Dave the Taxi Driver's


Guide to London

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Caryatid from the Acropolis, British Museum, London

Natural History Museum, London

imperial war museum, london


There are well over two hundred museums in London. To exaggerate just a little bit, they are of infinite variety. Whatever your interest, I am sure you will find it here. Museum admission is generally free, except when certain galleries contain a special exhibition, for which you will need to pay a separate entrance fee. The privately funded ones are more likely to charge.

There are the well known giants, such as the British Museum in Bloomsbury, which most people know because it is the home of the Elgin Marbles, taken from the Acropolis by Lord Elgin and the cause of some tension between the government of Greece and the UK. Now that the Acropolis Museum has been completed there is no telling how long they will be here so make sure you stop in to visit them. It is also home of the Rosetta Stone among thousands of other important pieces that would cause me to suggest that it is probably the greatest museum in the world.

Steve Mcqueen, Great Escape, Imperial War Museum, LondonThe Imperial War Museum in Kennington, which recently held an exhibition called Captured: The extraordinary life of Prisoner's of War which told the history behind stories that have since become legends such as The Great Escape(photo), The Colditz Story and The Bridge On the River Kwai and presented  what everyday life was really like as a prisoner of war. Their next exhibit called Terrible Trenches was about life in the trenches during the First World War. Even a pacifist like myself has to admit that war museums are facinating places that document things that are unimaginable to many of us. The museum seeks to provide for, and to encourage, the study and understanding of the history of modern war and ‘war-time experience’ and is one of the essential sights of London.

 At the Natural History/Science/ Victoria and Albert Museums (all in South Kensington), you could camp out for a week and still not see everything. These were originally spawned from the Great Exhibition of Hyde Park in 1851.

In the City, the Museum of London tells the story of London life from the stone age to the present. Historical Greenwich, the home of the Prime Meridian, where time begins, has the beautiful National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory, in verdant Greenwich Park (SE10). The impressive history of our seafaring nation is laid before you, plus added hi -tech exhibitions. At the Royal Observatory there is the Planetarium Show and you can take part in stargazing as well. There isa great view of London from the top of the hill.

HMS Belfast Museum, LondonThe Cutty Sark Museum, the only Tea Clipper left in the world, can be visited in King William Walk by the river. Also on the Thames one of the most powerful large light cruisers ever built, HMS Belfast is now the only surviving vessel of her type to have seen active service during the Second World War and is a museum.

There are those that I would call the ‘connoisseurs choice’, the Dickens House Museum is in Doughty Street, Bloomsbury; the Handel House Museum in Brook Street, Mayfair and the Clockmakers’ Museum inside the Guildhall, City of London (EC2), plus the more eccentric, like the strange, Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields (E1).

Cartoon Museum, LondonWhat I would call the ‘corner shops’ of the museum world, are such as Pollock’s Toy Museum in Scala Street (W1) and the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury. They might not be grand, but they hold many memories. Another memory stirrer is the Museum of Brands, which is almost hidden away in Colville Mews (W2),near the Portobello Road Market. Nostalgia at its best, with all your favourite packaging from your childhood, which you thought you had forgotten, that just might bring back the taste of your cornflakes or Bovril, and in later life your first pint of Guinness. Americans can connect with some of their prehistory at Benjamin Franklin’s House at 36, Craven Street (just by Charing Cross station), where he lived for sixteen years.

fredrick horniman museum londonThe most visited are the well known ones in central London, but quite a few are a distance away. Do yourself a favour and be a bit more adventurous. The Horniman Museum, with its grandiose conservatory and gardens, is down in Forest Hill (National Rail) (SE23). It was founded by the tea magnate Frederick Horniman(photo), being essentially anthropological with 90.000 objects. There are 250.000 Natural History specimens, the Aquarium and the acclaimed Music Gallery, which holds a collection of around 1600 instruments from all over the world. The Horniman also has a Top 10 exhibits which include a stuffed Walrus, which was mounted by the taxidermist in Canada in 1870; a Sand Painting by the Medicine Man of the Navajo Tribe and a Jazz Drum Kit from the twentieth century.

If you adore history mixed with a huge slice of Art Deco, take a trip to Eltham Palace.(SE9).This was the residence of the Plantagenet, King Edward II and his successors. The Great Hall was renovated by the twentieth century owners, Sir Stephen and Lady Courtauld. They built their lavish Art Deco house on the site of the former house. It feels like time has stood still since the 1930s. Those who have read the book Holy Blood/Holy Grail will recall the Plantagenets are said to be the decendants of Jesus Christ and would one day take the throne of a united Europe. A united Europe? Impossible!

Victoria and Albert Museum of ChildhoodThe Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green (E2) displays well over one hundred years of toys and they have a special Children’s Lives Gallery with all sorts of activities. Nowadays children have their mobiles, PlayStations and Xboxes. It is often an effort to prise these techno drugs from their minds, in the hope that they will take part in their heritage. So is it only adults who are wallowing in nostalgia, who get more pleasure from those old toys, whilst accompanied by a reluctant little boy or girl who just wants to get back to their TV? Children don’t just want to look, they want to do things and get involved. As well as the V & A, many museums have made themselves more lively and hands on. A lot has been done to stimulate children’s interest. Just look what the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum have achieved, world fame! And how long will it be before the PlayStation is seen in the Science Museum?

There are about the same number of museums in London as there are tube stations. Some have tried to break records by ‘doing all the tube stations’ in one day. Each to his own, as they say. To do the museums in London would take up a significant part of your life. But you don’t ‘do museums’ do you? You revel in the accounts of the scientific discoveries, sometimes accidental, which have created the technological world in which we now live. You relive the history of the peoples who actually used those stone axes and artefacts in those far off times. Cultures that have long since disappeared, which are now only represented by statues staring blankly, disembodied from their time. You will maybe smile at the mistakes of former civilisations, until finally they made too many and then self destructed. Then you reflect and see that we are probably experiencing the same promises, platitudes and aggression, as the history repeats itself once again in modern times, in the name of right, in the name of religion, greed, or all of them.

I hope this has whetted your appetite for the tremendous wealth of knowledge and variation contained in London’s museums. In truth I have only scratched the surface. See where the museums are, and in more detail in the separate sections.

Any questions? E-mail me

For tours, transfers and other taxi services see Dave's Taxi Page

Return to London Index