When it comes to sightseeing, you are spoiled for choice. Indoors or outdoors, underground or overground, traditional English heritage or modern European attitude- all are on offer here.
But be sure to pace yourself: some of the venues detailed in these pages, such as the British Museum, can’t be covered in a morning.
Museum of London
The history of London, from prehistoric times to the present, is told through reconstructed interiors and street scenes, alongside displays of original artifacts found during the museum’s archaeological digs.
Opens Tuesday-Saturday 10.00-17.50, Sundays 12.00-17.50
Open Bank Holidays Free entrance!
Getting there London Wall, City (020 7001 9844/www.museumoflondon.org.uk). Barbican tube.
London Transport Museum
A replica of Shillibeer’s 1829 horse-drawn carriage is just the first of an extraordinary array of vehicles on display at this terrific museum.
There’s also Connections, a computerized exhibit that features 55,000 model buildings in its depiction of the journeys made through the city every day.
Opens Daily 10.00-18.00
Getting there Piazza, Covent Garden (020 7379 6344/www.ltmuseum.co.uk). Covent Garden tube.
Situated in the domain of London’s pigeons, the gallery holds an unequalled collection representing the European schools of painting and it is particularly rich in examples of Dutch and Italian works.
One of the world’s greatest art collections has more than 2,000 works, starting with 13th-century religious pieces and heading towards today via gems such as Holbein’s Ambassadors and Velázquez Rokeby Venus.
There are also important works by Turner and Constable, but the real crowd-pullers are the likes of Monet’s famous Water-Lilies and Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières.
Opens Monday- Saturday 10.00-18.00, Wednesday 20.00, Sunday 12.00-18.00
Getting there Trafalgar Square (020 7747 2885/www.nationalgalley.org.uk). Charing Cross tube.
National History Museum
A cathedral to the Victorian passion for knowledge. Build in 1880 in the Romanesque style, this fine, colorful terracotta building has zoological decorations along its wide facade.
The departments incorporate Botany, Entomology, Minerology, Paleontology, Zoology and the Museum of Geology, renamed the ‘Earth Galleries’, and has some interesting features- an escalator ride through a portion of a rotating globe to the ‘Power Within’ exhibition which explains volcanos and earthquakes. The film Jurassic Park stimulated interest in dinosaurs, and this museum has the real bones and some absorbing tableaux the children will enjoy.
Opens Monday-Saturday 10.00-17.50, Sunday 10.00-17.50
Getting there Cromwell Road, South Kensington (020 7942 5000/www.nhm.ac.uk). South Kensington tube.
I enjoyed my visit to this museum; it was one of the first to allow you to interact in the discovery process. I have no doubt that children today find this museum one of the most interesting visits. The museum traces many of the great achievements in the discovery and development of science and industry, and displays on five floors some of the original machines and equipment: steam engines like Stephenson’s Rocket along with modern prototype locomotives. Mitchell’s famous Schneider Trophy Seaplane, the forerunner of the Spitfire; the Apollo 10 command module; veteran cars, and many other experiences that you can participate in: you can fly a plane, be an air traffic controller, mix and record music etc.
Opens Museum daily 10.00-18.00 Free entrance!
IMAX cinema book on 0870 870 4771 Charge
Getting there Exhibition Road, South Kensington (0870 870 4868/www.sciencemuseum.org.uk). South Kensington tube.
For historical art in London, Tate Britain is second only to the National Gallery. Displays span five centuries of British art from the 16th century, taking in Hogarth, Gainsborough, Constable, Bacon, Moore and Turner. More recent artists such as Lucian Freud and David Hockney are also represented.
Opens Daily 10.00-17.00
Getting there Milbank, Pilmico (020 7887 8888/www.tate.org.uk). Pilmico tube.
Opened in 2000, the original Turbine Hall of the renovated Blankside power station makes an impressive introduction to this eclectic collection of international arts of the 20-21st centuries, includes works by Francis Bacon, Cézanne, Bonnard, Dali, Roy Lichtenstein, Magritte, Matisse, Mirò, Picasso etc., and sculptures by Rodin and Constantin Brancusi.
On the top floor is a café which has fine views across London.
Opens Sunday-Thursday 10.00-18.00, Friday-Saturday 10.00-20.00
Getting there Bankside (020 7887 8888/www.tate.org.uk). Backfiars tube/rail.
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert’s grand galleries contain four million pieces of furniture, ceramics, sculpture, paintings, posters, jewelery and metalwork from across the world. There is an incredible collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture, along with home-grown treasures such as the Great Bed of WARE Canova’s Three Graces and Henry VIII’ s writing desk.
Opens Monday 12.00-15.45, Tuesday-Sunday 10.00-17.45, Wednesday 18.30-9.30 Free entrance!
Getting there Cromwell Road, South Kensington (020 7942 2000/www.vam.ac.uk). South Kensington tube.