Discover London’s Best (and Most Unusual) Museums

By Raphael Kiryani

Dolls in their droves, a rather famous sofa and a fan that’s older than the Mona Lisa… These are just some of the treasures that can be seen in London’s most unusual storehouses of culture and knowledge. Already renowned for its world-class museums – most notably the Natural History (pictured), Science and British Museums – but it may surprise some to hear that London is also home to some rather strange museums, too.

Museum of Childhood

A more over-looked branch of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Museum of Childhood is tucked away in Bethnal Green in the East End of London. Specialising in objects by and for children, it serves as an eclectic escape into British childhood culture. With over 26,000 items covering games, toys, dolls and so much more, it’s bound to elicit a wide-eyed interest in the British childhood experience. It showcases a slew of child pop culture icons such as Paddington Bear and the Power Rangers. The interior is reminiscent of a huge market, making it ripe for exploration and the perfect outing for a family.

Fan Museum

The Fan Museum in Greenwich is the first of its kind in the world, located within a World Heritage Site dating back to the 1700’s. The museum has thousands of different fans, the oldest of which is from the 10th Century. A more unorthodox way of exploring the British – and indeed - European past, but it offers a fascinating snapshot into the history of manufacturing and art as you traverse its snug galleries. There’s also an opulent and enchanting garden room to partake in a delicate afternoon tea if you so please. On a summer’s day, why not bring your own fan and be your own living exhibit.

Museum of Brands

In Notting Hill lies a quirky and nostalgic institution that whisks you through time in the form of British brands. Its mission objective is to provide people with the history of consumer culture from the Victorian era right up to the present day. The Museum of Brands has an immersive ‘time tunnel’ (and who doesn’t love a time tunnel?) that highlights various British brands in the form of packaging, posters and even toys and games. It’s not simply a visual treat, however, as it explores the sociological and political history of shopping habits and how our lives have been fundamentally altered through these retail products.

Museum of Freemasonry

Slap bang in Holborn, central London is the headquarters for the English Grand Lodge of Freemasonry. Despite decades of secrecy, there is at least one area we are allowed to explore – the museum. Containing a large and varied collection of ornate Masonic objects such as furniture, jewellery and silverware, appropriately housed within an impressive regal interior. The building itself is a sight to behold too, an imposing, art-deco style affair that has been used as a venue for television and film production including the likes of James Bond and The Crown.

Freud Museum

Everyone is familiar with Sigmund Freud, the ‘Father of Psychology’. But did you know he briefly lived in London after escaping Nazi-occupied Austria? The gorgeous Hampstead home he once resided in became the Freud Museum in 1986. It is both interesting and surreal in equal measure to learn about psychoanalysis in the presence of Freud’s famous couch. A feast of art installations and Freudian antiquities await in the cosy home-cum-exhibition of one of the most pivotal men in modern history. I’m sure your unconscious desires will lead you here eventually. 

Image by Waid1995 from Pixabay