You could spend a month exploring London’s multitude of museums. You’ll be familiar with all the heavy hitters (the Tates, the National, the British) and can always look elsewhere on the blog for current exhibitions and events. So with this in mind we’ve pulled together our favourite lesser-known institutions around the Capital.
Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising
It’s rare to find a museum that so adeptly whisks you back to your childhood but the Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising‘s vast collection of the toys, food and fashion of yesteryear provides at least one de ja vu moment in every room for those of us of a certain age. But it doesn’t matter if you weren’t brought up here. The museum does an amazing job of charting societal change and modern history through the story of how brands have grown and changed. Plus, there’s a daily ‘time tunnel’ guided tour if you really want to get under the skin of the place.
Where? 111-117 Lancaster Road, W11 1QT
Travel? Ladbroke Grove Tube
When? 11am-5pm Tues-Sun
The Horniman Museum
A true Victorian treasure trove, the exhibits at the Horniman seem to have been chosen almost at random, with the only rationale being ‘it seemed interesting at the time’. Which means you have ancient police truncheons next to an electric piano, a horse’s skull as a neighbour to a pair of wooden goggles and the famous stuffed walrus overseeing the whole thing. Throw in some very walkable gardens, a well-stocked aquarium and the building itself, which is an odd Victorian folly, and you have one of south London’s best free afternoon’s entertainment.
Where? 100 London Road, SE23 3PQ
Travel? Forest Hill Overground
When? Mon-Sun 10.30am-5.30pm
The Old Operating Theatre Museum
Now this one isn’t for the squeamish. The combination of Britain’s oldest surviving operating theatre (it dates back to 1821) and a collection of terrifyingly rudimentary early surgical instruments (saws feature widely) is a history lesson in itself but we love to come here when they are carrying out one of their famous re-enactments. Rarely has a London museum seen quite so much (hopefully) fake blood. Be warned: this is pre-aesthetic, pre-bedside manner surgery – even in re-enactment faint hearts should stay away.
Where? St Thomas Church , 9a St Thomas St, SE1 9RY
Travel? London Bridge Tube
When? Daily, 10.30am – 5pm
The Brunel Museum
A museum dedicated to one of Britain’s greatest living engineers might not be an obvious stop for Qbic guests new to London but it’s the building itself here that’s the draw. This celebration of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, he of the bridges and fearsome side-whiskers, is set in the entrance hall of the tunnel he built under the Thames in Rotherhithe (an entrance hall in which he almost drowned during construction). The exhibition of his work is small but well done, though we recommend checking the website for one of the gig or theatre nights they put on here – it’s quite a setting.
Where? Railway Avenue, SE16 4LF
Travel? Rotherhithe Overground
When? Daily, 10am-5pm
The Geffrye Museum
Less a museum, more a Hackney time capsule where each room sends you back to another slice of London history. Set in exquisite 18th-century almshouse buildings the Geffrye recreates the living spaces of our ancestors, from the 1600s to the 1970s. Like The Museum of Brands it’s the homely things that are most affecting; the mangles, the radios, the dolls houses, because you feel like your delving into real lives rather than sterile exhibits. There are extensive gardens, a peaceful chapel and perhaps London’s most relaxing reading room on site too. Add that it’s not too far from Qbic and the whole shebang is free, it becomes a must-see.
Where? 136 Kingsland Road, E2 8EA
Travel? Hoxton overground
When? Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm