When visiting London, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben were to me what the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building are to most New York visitors: necessary stops along the tourist circuit, but not the highlights of the trip. London has a plethora of off-the-beaten-path museums to go to that are well worth a visit. These are 5 that particularly captured my attention, and if you find yourself in London, do make sure to carve out time at one for a bit of quirky fun.
Museums of Brands, Packaging & Advertising
I’m a sucker for clever advertising (can we just talk about those Doublemint twins?) This space features over 12,000 original brand items, ranging from posters and ads, fads and fashions, to toys and games. You can follow the history of consumer culture through the museum’s “time tunnel”, starting in the 1800‘s and going decade by decade until present day.
The Fan Museum
Featuring more than 4,000 antique fans from around the world, dating back to the 11th century (yowzers!), this museum is the definition of beauty. Along with giving you tons of eye candy and all you’d ever want to know about fans in their historical, sociological, and economic contexts, the museum also boasts another lovely trait: their “secret” Japanese style garden…featuring a pond, stream, all in a fan-shaped parterre, of course.
Churchill War Rooms
Perhaps most unexpected, I fell in love with the Churchill War Rooms. The museum takes you underground (yes, into the actual bunker that sheltered Churchill and his government during World War II!), and leads you on an audio tour, allowing you to hear the stories of what life was like, as well as see the rooms set up exactly as they were when Churchill was there. Was it cool seeing the rooms that changed history? Yes. Yes it was.
Pollock’s Toy Museum
The website for the toy museum reads, “If you love art, folly or the bright eyes of children, speed to Pollock’s.” Well, as a lover of all these things, I knew this was a must-see. The fascinating exhibit features practically every kind of toy imaginable from all over the world, spanning the generations. From board games to puppets, teddy bears to doll houses, folk toys to toy theaters, the museum is filled with visual delights in every single nook and cranny.
Charles Dickens Museum
Winning the TripAdvisor Excellence Award in 2013 speaks high enough to let you know that this museum is loved by both local London Dickens fans, as well as fans from around the world. The museum is actually the house that Dickens lived in from 1837 to 1839, during the time he wrote the classic Oliver Twist. You can view manuscripts, rare editions, personal items, as well as see what Dickens’s home looked like during the time he lived there.