Summer seems to have left London. The last couple weeks have been stormy and cool, and my winter clothes have started to make their way to the front of my closet. With the all the rain, I’ve been taking cover in London’s museums, particularly the smaller ones. I never realized how many museums are hidden around the city, but it’s been amazing to discover them.

V&A Museum of Childhood in London

Benjamin Franklin House
I had never heard of the Benjamin Franklin House museum before, but when I learned of a museum in London dedicated to one of the most famous Americans in history, I had to go. The house is located in the heart of central London right around the corner from Charing Cross station, tucked away down a narrow street lined on both sides by beautiful Georgian buildings. I went for one of the museum’s Historical Experience tours, a theatrical guided visit with multimedia effects. It brought the Grade I listed house—where Benjamin Franklin lived for nearly 16 years—to life, and taught me things I never knew about him.

Benjamin Franklin House Museum in London

Cartoon Museum
Another central London museum hidden in plain sight is the Cartoon Museum. Located on a little street just steps away from the British Museum, it’s dedicated to British cartoon history. Every famous character is represented, from Dennis the Menace to Judge Dredd. I particularly enjoyed a temporary exhibition about cartoons during World War I that was set up to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the start of the war.

Cartoon Museum in London

Leighton House Museum
Right next to Holland Park, the Leighton House Museum is the former home of Victorian painter Frederic, Lord Leighton. I fell in love with the stunning Middle Eastern interiors as soon as I walked in, and couldn’t take my eyes off the Syrian tiles and Egyptian screens. The works of art upstairs—many of them by Leighton himself, but others by famous artists such as John Everett Millais—were also great to see.

Leighton House Museum in London

Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising
Secreted away in a little mews in Notting Hill, the Museum of Brands showcases the history of British consumer culture from the Victorian era to the present. A narrow walkway lined with display cases packed full of products from each decade offers insights into the country’s history through everyday goods and commemorative objects. Despite having grown up in the US, I managed to recognize a lot of the brands from more recent times, and it was fun to see which brands had strong presences in both countries.

Museum of Brands in London

Geffrye Museum
Set in a beautiful historic building in Shoreditch, the Geffrye Museum is dedicated to the history of the British middle-class home. With displays of furniture and interiors spanning the centuries, it gives an idea of what household life was like in various periods. I explored the museum, then went for a walk in the back, which is equally worth a visit for its pretty gardens and seasonal plants.

Geffrye Museum in London

Bank of England Museum
Given my former life as a banker, I couldn’t help visiting the Bank of England museum. Appropriately located right by the Bank tube station in the City of London, the museum showcases the history of both the building and the British banking system. There are interactive exhibits and special exhibitions, including a current one on the Bank of England during World War I (yes, there’s a theme in London’s museums this year).

Bank of England Museum in London

Florence Nightingale Museum
My inner feminist couldn’t resist the Florence Nightingale Museum, which is tucked away inside St Thomas’ Hospital, across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. The museum is refreshingly modern, and takes visitors through several circuits detailing Florence Nightingale’s childhood, nursing career—including the Crimean War, when she rose to international fame—and later life.

Florence Nightingale Museum in London

Garden Museum
It’s summer, which means that a visit to London’s Garden Museum in Lambeth was a must. Housed in a stunning deconsecrated church, the museum has several exhibits on gardening through the centuries, as well as a cafe serving delicious looking food and—of course—a peaceful garden in the back. The gift shop had a lot to tempt me, too.

Garden Museum in London

How about you? What are your favorite small museums in London or elsewhere in the world?

52 Comments on Lady at London’s Hidden Museums

  1. I visited Leighton House last weekend: what a hidden gem! Too bad they were very strict about taking pictures (so no review on my blog unfortunately). I’d love to go to the Florence Nightingale Museum. Are you allowed to take pictures there :-)?

  2. This was so much fun, Lady in London! I would absolutely want to go to the Benjamin Franklin House. But, first up would be the Cartoon Museum to see the World War I cartoons! 🙂

  3. Dear Julie,

    On behalf of Leighton House, thank you very much for supporting small Museums in London; your post is fantastic and we are delighted you enjoy your visit last week!

  4. Have you been to Sir John Soane’s museum in Lincoln Inn Fields? It’s his actual house and it’s fascinating.

  5. Do you know the Museum of Everything in Primrose Hill? I went there a few years ago and was fascinated by the ancient miniature fairground rides and Victorian taxidermied animals playing cards. I tried to go back recently and found it had disappeared! Do you know anything about it at all?

  6. i have lived in London for 8 years, and I have not been to a single one of these… it is sort of embarrassing, considering I love going to museums! I guess I tend to lean towards art museums! I have to check all of these out for sure! great post!

  7. I liked the Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty Street in Bloomsbury. It was Dickens’ home 1837 – 1839 and he wrote Oliver Twist there. I also loved the Cabinet War Rooms (now the Churchill War Rooms). It’s quite popular now, but still rather small. Fascinating place and I can’t really describe how it felt to walk along the same corridors as Churchill in those times — quite moving.

  8. These all sound really interesting and pretty! I love the idea of a museum in a church. I love a bunch of the little hidden museums around NYC too.

  9. I love how many museums there are in London. I only checked out the bigger ones when I was there last year. I’m definitely going to save this list so I can visit them the next time I’m there! Thanks! 😀

  10. I work for a tour operator and we went to discover some hidden museums in London to tell our customers about and absolutely loved the museum of brands and packing!! Great treasure trove of a find and really pleased you featured it.

  11. Wow, I had no idea any of these museums existed! Would love to visit the Cartoon Museum and the Bank of England museum sounds surprisingly interesting too. Thanks for sharing!

  12. This is such an interesting post – thank you! I am going to write down the Leighton House for my next visit to London. It sounds beautiful! I like that you included the Geffrye Museum. I got the chance to visit it this past January and they had a really cool exhibit on, showing how Christmas was celebrated/houses were decorated for the holidays throughout the years. And I ate at the cafe at the Geffrye Museum and highly recommend it! They had a special menu at the time with English Christmas specialties from Victorian times which was really delicious and well done. It’s a great spot for a cup of coffee and snack too!

  13. I have just discovered your blog and this is the first posts I have seen. I’ll definitely be looking at many more as soon as possible. I’m an expat Australian now living in the Netherlands and I have been lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time in London. I love discovering and exploring the smaller museums and some of my favourites (please excuse me if you have mentioned them in earlier posts) are

    – The Ragged School Museum, 46-50 Copperfield Rd E3 4RR
    – St Bride Library, 14 Bride Lane London (behind St Bride’s Church) – a small specialised museum about the history of printing
    – Canal Boat Museum Battebridge Basin, Regents Canal
    – Grant Museum of Zoology, University College of London, WC1E 6DE
    – Pollock’s Toy Museum, 1 Scala Street W1T 2HL

  14. Thanks for this list. There are some amazing museums in London. I particularly like the Geffrye Museum. have you been to the Grant Museum, part of UCL. It’s small but has a huge collection of animals, stufffed & pickled.

  15. I think you would enjoy Little Holland House in Carshalton (south London). A complete Arts & Crafts interior created 1902-4 and almost unchanged since.

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