I spent last week in London to celebrate my dad’s birthday. My family are a bunch of unabashed and unashamed museum geeks, so we went hog wild. We visited the Museum of London, the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Victoria & Albert–three separate times.
I discovered, to my joy, that London museums make great refuges for a traveler with pain.
Most of the major museums in London are free. FREE. Which means that anyone who’d like to come in out of the (near-endless) rain can just walk in and shelter in the British or the V&A. The big free museums in London that I know of are:
- British Museum
- Victoria & Albert Museum
- Tate Gallery
- Museum of London
- National Gallery
- Museum of Natural History
- Science Museum
- National Portrait Gallery
- Imperial War Museum
- National Maritime Museum
For a fairly complete* list of free museums and other cheap stuff to do in London, check out this Fodor’s article.
Bench placement varies by museum. The British has lots of benches scattered in its major galleries, so that I could lounge at my ease while appreciating great art. On the other hand, the Museum of London doesn’t have many benches in the good galleries.
It took me a while to realize that instead of benches, the London museums all have racks of ultra-light black camp stools. Again–FREE.
For me, lugging a seat around so that I can sit down wherever I want involves a trade-off–convenience vs. encumbrance. In this case, I found that the convenience of sitting in front of any bit of art I wanted to enjoy while resting won. Your mileage may vary.
Eating and Drinking
The Tate Gallery in London originated the upscale museum cafe concept. I didn’t eat in the Natural History, but visited the cafes in all the other museums. Good stuff. All provide healthy full-meal options and reasonable numbers of seats for diners. I stuck with the lower-priced cafeteria-style museum eateries (the British has a full-fledged white-tablecloth restaurant too).
Using the Bathroom
Being that the museums are free, the bathrooms tend to be a bit overused. Expect lines at the popular museums, and a fair bit of dirt. There are wheelchair accessible stalls and rooms in all the museums, but these can be tough to find depending on the museum. You get what you pay for. *shrug*
The Bottom Line
Museums in London are heaven-sent for travelers with pain. Free entry to climate control. Public restrooms. Free seating in galleries filled with great art. Easy access to water and real food.
* This kind of information about attractions changes constantly. Please don't hold it against me (or Fodor's) if they're not 100% accurate.