There is so much to see and do in London, even a 2-week London Untour won’t allow you to cover half of it. Fortunately, many of us will be lucky enough to return to London for multiple visits. And each time we do, it is fun to make a new discovery.
Here are a few smaller museums, off-the-radar sights, and quirky galleries that you may not have visited, just in case you need a little inspiration for your London return.
Sir John Soane’s Museum
The 19th century townhouse home of this neoclassical architect houses many of his architectural models and drawings, along with his fine personal collection of antiques and art. The museum presents small changing exhibits on architecture and hosts lectures and guided tours, and its permanent collection is free to visit. Find it in Holborn, near Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and know that there might be a short line for entry.
Located near Manchester Square in Central London, the Wallace Collection includes dazzling decorative and fine art collected in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the Marquesses of Hertford and descendant Sir Richard Wallace. The estate house is at once intimate and grand, and the collection includes impressive paintings by Canaletto, Rembrandt, Velazquez, and Rubens. Admission is free.
Columbia Road Flower Market
On Sundays, this East End Street fills with bright, beautiful stalls of flowers and plants. Wall-to-wall color, this street market anchors a lively shopping district that has a decidedly less touristy feel than the grand, better known Portobello Road Market. Best to hit it early.
Dennis Severs’ House
Named for the eccentric American expat who set up this house at 18 Folgate St. in now-trendy Spitalfields, it is a shrine to the Victorian history that fascinated him. He has created a series of rooms that suggest various scenarios, placing visitors mid-story, as if they are walking through a novel, intimately experience the story of an 18th century merchant family. Scents and sounds add to this experiential attraction. Hours are limited, and candlelight visits are also offered, so plan ahead.
Grant Museum of Zoology
Part of University College of London in Bloomsbury, this museum was founded by Robert Edmond Grant in 1828 as a teaching collection of specimens that has been in use since, though it was only opened the to public in the 1990s. It is a massive collection of animal skeletons and specimens (around 68,000) covering the whole of the animal kingdom, including some extinct species. Some credit Grant with helping to shape Darwin’s ideas about evolution during the time when Grant taught in Edinburgh.
Ben Franklin House
The house itself is rather bare, but it comes to life through regularly timed shows that project photos and lights onto the home’s bare walls and fill in details of Ben Franklin’s life and work while living in London as a diplomat between 1757 and 1775. On Mondays an architectural house tour is offered, highlighting the house’s Georgian architecture and sharing the story of its preservation. (You can visit this and other cool under-the-rader spots on our London Uncovered trip.)
Located in the crypt of Holy Trinity Church in Dalston, this quirky collection of clown memorabilia is more kitschy than creepy, though it’s a little of both. The collection includes colorful clown shoes, dolls and statues, photos, quirky collectibles, and the world’s largest collection of eggs decorated with clown faces. Now that’s one to cross off your bucket list!
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art and Natural History
It’s an ambitious name for this freaky little gallery of macabre artifacts that includes shrunken heads, taxidermied animals, vintage and antique books, celebrity stool samples, preserved body parts, and worse. While not for the faint of heart, this makes for a crazy prelude to happy hour in the lively Hackney neighborhood.
See these on your next Untour in London!