 1997 and it has satellietes in North London nad Yorkshire for additional storage.
Approaching the building you pass a large and impressive statue of Newton by Eduardo Palaozzi. I suppose it needs to be large so as not to be dwarfed by the building. On entering I recommend you go to the information desk where the extremely friendly and helpful staff will assist you. It was here that I learned there was a current Jack Kerouac exhibition which thrilled me, but more of that later. I will deal with a couple of logistical points here. You cannot enter the Library with a bag larger than you would be allowed as carry-on baggagfe on a commercial airline and photography is allowed in the communal areas but not within the exhibitions themselves, which is understandable.
The lady had directed me up the stairs and to the left into what can only be described as an Aladdin's cave. I hardly know where to begin describing the delights on display from Shakespeare first folio to original Mercator maps, ancient sacred scripts, original annotated manuscripts from the great composers and even hand-written Beatles lyrics from songs both recorded and unpublished. It was a delight and then, entering a side room, perhaps the best of all, the Magna Carta (Great Charter) which is perhaps one of the most important documents regarding democracy in the world. It is a thing that every British schoolchild of my generation was taught about and to actually see the thing (actually there were many copies made) was truly thrilling.
Having sated myself with this, I hotfooted it to the Jack Kerousac exhibiton. A quick note here, this is a temporary exhibition only open until 27 December 2012 so if you want to see it, get there quickly and I suggest you do if you can.
I am going to let you into a little history of the teenage planxty here. I was never much of a scholar despite being sent to a very good school. I had always loved reading but Shakespeare, Wordsworth et al just left me completely cold and it was obvious that I was never going to be bothered and was perhaps being a disruptive influence. My English teacher, the wonderful Miss Keys (actually Mrs. Keys, wife of the school chaplain) pulled me aside after class one day and we made a deal. If she gave me some books she thought I would like and asked if I would sit quietly at the baclk of class and read them. OK, deal done. I remember Catcher in the Rye by Salinger which I loved and also On the Road by Jack Kerouac which, on reflection, was a pretty brave choice to give a troublesome 16 year old in 1970's. I absolutely loved it and am eternally grateful to that inspired teacher. I have read the book many times so a chance to see the original manuscript was indeed a great thrill.
It is, simply the strangest manuscripts I have ever seen and entirely in keeping with Kerouac's "stream of consciousness" style. What he did was fasten dozens of sheets of tracing paper together and feed them through the typewriter so he did not have to stop and change pages. The whole thing, which is something like 120 feet long and required a specially constructed cabinet, does not appear to contain a single paragraph, it is the strangest piece of writing. there is also an interesting insight into how he had to change all the names of the characters in this largely autobiographical work as his publisher was afraid of legal action.
Absolutely overjoyed to have seen this, I moved on to the next section which is the philatelic exhibition. If you look closely at the image, you will see that these are in fact a number of slide out cases, each with several exhibits displayed and arranged by country. There are first editions, misprints, rarities and even a letter taken on the first transAtlantic flight by Alcock and Brown. I am no philatelist myself but I did find this very interesting. The whole collection is looked over by the printing press for the world famous Penny Black stamp.
Time was moving on and so I had a final look round the impressive central space before leaving this wonderful place. I do think that I saw most of the exhibitions though, and details of future temporary exhibitions are available on the attached website. The British Library is well worth a visit.
To the logistics, and the Library is designed to be very accessible for disabled visitors. Rather than go through it all here, I would direct you to this page of the website
There are various catering facilities onsite, with full details here
A full list of opening times is on this page.
Opened in 1972 by Her Majesty the Queen and situated on the historic site of Hendon's London Aerodrome in Colindale, the North London Museum is London’s only attraction to house over 100 aircraft from around the world including some very early aircraft designs through to the latest modern day jets and military aircraft.
With free admission plus free interactive and fun activities, including the 3D Cinema (located in Milestones of Flight) and the emotive and uplifting sound and light show Our Finest Hour (located in our Battle of Britain Hall), the London museum offers an entertaining and educational day out for all the family - just 30 minutes from central London.
This museum was a little surprise for me; I was visiting one of the many furniture showrooms in the Clerkenwell area and saw this Museum noted on the map. I decided to make a visit after my meeting.
The physical structure; St John's Gate was in fact the gate house of the former priory located on site. Since it's founding in the 11th century it has been many things to many people, including a hostelry called the Old Jerusalem tavern. A known drinking place of Charles Dickens in the 19th century.
The facility is split into two sections; the main museum building at St John's Gate and then across Clerkenwell Road on St John's Square there is the Priory Church and Garden.
Admission is free, but donations are requested.
Monday to Saturday - open between 10.00 through to 17.00
The offer guided tours on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at 11.00 and 14.30
The fabulous shop at the London Transport Museum at Covent Garden has long been one of my favourite retail therapy venues (in my opinion, it's the best museum shop in London), and given my fascination for public transport - trains in particular - I have no sensible explanation whatsoever why it took until my last trip to visit the museum itself. I think that part of it is that the shop stays open later than the museum - and I tend to go through Covent Garden during the evening rather than the day - and partly because this is so clearly a wonderful thing to do with kids that I wanted to wait until we were together to share the experience.
Having finally visited the museum, I cannot eulogise enough about what I have been missing all these years! In a city filled with wonderful museums, this is one of the very best, and arguably the most kid-friendly, although it will equally appeal to adults.
One of the key constraints on London's growth has always been the development of an efficient transport system, and although London Transport has its critics who often have good reason to gripe, there is no disputing that the integration of such a complex network of bus, underground and overground train systems is an extraordinary feat.
The museum traces the evolution of London's transport system from the start of the Industrial Revolution to present and is jampacked with fascinating exibits and irresistable trivia to boggle the mind of even the most jaded transport buff. Each mode of transport brings its own management challenges and the scatologically-minded will be fascinated to know that in the day when London was reliant on horse-drawn transport, the beasts produced 1000 tonnes of manure per day!
The quality of the exhibits is wonderful, and there are lots of interactive displays to keep small people occupied for hours. Obviously the highlight is the collection of beautifully restored buses, trams and tube/train carriages - some of which you can clamber into - although I confess that I felt my age when I saw that the Routemaster model of bus on which I used to commute to school is now considered to be vintage! (As an aside, if you're inspired to travel on one of the few of these iconic buses still in service, have a look at my travel tip about the No.15 service down the Strand - only a short stroll from the museum).
Even if large pieces of heavy machinery aren't your thing, it's worth visiting just to admire London Transport's distinctive poster artwork. The museum has one of the finest poster archives in the world dating back over a century - the stuff from the 1920s and 30s in particular is glorious - and, best of all, if you fall in love with it, a wonderful selection of this is available in various forms (from mugs and tea towels to jigsaws) in the London Transport museum shop.
There is a wonderful play area on the lower floor filled with transport-related toys, with an adjacent kiddy-friendly food kiosk and dining area. Volunteers are also on hand to provide demonstrations (such as showing how old ticketing machines worked), and I would imagine that it is overrrun with school groups during termtime, so perhaps bear this in mind when you plan your trip.
The admission cost (£13.50 at the time of writing in January 2011) initially seems a little steep until you realise that your ticket is valid for a whole year and that kids under 16 are admitted free. Also, the average visitor will probably want to spend at least a couple of hours here - and families should probably budget on half a day - so it is actually excellent value for more compared to London's other paying attractions.
With the evangelical zeal of the newly converted, I urge you not to miss this!
This 'museum' is a celebration of the world's most famous consulting detective. Just to be clear: it is not where Sherlock Holmes actually lived because a) he is a fictional character, and b) the real 221b Baker Street would have been slightly further down the road. Neither is it the home of Holmes' creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
What it is is a house furnished in appropriate period style to represent the lodgings of Holmes and Watson. It was registered as a lodging house from 1860-1934, so is an accurate reflection of the type of house where Holmes would have lodged.
Inside are displays representing his most famous cases, as well as waxwork models of some of the characters from the books. You can also come face to face with the Hound of the Baskervilles, though to me he looked rather more like Scooby Doo.
There are also some (genuine) letters that have been sent to Sherlock Holmes over the years. The Abbey National Building Society, whose head office used to occupy the part of Baker Street that would have included 221b, used to employ someone to deal with Holmes' correspondence.
Photography is allowed, or rather encouraged (deer-stalkers are supplied). For Holmes fans, it is well worth a visit. If you are not particularly interested in, or knowledgeable about, Sherlock Holmes, it is perhaps not worth the £6 admission fee, though in my opinion it is far better value than nearby Madam Tussauds.
Note that the stairs are narrow and the number of visitors can enter at any one time is therefore limited, so there may be a queue for admission.
The Museum is open daily 9.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. Visitors should purchase their admission tickets in the gift shop next door before joining the entry queue.