Off the beaten culture track: three great free museums in London

One of the great things about London is the number of free museums. Who hasn’t gone on holiday anywhere else in the world and had a hissy fit in very loud English over having to pay to enter a museum? The drawback to such a fantastic policy though is that our famous free institutions, like the British Museum, are absolute overrun all year around because so many people have recognised how epic and free they are. However, in flocking to worship the Rosetta stone and the giant diplodocus with selfie sticks, the hordes have overlooked some hidden gems. Like the school disco wallflowers hidden in the shadow of the bright disco lights whose tapping feet betray a desire to dance, these institutions are fun and quirky even if they don’t have quite so flashy an exterior. So if you’re broke, too hungover to deal with tourists and filled with a sense of guilt that you don’t appreciate London’s attractions more, do pay court (but no entrance fee) to these places:

The Geffrye Museum Hanging out in Shoreditch like a nonchalant hipster, the Geffrye Museum documents the history of English interior design. Each room is kitted out in the typical style of different time periods, so as you tour the building you feel like you are fast forwarding through the history of chilling out at home. Furthermore, the garden is styled to reflect different time periods too.

Look out for: The Garden Reading Room. Originally built as a walkway around the chapel, the Garden Reading Room overlooks the garden through its many windows. The combination of the light streaming through, the lovely woodland wall mural and timber structure make this an exquisitely peaceful room.

Garden Reading Room, Geffrye Museum
Garden Reading Room, Geffrye Museum

The Wallace Collection A few quiet streets back from the eighth circle of hell that is Oxford Street, the Wallace Collection provides a tranquil haven for the weary traveller. Or, at the very least, a source of weapons with which to wreak mass homicide. The historic town house once served as a London pad for the 4th Marquess of Hertford who stashed a fantastic array of art and no less easy on the eye weapons here. He clearly had a fine appreciation of both – you can find Titians, Rembrandts and Van Dycks as well a rare set of 15th century horse armour on display in this now museum.

Look out for: The armour collections. Who knew that the tools of death could be so beautiful?  

Kenwood House A white beacon on Hampstead Heath, this lovely 17th century stately home featured on cinema screens earlier this year in ‘Belle’. The film was based on the true life of Dido Belle, the mixed race niece of William Murray, the 1st earl of Mansfield and high court judge. Beautiful artwork and a collection of miniatures and buckles are among the things you can gape at as well as the elegant interior design. The library with its neo-classical pillars is the most impressive room in the house. A must-see if you want to combine culture with enjoying an open green space in London.

Look out for: The fake bridge. There actually is a fake bridge on one side of the lake to just make the view from the other side more picturesque. True decadence.

Kenwood House
Kenwood House

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