Top Ten Museums and Galleries for Children and Adults in London

When it comes to art galleries and museums London leads the way with attractions ranging from the Museum of Childhood and the Imperial War Museum to the V&A, the Science Museum, the Wallace Collection and the Courtauld Gallery.  London might sizzle in the promised hot summer but if you're looking for somewhere to go to keep friends and family cool the capital has everything you could possibly want.

Here are my top ten suggestions for an exciting summer season:

  • Museum of Childhood – At the Museum of Childhood, part of the V&A Museum, all exhibitions and activities are free. The museum is offering several events, activities and displays for children during the summer of 2011 including an exhibition entitled From The Tiger Who Came to Tea to Mog and Pink Rabbit.  On show from 28th May to 4th September 2011, this installation looks at the work of author Judith Kerr, from the popular Mog series to her autobiographical novel When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

    Further details are available from the V&A Museum at www.vam.ac.uk.
  • Science Museum – The Science Museum is an extremely interesting place to visit. Although it's a very grown up museum, it has plenty for the children. The high point of a visit to the Science Museum might be the Imax Cinema. Current films include Wild Ocean 3D – a journey through the world's oceans; in Hubble 3D – the Hubble Space Telescope is being serviced as it travels through distant galaxies, and Legends of Flight 3D – some of history's legendary aircraft can be seen in action.

    Admission policies and prices can be reviewed at www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.
  • London Film Museum – This is one of London's very new exhibitions, devoted entirely to the history of movies with specific emphasis on British film history. This year's blockbuster exhibition is Ray Harryhausen - Myths and Legends. The installation showcases Harryhausen's favourite techniques for bringing life to his Dynamation creatures. Visitors can also explore the life and work of Charlie Chaplin.

    More details from: www.londonfilmmuseum.com.
  • Imperial War Museum – To really enjoy this museum you might need to make several visits. Permanent displays include the Holocaust Exhibition which tells the story of Nazi persecution of the Jews and other groups through documents, artefacts, posters and film evidence. This is harrowing exhibition not recommended for younger children.

    On a lighter note, and especially recommended for younger children, is Once Upon a Wartime: Classic War Stories for Children. This display, on view until 30th October 2011, showcases books about war written for children, such as War Horse, Carrie's War, The Machine Gunners, The Silver Sword and Little Soldier.

    More information is available from:
    london.iwm.org.uk
  • Wellcome Collection – At the Wellcome Collection the history of medicine is explored through art and artefacts related to medicine. The summer exhibition, entitled Dirt: the Filthy Reality of Everyday Life, will be on view until 30th October 2011. The display  features 200 items, including photographs, cultural ephemera, paintings, drawings, scientific artefacts, film and literature. The exhibition shows how dirt is important to our lives, will affect our future, and is something we don't really want to talk about!

    More information from: www.wellcomecollection.org.
  • The O2, British Music Experience – This is one of London's newest exhibition spaces. The British Music Experience is lively, vibrant, interactive and exciting. As you learn about the history of British music since the 1940s, experiment with different instruments, learn the most popular dances, and sing the most popular songs save your efforts on a Smarticket to gain access to at home later. Highly recommended for adults and children of all ages.

    More information from: www.britishmusicexperience.com.
  • Courtauld Gallery – This is serious art gallery for lovers of serious art. One of London's smaller galleries the Courtauld is about to host: Toulouse-Lautrec And Jane Avril Beyond the Moulin Rouge. The exhibition explores the life of the dancer Jane Avril, a star of the Moulin Rouge in the 1890s. Immortalized by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Avril was a close friend of the artist, who painted several striking portraits and posters. The display will be open from 16th June to 18th September 2011.

    Further information is available from: www.courtauld.ac.uk.
  • Wallace Collection – The current exhibition, Esprit et Vérité: Watteau and His Circle, ends on 5th June 2011.  The display showcases the work of Antoine Watteau and his publisher Jean de Jullienne. This exhibition could be combined with a visit to the Royal Academy of Arts where drawings by Watteau are now on display.  More information is available from the Wallace Collection at www.wallacecollection.org, and the Royal Academy at www.royalacademy.org.uk.

    Time Regained: Works by Artist Goldsmith Dr Kevin Coates
    will open on 23rd June 2011. Time Regained features contemporary art by Wallace artist in residence, Kevin Coates. Coates, whose work can be found in many public and private collections including Lichfield Cathedral, 10 Downing Street, the National Museum of Scotland and the V&A, has created a number of pieces inspired by works within the Wallace Collection.  Time Regained, will be on view until 25th September 2011, and further information is available from the Wallace Collection: www.wallacecollection.org.

  • Sherlock Holmes Museum – This is probably one of London's smallest museums. Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts can explore the life and work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional character. But was he fictional? Conan Doyle created a cult figure who, for many, seems very much alive today!

    Further details about this intriguing museum, where costumed characters act as guides and answer questions, is available from: www.sherlock-holmes.co.uk.
  • V&A Museum – Last, but not least, the V&A is probably London's most popular visitor destination.  There are more than one million objects in the V&A's vast collections and this is certainly one place that will need several return trips.  The V&A has undergone a major programme of renovation and redisplay, and offers several outstanding permanent galleries devoted to ceramics, medieval arts, theatre and performance, to name but a few.  For children there's an added treat. The award-winning V&A Backpack, designed specifically for children aged 5-12, includes games, stories, jigsaw puzzles and hands-on activities. There are also activity sheets designed for younger children.

    Temporary exhibitions at the V&A include:

    • The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement  (until 17th July 2011)
    • Yohji Jamamoto at the V&A (until 10th July 2011)
    • Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South Africa Photography (until 17th July 2011)
    • So Noble a Confection – Producing and Consuming Chocolate 1600-1980 (until 14th September 2011.

    Further information about all events, activities and exhibitions is available from the V&A at: www.vam.ac.uk.

As you can see there are plenty of places to visit in London, and these are just a few highly recommended, and extremely interesting, places to explore.