The British Museum or the V&A are world famous - so hardly need a mention here - but London’s smaller museums will also repay a visit. Ranging from quirky to specialist, they offer something for absolutely everyone.

Any comments - or a suggestion for a London secret? Please e-mail me.


The Horniman

This quirky gathering of artefacts from the worlds of anthropology, natural history and music is well worth the trip south of the Thames. The collection of musical instruments from all over the globe is perhaps unique and the eco-garden is a treat too.

100 London Road SE23
Tel: +44 (0)20 8699 1872
Rail: Forest Hill

Fan Museum

The Fan Museum houses a collection of more than 3,500 fans, mostly antique, from around the world, the earliest dating back to the 11th century. The elegant clothes and other accessories of the time are also on display in a lovely Georgian building.

12 Crooms Hill SE10
Tel: +44 (0)20 8305 1441
DLR: Cutty Sark Greenwich

Museum Of Freemasonry

Take a tour of one of the most remarkable buildings in London, a tribute to the builders art. Visit the museum and learn something about this formerly secretive society of  masons, now famous for its charity work.

Freemasons' Hall
60 Great Queen Street WC2
Tel: +44 (0)20 7395 9257
Tube: Covent Garden

Geffrye Museum

A set of old alms-houses now shows off home interiors from 1600 to the present. Although looking at the way we lived 400 years ago is fascinating, the real fun comes in seeing stuff from your own child-hood. Check out the herb garden, too.

Kingsland Road E2
Tel: +44 (0)20 7739 9893
Tube: Old Street/Liverpool St

Old Operating Theatre

A former Victorian operating theatre might sound gory - and you certainly don’t want to be operated on here - but it is fascinating to see how much we have progressed. In the roof garret of the 18th-century St Thomas's, this is the oldest theatre in Britain.

9a St Thomas Street SE1
Tel:+44 (0)20 7188 2679
Tube: London Bridge

British Optical Association

Founded in 1901, this musEYEum holds more than 12,000 items such as Eskimo snow goggles, rare eyewear, including many belonging to famous owners, or an antique artificial eye fitting set. Visits are by appointment only.

College of Optometrists
41-42 Craven Street WC2
Tel:+44 (0)20 7839 6000
Tube: Charing Cross

Sir John Soane’s Museum

Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy, Sir John Soane readied his house as a museum for many years before his death in 1837. Preserved as he left it, by Act of Parliament, it is stuffed full of interesting artefacts, paintings and sculptures.

13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields WC2
Tel:+44 (0)20 7405 2107
Tube: Holborn

Leighton House

Built to Lord Leighton's own design in 1866, this house is stuffed with a rich collection of Arabian artefacts, typifying the Victorian love of the eclectic. Much of it was collected by the great explorer, Sir Richard Burton, who (in disguise) was the first non-Muslim to visit Mecca.

12 Holland Park Road W14
Tel: (0)20 7602 3316
Tube: Kensington High Street

Benjamin Franklin House

Now a museum to Franklin, this 1730s terrace house is where he lived from 1757 until the start of the American Revolution in 1775. Besides his political work, ‘the father of electricity’ used it to study science and to write. Nearby (No.25) is the former home of Herman Melville (Moby Dick).

36 Craven Street WC2
Tel: +44 (0)207 839 2006
Tube: Charing Cross


Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

This new museum featuring more than 12,000 items does pretty much does what it says on the tin, with a fascinating collection of ephemera of brands old, new, familiar and forgotten. Temporary exhibitions put it all in context.

2 Colville Mews W11

Tel: 020 7908 0880

Tube: Notting Hill Gate



St John’s Museum

Given a major £1.5million makeover in 2010, this hidden gem tells the 900-year history of the order of the Knights of St John. Famed for their defence of Malta in 1565, arms and equipment from that great battle are on display. Join the guided tours (Every Tue, Fri and Sat) to get the best out of a visit.

St John’s Gate EC1
Tel: +44 (0)20 7324 4005

Ragged School Museum

Housed in the original ‘ragged school’ founded by Irish-born Dr Barnardo in 1877, this museum has a recreated Victorian classroom where actors in period costume give lessons. An East End kitchen from the 1900s is another living history lesson.

46-50 Copperfield Road E3

Tel: +44 (0)20 8980 6405
Tube: Mile End