Museums in London
The museums that one finds in London are hard to count. Even a week would not be enough to visit them all. Thereby, the broad range is from world famous museums up to small ones that are dedicated to very special matters. Here, everybody gets his money worth, no matter if one is more interested in arts, history or technique. Specially the owner of a London passport gets very cheaply or even for free to the exhibition. It is worthwhile to explore which museums accept the London passport.
But one should always consider one thing and this is time. There was hardly a museum at which there were no long queues; Waiting times up to one hour are not unusual.
National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery
The National Gallery is optimally situated right at the Trafalgar Square. In this world famous paintings gallery there are more than 2000 paintings form all European painting schools to look at. The oldest ones are from the 13th century. The gallery ws founded in the year 1824, in the year 1838 the building of the National Gallery at the Trafalgar Square was finished, but still without the distinctive cuppola. It was set in the year 1876 during an expansion. The last expansion took place in the year 1991, in which the building got the Sainsbury-Wing, that completed the east- west- and northern wings that already exist until then.
In the gallery, one can admire the works of Italian masters from 1260 up to 1510, thus amongst others, of Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli and Raffael. Moreover, one finds here the old Dutch and german paintings. In the west wing, there are the works of not less famous artists to look at. In this concern, Michelangelo, Tizian, El Creco and Cranach are representatively mentioned.
The eastern wing accommodates British, French, Spanish and Itlian paintings of the time period from 1700 up to 1920; Names like Goya, Renoir, Monet and Canaletto will surely sound familiar to everybody. The northern wing is dedicated to painting from 1600 to 1700. The works of the Dutch people like Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt or Frans Hals and paintings from Spaniards, Italians and French are exposed in this section. The National Gallery is daily opened from 10.00 a.m. to 06.00 p.m., on Wednesdays even up to 09.00 p.m.. If one wants to take part on a guidance, it is possible every day at 11.30 a.m., 02.30 p.m. and on Wednesdays also at 06.30 p.m..
In the immediate vicinity, there is also the National Portrait Gallery that can be visited. Here are, as the name already says, protraits to look at. Thereby, the priority is not the quality of the picture but the person of the portrayed is decisive. The choice of the faces goes across the centuries, that are exhibited in the collection started in the year 1856. In total, there are approximately 10.000 portraits of British personages to look at.
If there are some special exhibitions in the gallery, there is a supplement to be paid in addition to the normal entrance fee. The owners of a London passport are abstained from paying this supplement. The National Portrait Gallery is daily opened from 10.00 a.m. to 06.00 p.m., on Thursdays and Fridays up to 09.00 p.m.
Sherlock Holmes Museum
Cosidering that in reality, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson never lived, there is an amazing abundance of souvenirs in the Sherlock Holmes Museum. One of the most known addresses of the world is the Baker Street 221 B of London, in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle let his heroes Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson live and work, always well assisted by the housekeeper Mrs. Hudson. No matter how much reality or phantasy is put in these detective stories, the most famous detective has surely deserved a museum; Amazingly, it was not opened until 1990, and as it actually was not the number 221 B, it was quickly settled between the house numbers 237 and 239.
The house was built in the year 1815 and is considered to be arquitecturally and historically significant. Up to the year 1934, it served as a pension for rent, then it was privately mantained and in the year 1990 arranged as a museum by the Sherlock Holmes Society.
Today, numerous fans of Shelock Holmes and interested people daily pilgrimage from 9.30 a.m.to 06.00 p.m.to this building, rush in the narrow stairs and the small rooms in order to view the lovingly arranged illusory world. Those who know the books of A.C. Doyles will recognize many details and arrangements. On the first floor, the flat of Sherlock Holmes can be seen with the working and sleeping room and its famous distinctive marks as the pipe, the violin, the magnifier and the Deerstalker-hat.
On the second floor, there are the dormitories of Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson and one can admire the diary of Watson as also some syllabuses of the "Dog of Baskervilles". The third floor is reserved for an exhibition of waxworks of the stories of Sherlock Holmes. We find that the visit to this museum is a nice illusion and also a nice diversion among all the sightseeings of London, also if the entrance fee of 6 pounds already hits the upper limit.
If one wants to take some physical souvenirs of the museum, one can be pictured with Bobby who is guarding at the entrance or buy a lot of souvenirs at the shop beside the museum. The sky's the limit of the imgination, whereby it oftenly it is rather kitsch and the prices are not really low. What is really positive is that in this museum, one can take pictures as much as wanted. The Baker Street 221 B is situated close to the Regent's Park and the best way to get there is by the subway station Baker Street.
Tate Britain and Tate Modern
Some of the big entrepreneurs are also art lovers and supports the public. These fortunate circumstances also applied to the sugar manufacturer Sir Henry Tate. His donation was the basis of the Tate Gallery that was opened in the year 1897 in the district of London Millbank at the bank of the Thames. The museum in the neo-classic building still exists today, but know it is named Tate Britain. At the beginning it was only planned for some British arts, but later some international arts of surrealism, pop-art and impressionism were shown.
Today, there are again purely British arts exhibited from approximately 1500 up to the 20th century. There is a clear division, either the artworks are exposed in the respective hals after a certain motto or they are dedicated to a certain artist. The exhibition is daily opened from 10.00 a.m. to 05.50 p.m., a quite unusual time. The best way to get to the museum is by subway up to the station Pimlico. If one is anyway in the centre of London, it is very easy to get there on foot, for example by having a walk alongside the Thames at the side of the Houses of Parliament to Tate Britain.
Since a couple of years, international and modern arts are exhibited in the building of the former power plant. Tate Modern is located at the waterside of the Thames, right at the Millennium Bridge. It is impressive how such an industry building can be used for arts and the works exhibited are as impressive. Amongst others, there are paintings of Monet, Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Salvador Dali, Joseph Beuys and many other representants of modern arts.
The opening times are from 10.00 a.m. to 06.00 p.m. and Saturdays even up to 10.00 p.m. It is also very easy to get to this gallery on foot if one is already in the centre of London. Otherwise, the best is to take the subway up to Southwark or Blackfriars. If one wants to shuttle between both galleries, one can make use of the boat- shuttle that communicated both. What is realy positive is that the entrance fee for both exhibitions is for free (special exhibitions can differ).
Today, there is a British warship on the Thames, approximately at the middle between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, the HMS Belfast. But those who suspect something bad will be disabused. Fortunately, the ship is long ago out of service and it is a museum now.
Since 1939, the ship is owned by the Royal Navy and had be employed in the second world war during the escort of arctic convoys, during the landing of the allied in the Normandy, and it played an important role during the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst. With 11 tons, nine decks and a crew of approximately 750 men it was the biggest light cruiser of the Royal Navy during the second world war. Afterwards, the ship was employed in Far East.
Then, in the year 1965, the first life of the HMS Belfast ended. In the year 1971 it was rearranged to a museum and now it is considered as a dependance of the Imperial War Museum.
The opening times are from March to October daily from 10.00 a.m. to 06.00 p.m., in the remaining months up to 05.00 p.m. There is also a coffee bar on board. If one wants to get to the museum, the best is to take the subway up to the station London Bridge.
Victoria & Albert Museum
The idea came to the husband of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha. He thought that it would make sense to collect arts and crafts of best quality and make it accessible to the public. In the year 1852, the time had come: the museum, at that time named "South-Kensington-Museum", was opened. It soon became successful, the museum expanded every year, so that a new building became an urgent matter. In the Year 1899, Queen Victoria set the cornerstone for the building at the Cromwell Road.
Today, the museum is the biggest collection of applied arts, crafts and design of the world. On 45.000 m², approximately 4 millions of objects are exhibited in 145 rooms. Amongst the impressive exhibits are imitations of works of the Renaissance, several hundred plaster casts of sculptures, sepulchres and also frisians. What is specially noticeable is the replication of the Roman Column of Trajan and the drafts of Raffael for the Sistine Chapel.
The museum was supposed to be expanded by a spectacular outbuilding, but still today, the huge amount of money needed for this project is not available. This is, of course, a pity, but already now it is nearly impossible to view the whole museum. If one wanted to have a more or less close look to all objects, several days would be needed.
One can get very easy to the Victoria & Albert Museum by subway up to the station South Kensington. It is daily opened from 10.00 a.m. up to 05.45 p.m., the last Friday of a month and Wednesdays also up to 10.00 p.m. One can also take part in guidances that take place every day at 10.30 a.m., 11.30 a.m., 01.30 p.m. and 03.30 p.m. By the way, the entrance is fortunately for free.
The Guards Museum
The famous synomym for the Royal guards of England are the bear-skin hats and the shiny red uniform coats; Every day during the change of guards at the Buckingham Palace, crowds of people rush in order to watch this event. Those who want to know the reason for this dress code and how it developed will get an answer in the Guards Museum. There, also known persons who were responsible for the guarding of the Royal House are introduced.
These are surely some worth knowing details for those who are specially interested in the British Royal House. But we doubt if this museum should be visited in any case. If one has enough time, a side trip to this museum is surely nice, but concerning the most important sightseeings, there are other museums with a higher priority. The museum is located at the Birdcage Walk, a big road close to the Buckingham Palace. It is daily opened from 10.00 a.m. to 04.00 p.m.
Queen's Gallery and Royal Mews
Those who want to know how the Queen and her family reside can view during the late summer time some rooms of the Buckingham Palace. But not everybody can come to London during this time, but in the complex of the Palace there are two very interesting museums, the Queen's Gallery and the Royal Mews. They are opened during a longer time period. Queen's Gallery can be daily visited from 10.00 a.m. to 05.30 p.m. but there is to consider that the last admittance is at 04.30 p.m. and that it is generally closed in March. Royal Mews is opened from March to October, daily from 11.00 a.m. to 04.00 p.m.
For art lovers, the Queen's Gallery is the first address. There, in continuously changing exhibitions of the extensive collections, it is shown which the Queen holds in trust for the British people. They can be some paintings, for example from the Dutch old masters, but also some precious porcelain, furniture or impressive gems. A visit there is surely worthwhile, as no matter what is currently exhibited there, it surely is of the finest.
The entrance fee for adults is of 8,50 pounds, children under 17 pay 4,25 pounds. The family card is interesting, as 2 adults and 3 children pay 21,50 pounds. The entrance is arranged according to a timely system, thus one cannot simply get in at any time. This is why it eventually makes sense to make an advance booking.
Lovers of splendid carriages and cars will fully get their money worth during the visit of the Royal Mews. Rolls Royce and Bentleys with the royal emblem make the driver's heart miss a beat and those who are conformed with less h.p. can admire the splendid carriages from different centuries. These objects are not only museum pieces, but still today they are also employed for special events. The Irish state carriage bought by Queen Victoria in the year 1852, takes today Queen Elisabeth II. to the opening of parliament. If a royal wedding is present, the bridal couple is carried by the glass carriage and for the coronations, the golden state carriage from the year 1762 is employed.
Some Further Museums of London
London has countless more interestimg museums, some of them will be still mentioned here. The Natural History Museum goes back to its evolutionary history to the collections of the natural scientist Sir Hans Sloane, who disposed them to the state. After all, it was not a small collection. Beside 10.000 animal preparations and 50.000 books, also more than 300 albums of pressed plants belong to this collection. With this, a very interesting museum could be already arranged. In the year 1881, the museum got a new building that reminds on a cathedral with its two 65 m heighted towers.
The museum is subdivided in four zones, a blue one, a red one, an orange one and a green one, whereby each zone is dedicated to a certain scientific area. For children, the dinosaurus department should be specially interesting. Those who are interested in the human evolution should not miss in any case Lucy, one of the oldest ancestors of the modern human being. The best way to get to the museum is by subway to South Kensington. It is daily opened from 10.00 a.m. to 05.50 p.m., whereby the last admittance is at 05.30 p.m. There, the entrance is also for free, a thing that will specially delight families with several children.
The Royal Academy of Arts offers some treasuries, for example the only sculpture of Michelangelo in England. He created this sculpture immediately after he created Davif of Florentine. Additionally, there is a special exhibition form May to August that introduces contemporary British artists. The Academy refers to a long history, its foundation was in the year 1768. Today, it is located in the Burlington House at Picadilly. The opening times are daily from 10.00 a.m. up to 06.00 p.m. and Fridays up to 10.00 p.m.
The British Museum is not less impressive, it is mainly dedicated to items and crafts from Europe, Asia and the old Assyrian, Egyptian and Babylonian culture. Also the antique Rome and Greece are represented. Amongst these exhibits there are such significant pieces as the Rosetta Stone that made the decodification of the Egypt hieroglyphes possible, moreover, some sculptures of the Parthenon- Temple of Athens, Egypt mummies and much more. The museum is located at the Great Russel Street and is reachable by subway at the stations Russel Square or Tottenham Court Road. The opening times are daily from 10.00 a.m. to 05.30 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays up to 08.30 p.m.
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Author: Michael Nitzschke, Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz