The Best London Museums You’ve Never Heard Of
The British Museum in London is visited annually by around 6 million people, and for good reason. You can explore ancient history from all over the globe and see some of mankind’s most fascinating artefacts.
And if you search online for must-see museums, there’s a good chance you’ll find countless articles telling you just that.
So, for this one, we’ll be taking data recently gathered by Fulton Umbrellas that names some of the lesser known but still highly rated museums of the capital.
Based on the number of five-star reviews received, we’ll be counting down the top ten museums you’ve perhaps never heard of but are well worth visiting.
10. Museum of London Docklands
The Museum of London is filled with fascinating stories of the capital’s history. From modern times to the 1600s when the port was transforming due to trade.
For readers interested in the war it shows the docklands were the first target in the Blitz of London.
This museum is also rated as Fantastic for Families. There are loads of arts activities for both kids and parents to enjoy together, as well as good facilities for those with babies and toddlers.
9. The Fan Museum
Tucked away in Greenwich, the Fan Museum is the only one of its kind in the UK – detailing the history, culture, and craft of fans. This museum is an absolute must-see for fashion, history and art enthusiasts.
A pair of lovingly restored Grade II Listed Georgian townhouses is a perfect setting to dive into a collection of fans dating from the seventeenth century.
If you’re not content just to look, there’s the opportunity to get involved too as the museum regularly hosts fan-making workshops.
Places tend to fill up fast, and the Fan Museum is only open to the public Wednesday – Saturday, so it’s better to pre-book your tickets online.
8. Wellcome Collection
Just across the road from Euston Station and Euston Square Gardens, you’ll find Wellcome Collection, a free-to-enter museum and library that explores our connection to health, wellbeing, science, and life.
This museum is home to many contemplative art installations. Into the Air, for instance, is a revelatory exhibition about the connection between us, air, and the earth. This particular exhibit runs until October, but there are plenty of permanent and temporary galleries to be seen.
If you’re looking for a more meditative and reflective afternoon in London, Wellcome Collection is definitely the one to add to your list.
7. Leighton House Museum
Leighton House is temporarily closed for refurbishment and is due to reopen this autumn – but that’s no reason to leave this one off the top ten.
Once home to leading Victorian artist Frederic Leighton, this house is an eclectic mix of all that Leighton loved during his life.
Every corner is full of evidence of Leighton’s extensive travels, drawing architectural influence from across the globe. In particular, the Arab Hall and Narcissus Hall are stunning odes to Leighton’s love for the Middle East and North Africa.
6. Kenwood House
Surrounded by acres of landscaped gardens, Kenwood House is a tranquil escape from the bustle of London and home to a world-class collection of historical art. Designed by Robert Adam, this neoclassical villa is filled with furniture and architectural flourishes.
There’s also plenty for families to do, with a specially designed trail to introduce kids to the home and its history.
Summer is the perfect time to stroll around the gardens. It’s worth remembering to pop a clear umbrella in your bag if the weather takes a turn, so you can enjoy the colourful array of blooming flowers even if there’s a summer shower.
5. Jewish Museum London
Founded in 1932, The Jewish Museum tells the story of the Jewish community in Britain and explores themes of migration, family, faith, and culture.
The museum has four permanent galleries showcasing films, photography, objects, and interactive exhibits that reflect the culture of the Jewish community. From lovingly recreated London streets to the thought-provoking stories of Holocaust survivors, the Jewish Museum is important preservation of history that should never be forgotten.
4. Tate Britain
Visiting Tate Britain is like taking a walk through art history, with so many different styles and eras to contemplate, from 1545 to the present day.
This art gallery has many ongoing displays dedicated to specific artists, including Henry Moore’s captivating sculptures and the largest free-to-see collection of paintings by J.M.W. Turner.
There are also temporary exhibitions that change every few months, so you can visit time after time and always discover something different.
For instance, until October this year, you can explore huge, playful installations by Cornelia Parker, one of Britain’s best-loved and most acclaimed contemporary artists.
3. Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum in London is dedicated to conserving and displaying the history of warfare dating from the First World War, during which the museum was originally founded.
The true highlight of this museum is how it tells the story of war. It lends an important voice to ordinary people, shedding light on how their lives were shaped by it and how it influences the world to this day.
This includes the recently opened and award-winning Second World War and Holocaust galleries, which offer poignant reflections on those times through artwork, photos, letters, and personal objects.
2. Church of St Bartholomew the Great
The Church of St Bartholomew the Great is a place steeped in history and will be celebrating its 900thanniversary next year.
This church is London’s oldest parish church. It’s survived the Great Fire, both World Wars and continues to be a place of worship to this day.
As you gaze at the awe-inspiring Romanesque architecture and wander around the chapel that was once Benjamin Franklin’s printing workshop, it may look familiar. Over the years, St Barts has been featured in several films and TV shows, including Four Weddings and a Funeral, so there’s a chance you might recognise the church from your favourite film!
1. Spencer House
The top spot on this list goes to Spencer House, with 73% of reviews giving it five stars.
Spencer House is an 18th-century aristocratic palace and once played host to London’s richest and most fashionable figures – including artists, poets, politicians and even royalty.
After undergoing a 10-year restoration project, Spencer House has been returned to its full splendour. Now reserved for private events and weddings, the house is available to the public through guided tours on Sundays only, so plan your trip in advance.
It can be tempting to stick to the more popular spots when visiting London. After all, the capital is home to some of the most well-regarded museums and galleries in the world.
Instead, escape the crowds, dive into London’s lesser-known history and open your mind to the lives, cultures, and stories of those who’ve come before.
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like: nice pubs, film marathons, not doing real marathons, bad comedy, plays/musicals with shorter second halves, and the Oxford comma.