I miss the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition every time. Some years it’s because I’m traveling too much, and others it’s because London has entirely too many world-class museums. I’m always torn over how to allocate my weekends among so many amazing collections, and the travel photography gets lost in the shuffle. So do too many other secret museums in London. And there are a lot.

London Museum

Take the Charles Dickens Museum, for example. Tucked away on an unassuming street near Russell Square, it often gets passed over in favor of its gargantuan neighbor, the British Museum. But its intimate rooms and Dickens paraphernalia warm my bookish heart and bring me closer to the soul of the city.

Bed in the Charles Dickens Museum in London

Not far away is Sir John Soane’s Museum, a miniature version of the British Museum with its basement full of antiquities and quirky private collection. Speaking of which, the Wallace Collection in Marylebone has one of the best assemblages of 18th century French paintings in the world.

British Museum in London

Even Hampstead, a village of a residential neighborhood in north London, has its share of secret museums. The Freud Museum has the psychoanalyst’s famous couch on display (yes, the couch), and the Keats House is where the famous poet wrote “Ode to a Nightingale”.

Freud Museum in London

Back in central London, many people visit Buckingham Palace without ever knowing that the adjacent Queen’s Gallery has exhibitions on all year. I recently went to In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion, which featured stunning 16th and 17th century portraits and textiles from the Royal Collection.

Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace in London

Many people also wander through Hyde Park unaware that one of the city’s best contemporary art museums, the Serpentine Gallery, is there (and expanding this year with Pritzker-Prize winning architect Zaha Hadid’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery). Its temporary exhibitions and annual outdoor summer pavilion make it one of the best secret museums in London.

Sculptures at the Serpentine Gallery in London

But the hidden gems aren’t just museums. Many of London’s universities and libraries regularly offer exhibitions in their halls. In the spring I came across the Strictly Science: Keeping One Step Ahead exhibition at Imperial College. It contrasted medical endeavors over the past hundred years and had a 3D printer on display.

Statue of Queen Victoria at Imperial College London

And that’s why it’s so hard to find time to see the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition. With so many others going on at the same time, the competition is fierce. But I finally made time to see it at the Royal Geographical Society over the weekend, and I’m glad I did. The only problem is that it made me want to travel even more. So much for finding time for London’s other secret museums!

22 Comments on Lady at London’s Secret Museums

  1. Awesome post! I’m slowly working my way around London’s ‘hidden gems’, and this has been very helpful to locate some more of these 🙂

    I love that London has something historical and amazing around every single corner!

  2. Wow 🙂 thanks for the great insight to the secret museums in London. Yes, RGS Travel Photographer of the Year competition is fierce & such great talent that looking at their masterpieces, we just feel the urge to travel and discover all those wonderful places. Andy Rouse will be there & he is great 🙂 Great post and thanks !!

  3. I saw the 3D printer too – that was a great exhibition. Recently walked past the Freud Museum and will have to go back for a visit. Glad to hear you recommend it! Secret museums… yet another reason to love London…

  4. Yes, the Travel Photographer of the Year is a must see for me every year. I have yet to get to the Charles Dickens museum and just picked up a copy of Quiet London which has lots of other suggestions too… so little time…

  5. So glad you mentioned the Sir John Soane Museum and the Wallace Collection! Those two are my absolute favorite hidden gems I visited frequently when I lived in London this past year. Loved reading this, I’ll be adding the others to my list 🙂

  6. Great post! Couldn’t agree more, there is so much to explore in London. I love the Wallace collection, so unexpected and so hidden. Well, at least almost hidden….I love the sush restaurant Defune on the other side of the building too.

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