Dodging The Queues At London's Museums

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 20 months ago
Dodging The Queues At London's Museums

London is a haven for quality museums. Every year tourists and locals flock to the major museums throughout the city. Sure they get to see pieces of great cultural significance, but at what cost? Often they only get glimpses through the thronging masses of people, trying to do the exact same thing as them.

We've catalogued London's busiest museums and galleries and found a nearby alternative. These lesser-known institutions might not attract the same crowds as their hulking neighbours, but they're just as fascinating.

British Museum

The Cartoon Museum. Photo: John Kannenberg

The British Museum regularly tops the list of the most visited museums in Britain each year, so don't act all surprised when the place is absolutely rammed and you have to elbow some kid in the face to get a sight of the Rosetta Stone. Instead of putting up with all that — and sometimes there's a 20 minute queue just to enter the building —  take a quick walk around the block to The Cartoon Museum.

As you might expect The Cartoon Museum focuses on illustrated works: from political comics to sci-fi comic book strips. Even in peak tourist season you have enough space to admire the illustrations in peace.

35 Little Russell Street, Bloomsbury, WC1A 2HH

Tate Modern

Tate Modern is filled to the brim with modern art. And people.

Photo: John Keogh

Travel just one minute further down the Thames and step into Bankside Gallery. It crams a lot of quality art into it's modest space, there's usually a new exhibition each month to keep people coming back for more.

48 Hopton Street, SE1 9JH

National Gallery

The British Optical Association Museum

One might think that The National Gallery is London's most central museum. One would be wrong. That award actually goes to The British Optical Association Museum, the place where you can see Ronnie Corbett's spectacles. The museum also has the world's largest selection of contact lenses, including some designed for chickens. There's just so much here to... see.

41-42 Craven Street, WC2N 5NG

Royal Greenwich Museums

The Fan Museum. Photo: Treble2309

Greenwich is now marketing itself as London's best kept secret. This is — excuse our French — codswallop. Royal Museums Greenwich get roughly 2.5 million visitors a year, hardly a secret.

There is one museum in Greenwich however, that can qualify as a secret. The Fan Museum, or as we like to refer to it, London's most niche museum. Yes this is a museum dedicated to the pre-aircon ways of keeping oneself cool. Fair to say we're fans.

12 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, SE10 8ER

South Kensington Museums

Exhibition Road in South Kensington is home to three of the big ones when it comes to London's museums; The V&A, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

A former exhibit at Andipa Gallery. Photo: surreyblonde

South Kensington is also home to another collection of cultural wonders. Little independent galleries. There's a whole host of them throughout the neighbourhood — though if you add up all their square metres, it still probably wouldn't fill one of the above mentioned museums. Our pick of the bunch is Andipa Gallery, which has a fantastic collection of pop art.

162 Walton Street, SW3 2JL

Madame Tussauds

The most infamous queues in all of London. The wait outside Madame Tussauds so you can get that one awesome pic with a famous waxwork is a daunting beast, tackled by only the most determined tourist. Or a Londonist writer sent there begrudgingly.

Royal Philatelic Society. Photo: Philafrenzy

So instead of bothering with something so naff, wander round the corner to the real peak of entertainment; The Museum of The Royal Philatelic Society. It might not sound like much, but the Royal Philatelic Society is a mecca for stamp collectors and its museum is befitting of this. The museum is free to visit by appointment.

41 Devonshire Place, Marylebone, W1G 6JY

Tate Britain

The Garden Museum's garden

Tate Britain stands on the site of a former prison, and if you go to any of its big exhibitions, one can still experience some of that authentic lock-up overcrowding.

If you want a bit of peace and quiet then hop over the river to find some zen in a converted church. The Garden Museum was gone from our fair city for a painful two years before its fantastic relaunch.

Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7LB

Imperial War Museum

An exhibit at the Cinema Museum. Photo: buckaroo kid

The Imperial War Museum is a bit off the usual beaten track — well, reasonably south of the river — by London's major museums standards. Therefore you might be surprised to hear there's another excellent museum so close by. The Cinema Museum is ideal for cinephiles interested in the films of the pre-multiplex era.

2 Dugard Way, SE11 4TH

Saatchi Gallery

The Saatchi Gallery's commitment to cutting edge art remains popular with the public, so if you're looking for somewhere quieter allow us to reintroduce to the new National Army Museum. The biggest of the lesser-known museums on this list, people haven't quite come in droves even after the 2017 relaunch. For a place that's partially funded by the army, it remains reasonably unbiased and is unafraid to look at the darker side of war.

Royal Hospital Road, SW3 4HT

Last Updated 04 September 2017