Museum marvels: What are the top weird museums in London?

While the British Museum and the Tate Modern draw crowds with their renowned art collections, and the Tower of London echoes with tales of centuries past, it’s the city’s underbelly of quirkiness that truly sets it apart.

London’s weird museums stand as a testament to the fact that embracing the weird and the wonderful can lead to some of the most enlightening experiences.

Want to have those experiences yourself? Well, grab your sense of wonder (and maybe a pair of perplexed pals) as we unravel the enigma of peculiar museums in the heart of this historic city.   

The Brunel Museum

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Location: Railway Ave, London SE16 4LF, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7231 3840

Website

Let’s talk about the man behind the magic – Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This dude was a 19th-century engineering genius with a penchant for building things that would make your jaw drop faster than a malfunctioning elevator. 

We’re talking bridges, tunnels, and all sorts of mind-boggling contraptions. The Brunel Museum is like a time machine that lets you step into his world and marvel at the audacity of his creations.

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology 

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Location: Malet Pl, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 3108 9000

Website

Now, before you start having mummy nightmares because of the words Egyptian Archaeology, let’s talk about the museum’s charm first. It’s not one of those glitzy, polished affairs. 

Nope, this place has an old-school, slightly dusty charm that feels like you’re stepping into the personal collection of an eccentric explorer. 

Now, have you ever seen a human foot that’s over 4,000 years old? Yeah, I’m talking about mummified toes that have weathered the sands of time and are now here to give you a proper history lesson.

The Cinema Museum

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Location: 2 Dugard Way, Renfrew Rd, London SE11 4TH, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7840 2200

Website

If you’ve ever found yourself daydreaming about the golden age of movies, complete with vintage projectors and red velvet seats, then hold onto your popcorn – because The Cinema Museum in London will whisk you away on a rollercoaster ride through cinematic history.

But this museum isn’t just a home of classic movie memorabilia (though there’s plenty of that to go around). 

It’s also a homage to the unsung heroes behind the scenes – the projectionists, the ticket takers, and the ushers who made sure your movie experience was top-notch. 

St Bart’s Hospital Museum 

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Location: NB this is NOT Barts Pathology Museum, North Wing, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, W Smithfield, London EC1A 7BE, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 3465 7608

Website

St Bartholomew’s Hospital is no ordinary healthcare hub. We’re talking about a hospital with roots that dig deep into the 12th century. 

The museum gives you a backstage pass to the evolution of medicine, showcasing tools, equipment, and even a glimpse into the lives of the patients who walked these historic halls. 

If you’ve ever wondered how medical care went from “ouch, that hurts” to “wow, that’s cutting-edge”, this is your golden opportunity.

Dennis Severs’ House

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Location: 8 Folgate St, London E1 6BX, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7247 4013

Website

Dennis Severs is like a wizard of historical immersion and a time-travelling enthusiast who dedicated his life to putting together a house that’s frozen in time. The result? An experience that’s not just about seeing artefacts behind glass, but about stepping into a different era altogether.

Once you’re here, you can expect rooms that are half-lit by candlelight, with meals seemingly half-eaten and garments seemingly half-undressed. It’s like the ghosts of the past are still going about their daily lives, and you’re a guest who’s stumbled upon their world.

Sir John Soane’s Museum

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Location: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP, United Kingdom

Contact:  +44 20 7405 2107

Website

Hold onto your hats, because the Sir John Soane’s Museum has an ace up its sleeve – hidden doors and secret passages! Ever fantasised about discovering a hidden treasure? 

Well, here’s your chance. One moment you’re admiring a collection of rare books and the next, you’re uncovering a concealed doorway leading to yet another mysterious chamber.

Remember that awe-inspiring moment in your favourite fantasy novel when light meets darkness? That’s Soane’s Museum for you. Its ingenious use of skylights and architectural tricks creates a mesmerising interplay of light and shadow. 

The Fan Museum

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Location: 12 Crooms Hill, London SE10 8ER, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 8305 1441

Website

Move over, mundane museums – The Fan Museum takes a twirl into the unexpected. As you step into a world of delicate designs and intricate craftsmanship, you’ll find yourself caught in a dance of fascination. 

Who knew a humble fan could tell tales of culture, history, and social etiquette? From fans adorned with ethereal paintings to those sporting messages in a language all their own, you’ll be left fluttering with wonder.

London Canal Museum 

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Location: 12/13 New Wharf Rd, London N1 9RT, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7713 0836

Website

Alright, so you might be thinking, “Canals? What’s the big deal?” 

Well, friend, these canals were the superhighways of their time! Back in the day, they were like the OG transportation network, connecting London to far-flung corners of the nation. 

This museum takes you on a journey through the history of these watery lanes, revealing tales of hardworking bargemen, goods transport, and even the fascinating science behind canal engineering. 

The Freud Museum

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Location: 20 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3 5SX, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7435 2002

Website

The Freud Museum has a collection of weird and wonderful artefacts that give you a glimpse into Freud’s fascinating psyche. 

From the eerily beautiful collection of over 2,000 ancient and modern art pieces (think Egyptian statues and Greek figurines) to his eerie personal collection of strange and quirky objects, you’ll be left wondering if you’ve stepped into a museum or a detective’s lair.

The Wellcome Collection

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Location: 183 Euston Rd., London NW1 2BE, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7611 2222

Website

The Wellcome Collection doesn’t play by the rules of traditional museums. Nope, it’s a splendid collision of art, science, and the beautifully bizarre. 

Picture yourself face-to-face with anatomical curiosities that’ll give you a newfound appreciation for your own bones and muscles. And that’s not all – the collection boasts an array of medical instruments that’ll make your own doctor’s office look like child’s play.

Leighton House Museum

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Location: 12 Holland Park Rd, London W14 8LZ, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7361 3783

Website

Sir Frederic Leighton, the man behind this museum, had a thing for peacocks, and his artistic flair extended even to the garden, where real-life peacocks used to roam. Talk about a touch of whimsy! 

So, while you’re pondering the strokes of a master artist indoors, you might just catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures strutting their stuff outdoors. Who knew art and peacocks could be such an unexpectedly perfect combo?

The Cartoon Museum

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Location: 63 Wells St, London W1A 3AE, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7580 8155

Website

The Cartoon Museum boasts an eclectic collection that spans decades, showcasing the evolution of cartooning styles and the rich tapestry of cultural commentary that artists have woven over the years. 

From timeless classics like The Beano and Dennis the Menace to more modern gems, this place is like a time capsule of humour.

But hold up, it’s not just about the end product! The Cartoon Museum takes you on a journey behind the scenes, offering insights into the creative process that brings these characters to life.

The Magic Circle

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Location: Centre for the Magic Arts, 12 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7387 2222

Website

The Magic Circle is a sanctuary for all things magical. Here, you’ll be surrounded by an exquisite array of artefacts, from vintage props and mystical paraphernalia to spellbinding posters that hint at the grandeur of legendary magicians of the past.

You’ll also witness a collection of optical illusions, mind-boggling tricks, and captivating performances that’ll leave you questioning the very fabric of reality. 

Old Operating Theatre & The Herb Garret Museum

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Location: 9a St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7188 2679

Website

The museum is a jaw-dropping glimpse into this medical past, showcasing the tools and techniques of yesteryears. Let’s just say, you’ll be hugging your modern healthcare a little tighter after this.

The pièce de résistance of this place is an actual 19th-century operating theatre nestled within the attic. It’s an operating theatre chilling in the rafters like a bizarre architectural secret. The sight of it alone will give your spine a tingly sensation.

Anaesthesia Heritage Centre 

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Location: 21 Portland Pl, London W1B 1PY, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7631 1650

Website

Forget about inhaling essential oils for a second – imagine inhaling ether or chloroform for a leisurely nap before surgery! The Anaesthesia Heritage Centre takes you back to a time when these “magical” substances were the go-to tools for putting people under.

We’re not just talking about a bunch of dusty old bottles here. This museum serves up a feast for your curious eyes, showcasing historical equipment that’s a mix of peculiar and primitive. 

British Dental Museum 

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Location: 64 Wimpole St, London W1G 8YS, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7563 4549

Website

Let’s be honest: the dental chair has always been a source of both comfort and trepidation. But the British Dental Museum takes it to a whole new level.

Imagine reclining in vintage dental chairs that look like they could be props in a sci-fi flick. These contraptions are a testament to the human spirit – enduring discomfort for the sake of a sparkling smile!

The Clink Prison Museum 

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Location: 1 Clink St, London SE1 9DG, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7403 0900

Website

This museum is home to a jaw-dropping collection of medieval torture devices that’ll make you thank your lucky stars for the comforts of the modern world. 

From thumbscrews that sound like something out of a villain’s playbook to chastity belts that’ll make you cross your legs in sympathy – it’s a chilling reminder of just how creative humans can get when it comes to inflicting pain.

London Sewing Machine Museum 

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Location: Balham High Rd, Tooting Bec, London SW17 7AA, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 8767 4724

Website

We’ve all seen modern sewing machines that could practically sew your thoughts onto fabric, but have you ever wondered where it all began? 

London Sewing Machine Museum gives you a treasure trove of vintage sewing machines that’ll make you appreciate the complexities of even the simplest stitch. 

From intricate hand-cranked wonders to early electric models, these machines are a testament to human ingenuity and the desire to make needlework a little less… well, needle-y.

Kirkaldy’s Testing Museum 

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Location: 99 Southwark St, London SE1 0JF, United Kingdom

Contact: [email protected]

Website

Yeah, we’ve all heard of stress tests and load tests, but have you ever seen them in action? Here, you’ll be awestruck by a collection of colossal contraptions that twist, bend, and break their way through the annals of engineering history. 

It’s like a mechanical ballet of force and resistance that’ll have you cheering for the underdog – in this case, the unsung materials that make our modern world tick.

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