Unusual Museums In London
Sometimes the very best museums in London just don’t cut it.
Which is exactly why we’ve compiled this list of the very best quirky, strange and unusual museums in London, just for you.
It’s filled with giant skeletons, 4000 year old mice, Sigmund Freud’s Berggasse psychoanalytic couch, 19th-century medical instruments, celebrity poo, an accidentally overstuffed Walrus and fans dating back to approximately 1000AD.
So without further ado, the most unusual museums in London –
Fan Museum | Greenwich
Wind turbines – we’re big fans. We’re also huge supporters of Greenwich’s Fan Museum, which is not only the only museum in the world dedicated solely to fans, it also has the world’s largest collection – 4,000 fans dating back 1,000 years. Plus, there’s a mural-adorned orangery and secret Japanese garden where you can take tea.
Details: 12 Crooms Hill, SE10 8ER | £4
Horniman Museum & Gardens | Dulwich
Credit: Regine Debatty/Flickr
A collection of Frederick John Horniman’s Victorian-era anthropological, musical and natural curios, including an accidentally overstuffed Walrus and 16-acres of public picnicking gardens.
Details: 100 London Road, SE23 3PQ | Free entry
Freud Museum | Hampstead
Credit: Gabriela Attilio/Flickr
What was once Sigmund Freud’s family home is now a tribute to his life and work, crammed with the family’ accoutrements… including a collection of antiques, Freud’s writing desk and his famed Berggasse psychoanalytic couch. Take your mum.
Details: 20 Maresfield Gardens, NW3 5SX | £8
Dennis Severs’ House | Spitalfields
Home to 20th century artist and eccentric Dennis Severs, this eleven-room silent tour is variously described as the sensation of stepping into a painting; a time capsule haunted by Huguenot silk weavers seemingly always just out of sight; a post-materialist journey representing both a chronological, personal and metaphysical sequence of development; and a meta work of art created for Mr. Severs’ own amusement, where people moving through the space becoming a “still life-drama” themselves. As he most concisely put it, “you either see it, or you don’t”.
Details: 18 Folgate Street, E1 6BX | From £10
Museums and Collections at UCL | Bloomsbury
Proud parent of not one but three unusual museums in London, University College London’s collections include The Grant Museum of Zoology (which displays a jar of moles and a Quagga: one half Zebra, other half no one knows), the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archeology, and the UCL Art Museum.
Details: Across the UCL Main Campus, Gower Street, Bloomsbury, WC1E 6BT | Free entry
UCL Late: All three museums have a number of intimate late night events based on current exhibitions that run intermittently throughout the year.
Sir John Soane’s Museum | Holborn
45,000 odd objects. 30,000 architectural drawings. 80 visitors at a time. 3 floors. 1 Georgian townhouse.
Details: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP | Free entry
Soane Candlelight Nights: Check out their candlelit evening events here.
Barts Pathology Museum | Smithfields
Barts Pathology Museum aims to bring pathology to life. So, naturally, they’ve crammed their 3 mezzanine floors with over 5,000 gruesome medical specimens preserved in jars; from a misshapen liver caused by tight corsets, to the fractured spine of a hanged corpse. Currently, the museum’s only accessible for special events, giving you an excuse to try your hand at taxidermy while you’re at it.
Details: 3rd Floor Robin Brook Centre, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, EC1A 7BE | Entry price dependent on event
18 Stafford Terrace | Kensington
Home of the 19th century Punch cartoonist, Edward Linley Sambourne, 18 Stafford Terrace is an intact time capsule of the Aesthetic Movement, sporting William Morris wallpaper, exotic imported furniture and a conservatory water garden.
Details: 18 Stafford Terrace, W8 7BH | From £7
The Horse Hospital | Bloomsbury
Housed in a former horse hospital, the Horse Hospital bears a heft of quirky original features from the 18th century which would already make a strong case for inclusion here – were it not also now a multidisciplinary arts and exhibition space, showcasing subversive work and artefacts from counter-cultural and avant-garde artists, underground film screenings, and talks from societies such as the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies.
Details: The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, WC1N 1JD | Entry fee dependent on event
Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising | Notting Hill
Credit: Ann Lee/Flickr
A collection of over 12,000 original, every-day items from the 1800s to the present date, most of which have since fallen out of kitchen shelf existence, and some – like First World War Oxo Cubes, Mars Bars, Rolos and KitKats from the 1930s – which have evolved with time.
Details: 111-117 Lancaster Road, W11 1QT | £9
The Foundling Museum | Bloomsbury
Prepare to have your heartstrings relentlessly plucked as you peruse collections of keepsakes and artefacts from the building’s origins as a Foundling Hospital for abandoned children.
Details: 40 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ | £11
Wellcome Collection | Euston
Sex, religion, gender, murder, mental illness and most of all, medicine. 19th-century medicine to be precise, which means guillotine blades and surgical implements made out of ivory.
Details: 183 Euston Road, NW1 2BE | Free entry
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art and Natural History | Hackney
An overflowing Wunderkabinett tucked under The Last Tuesday Society that explicitly rails against all attempts to categorise or educate, filled with occult artefacts, Victorian sex toys, two-headed taxidermied animals and jars of celebrity poo. It’s also currently hosting a range of artefacts from Cornwall’s Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. Best explored with an absinthe sazerac in hand – you’ll need it.
Details: 11 Mare Street, E8 4RP | £2
The Clown Museum | Dalston
This gallery dedicated to clown paraphernalia originally sprang up in St. James’s Church, where the ‘father of clowning’, Joseph Grimaldi is buried.
He left some big shoes to fill.
But they’re making him proud with the new museum, now located in a Dalston church. Head through to the back rooms and you’ll find a trove of bizarre artefacts including clown eggs, which a fully made-up guide will be happy to talk you through.
Details: Holy Trinity Church Dalston, Beechwood Road, E8 3DY
New London Architecture | Bloomsbury
The New London Architecture museum is not necessarily one of the most unusual museums in London, but it warrants inclusion in this list simply by virtue of the giant, 12 metre, 1:1500 scale model of central London. It’s also regularly updated to include planning permission approved infrastructure, so you can see the future of London.
Details: The Building Centre, 26 Store Street, WC1E 7BT | Free entry
London Postal Museum | Clerkenwell
Not merely an intriguing stroll through the history of London’s postal service (including the first ever post box and the plaster cast of Queen Liz used to make stamps), the London Postal Museum also plays host to a secret, cavernous underground tunnel network that was once used to transport mail across the city. And you can ride it. READ MORE
Details: 15-20 Phoenix Place, WC1X 0DA | £16
Leighton House Museum | Holland Park
The lavishly decorated house and studio specially commissioned by Victorian artist, Frederic, Lord Leighton, is a sight to behold in itself – but if you’re not the sort to be impressed by stuffed peacocks, Arabic tiled foyers and classical architecture, there’s a grand collection of the artist’s works on display, as well as rotating exhibitions based on his interests and contemporaries.
Details: 12 Holland Park Road, W14 8LZ | £14
Novelty Automation | Holborn
Tucked inside an old Tudor-style shop front in Clerkenwell is a bizarre penny arcade of automata created by cartoonist-turned engineer, Tim Hunkin. Step inside an eclipse-in-a-box, test your nerve against a drooling mechanical dog, play a lighthearted game of “Divorce”, and take a brief holiday on a magic carpet.
Details: 1a Princeton Street, WC1R 4AX | Penny a game
Emery Walker’s House | Hammersmith
Step into a perfectly-preserved arts and crafts-era home, boasting original William Morris hand-printed wallpaper and lino, antique furniture from around the world, plus snippets of history from the previous inhabitants, ranging from suffragettes to 18th century faith-healers.
Details: 7 Hammersmith Terrace, W6 9TS | £11, by tour only
NOTE: The Hunterian Museum, one of London’s undisputed grisly gems, is closed until Autumn 2020, as is the Geffrye Museum.
(Image: Leighton House Museum)
Up for something a little less quirky? Try our collection of the best museums in London.