Dispatches from England Travelogue: London’s Science Museum

When you think of London, you probably think of traditionally famous sites like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, and the Tower of London. But beyond those quintessentially London-esque spots lie a lot of other amazing places to visit. It is one of the world’s largest cities, afterall, so there is life beyond the Royals and the Big Ben.

Scour any London Top 10 list, and you might see the Science Museum listed. Here you’re likely to find more large groups of British school children than large groups of tour buses. In fact, we were a little overwhelmed by the crowds of kids. Fortunately, there is so much geared toward energetic visitors, young and old alike. Best of all, it’s free to visit.

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We started our time there by stopping by the Information Desk to ask which exhibits our children might find most interesting. We were steered toward The Garden, the Pattern Pod, and the Launchpad. My children loved them all, although I think our favorite was the Pattern Pod, if for no other reason than it was less crowded.

But the other areas of the museum that I passed through seemed equally as interesting to children and their parents. The museum covers everything from space exploration to electronics to the human body. If you’ve ever visited the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, you’ll find this to be a similar experience.

A few tips if you plan a visit:

  • Get there right when it opens at 10 a.m. This museum gets very crowded, very quickly. Enjoy as much time as you can before it really begins to fill up.
  • Try to avoid school holidays and popular field trip time periods. We visited during my son’s half term break in October. It was also the day before many other schools let out for the half-term, so there was a large number of field trips that day. I would have enjoyed our visit much more had it been less crowded.
  • Dress cooly. If you take the Tube there (South Kensington station), you will only walk a few steps outdoors. The museum gets quite warm inside, so there’s no need to bundle up.
  • Visiting with young kids? Check your pushchair in the cloakroom in the basement. We wasted a lot of our time there waiting on a lift to get from floor to floor. I wish instead we hadn’t bothered with our stroller and could have taken the stairs. Also, buy the Science Museum’s sticker book. You probably won’t have time to look at it with your kids during the museum visit, but it will make a great activity book afterward, back in the hotel or on the flight home. My 4-year-old really enjoyed it and it’s a fun and practical souvenir.
  • Plan to eat lunch at the museum. There’s a cafe or restaurant on almost every floor. This is such a huge building that you won’t want to waste time leaving and re-entering just for a quick meal.
  • Have particular interests? The staff at the information desk was really useful in helping us plan our time there. You’ll also find a staff member stationed at each exhibit who can answer questions.
  • Or just return the next day to see more… that’s the best part of the free admission!

I’d love to get back again soon, as we barely covered a third of the museum. Of particular interest to Anglophiles would be the Only in England photography exhibit running now until 16 March 2014.  You’ll need a special ticket (8 pounds) to view it, but it looks incredible. It pairs the work of famous photographers Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr, who both specialize in “English eccentricities and social customs.”

If you’ve got a rainy day ahead of you (and let’s face it, given that it’s London, you probably will have at least one during an average trip!), the Science Museum is a great spot to put on your agenda.

What’s your favorite museum in London?

Photo courtesy of the Science Museum.

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  1. avatarThomas Engrav says

    The British Museum is fantastic; so much to see and read. Still amazing to see the Rosetta Stone so close in person. Natural History Museum is great as well; another museum that requires several visits to fully explore. The Imperial War Museum is amazing too; when I went a couple of weeks ago they were still renovating a couple of sections of the building, so that wasn’t cool, but still. In reference to the article though, the Science Museum I visited while studying in London back in 2008, and like the article alludes to, I almost felt overwhelmed with how much there was to see and explore.