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London needn’t break the bank. If you’re holidaying in the UK, take advantage of the capital’s abundant supply of culture, art, galleries and museums. Better yet, world-class exhibits are free in the Big Smoke.
1. The British Museum
Full of fascinations, The British Museum stores mummies preserved from 1350BC, one thousand years of Roman artefacts, the infamous Rosetta Stone and Lindow Man; the preserved body of a man from either the Iron Age or Romano-British period. It’s believed he was strangled, hit on the head, and then had his throat cut. Morbidly intriguing, yes? And then, for any up-and-coming entrepreneurs in your clan, ‘the history of money’ showcases some of the earliest examples of cold, hard cash.
Open daily 10am – 5.30pm. Open until 8.30pm every Friday.
2. Science Museum
For children, this one’s very ‘hands-on’ with various interactive exhibits. Peer inside Apollo 10, admire airplanes from the first jet engine to Concord, and enjoy all manner of flight simulators. There’s also a robot called Eric. For adults, there are regular ‘Science Lates’ (incurs a fee) which are held after-hours and include lots of science related activities, talks, food, drinks and a DJ. It even ends with a silent disco.
Open daily: 10am – 7pm. Last entry 6.15pm.
3. Natural History Museum
For anyone with an interest in dinosaurs, the life-size exhibits at London’s National History Museum will take your breath away. As well as dinosaur bones, the Alfred Waterhouse building houses more than 70 million plant, animal, fossil, rock and mineral collections, including specimens collected by Charles Darwin and a borderline terrifying full size Blue Whale. It’s all about life on earth; past, present and an insight into what the future holds.
Open daily (except 24-26 December) 10am - 5.50pm.
4. National Gallery
Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ hangs in the National Gallery like the poster-boy for the world’s most recognised artworks. Eat your heart out, Louvre, you might have Lisa, but London’s got a huge collection of stunners, including work by Leonardo da Vinci, Monet and Michelangelo (to name drop a few). With 2000 pieces showcasing the handiwork of western European masters from the 13th to the 19th century, there are paintings from virtually every European school of art. You’re in the presence of legends - and they’re yet to be out-shone.
Open daily: 10am - 6pm and Fridays 10am - 9pm.
5. Tate Museum
From the time-worn to the utmost contemporary, the Tate Museum houses the most awe-inspiring, (and often thought provoking) pieces of modern artwork in the country. A sister gallery to The Tate Art Gallery in Liverpool’s Albert Dock, if you’re opposed to the weird and wacky, look away now. Sometimes there is simply a loaded trolley in the middle of the room, at other times there are video installations and sculptures. It’s also the venue where you'll find the likes of Matisse, Kandinsky and temporary exhibits from Andy Warhol and David Hockney.
Open Sunday to Thursday 10am – 6pm and Friday to Saturday: 10am – 10pm.
6. V&A Museum of Childhood
Did you know Monopoly's obscure tokens (the top hat, iron and thimble etc) originated when the niece of the game’s creator suggested he use charms from her charm bracelet? It’s little nuggets of information like this that you’ll take from the V&A Museum of Childhood. Boasting the world's finest collections of children's toys, dolls' houses, costumes and of course, board games, it's where little Lego men from the 80s meet Victorian dolls and everyone's favourite boredom-buster: The Slinky. With items dating as far back as 1872, it’s a very agreeable combination of history and nostalgia.
Open daily 10am – 5.45pm.
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