London's finest feature: free museums!

London Travel Blog

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London timeline sundial outside Tower Hill station.

Once again we started the day with big plans to see LOTS of things in London. And once again, we were foiled by one really excellent museum, where we ended up spending the whole day. It was a really good day though.

We started by taking the Underground to Tower Hill station. When we exited, we found a huge sundial. Around the perimeter there were notable dates and scenes from the history of the city. Plague factored in several times, as did huge fires. I later found out it was built in the 1990s. Very cool.

From the sundial platform, we could see the Tower of London. It is really more of a sprawling building than a tower.
The London Tower with a catapult in front.
The first version was built in the early 1080s by William the Conqueror, and subsequent rulers added to its fortifications and towers over time. We walked over to it to the entrance, but found that the fee was about $30 each (!). This surprised me as I had heard the museums in London were free (they ARE, but the sites like this are not). On the tower grounds were information signs that showed the development of the structure over time, with good written information. We decided to settle for this and not go in, as we suspected it would take half the day. We wanted to save ourselves for the Imperial War Museum.

Next we walked on towards the Tower Bridge, built in the 1890s. This is kind of a London landmark, so we looked it over, walked across, and checked it off the list.
Entrance hall at the Imperial War Museum.


Finally it was time for the Imperial War Museum. We were surprised to find ourselves walking in a very seedy neighborhood to get to it. The glass in the directional signs was broken out, and there was graffiti and trash all around. Not pleasant.

The museum is in the middle of a rather poorly maintained park area. It is a huge building that had scaffolding in front of it. We had low expectations as we walked in, so BOY were we ever surprised. This museum is INCREDIBLE, and as an added bonus…it’s free!

The entry way is a soaring hall filled with machinery of war: airplanes, tanks, submarines, jeeps and the like. Pretty interesting, but what I liked most of all were the exhibits. Steve and I spent most of our time in the WWII exhibit. It was huge and incredibly thorough.
Imperial War Museum.
It was very well done, with various small and large presentations that wound through a labyrinthine hall…on and on forever! They covered every topic related to the war. In the special D-Day exhibit, they had presentations on the planning stages and well as the attack itself. They put a real personal twist on things, telling the story from various perspectives: journalist, serviceman, engineer, etc., using real people (several Americans) and showing their photos and the items/clothing they had with them during the attack. It was just so interesting, with so much to read, I could have spent all day there. (Oh yeah, we DID spend all day there!)

In the afternoon, we were so hungry, but we didn’t want to leave yet so we ate at the museum’s cafe. What a pleasant surprise! I had vegetarian pea soup and an artichoke salad, and Steve had a meaty stew.
The footbridge over the Thames.
All excellent. It was fairly expensive, but worth it for the convenience.  

After lunch we went to the Holocaust exhibit, which was also so very well done. I always attend these exhibits where I find them, but not surprisingly I never gain any understanding as to how a maniac like Hilter could come to power. How could the holocaust happen? It’s inconceivable. The exhibit did its best to explain how it came to be without excusing it in the least. It was excellent, but emotionally overwhelming.

Finally it was time to leave. We were so tired, yet there was so much there we had not even seen. I think it would require 3-4 days to do justice to this museum.  

Back at the hotel, I worked on cramming everything into my suitcase. I ended up leaving some items, which I had anticipated when I went shopping here in London.
How will it all fit?!
Out with the old, in with the new! Then early to bed… our bus for the airport leaves at 4am tomorrow :^(



Other FREE Museums in London:

• Science Museum (science and industry and their influence on life.)
• Natural History Museum (Dinosaurs, rocks and fossils. )
• Victoria and Albert Museum (Devoted to decorative arts.)
• National Portrait Gallery (Portraits of famous and not-so-famous people. )
• National Gallery (One of the greatest collections of European painting in the world.)
• British Museum (A vast collection of world art and artifacts.)   
• Tate Britain (Gallery of British art from 1500 to the present day.)
• Tate Modern (International modern art from 1900 to the present day)


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London timeline sundial outside To…
London timeline sundial outside T…
The London Tower with a catapult i…
The London Tower with a catapult …
Entrance hall at the Imperial War …
Entrance hall at the Imperial War…
Imperial War Museum.
Imperial War Museum.
The footbridge over the Thames.
The footbridge over the Thames.
How will it all fit?!
How will it all fit?!
Rainy day in London!
Rainy day in London!
Setting off in the rain.
Setting off in the rain.
Detail of the sundial outside Towe…
Detail of the sundial outside Tow…
The London Tower.
The London Tower.
The London Tower.
The London Tower.
Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge.
Me at Tower Bridge.
Me at Tower Bridge.
Cute store where I bought a snack.
Cute store where I bought a snack.
Section of the Berlin Wall outside…
Section of the Berlin Wall outsid…
War planes at the Imperial War Mus…
War planes at the Imperial War Mu…
Ole Bill - a London bus used in WW…
Ole Bill - a London bus used in W…
Hey does this thing run?
Hey does this thing run?
Spitfire, from WWII. This one in p…
Spitfire, from WWII. This one in …
London
photo by: ulysses