London is a vast, cosmopolitan and modern city but it has also got a very rich history. It is easy to forget this fact when you’re standing among the newest skyscrapers and high-rise buildings in the very heart of London: the City of London. But that history is actually quite present. You just need to know where to look. So the next time you’re walking down the busy streets of London look up or look down and you just might spot the London Stone for example. However, the easiest way to learn about the history of London is to visit the Museum of London which is close to the Barbican center and St Paul’s.
First impressions: After visiting the Sky garden I walked down the streets of London in the direction of the Museum of London. The building itself is modern but ugly I dare say. However, as you well know the looks aren’t important, it’s what’s inside that counts. The entrance is free which is great! I entered the museum and followed the suggested route to see all the permanent exhibitions.
remains of old city wall
What can you see in the museum? The museum was established in 1976 and there are currently plans to move the museum to a new location. According to Wikipedia the Museum of London houses the largest urban history collection in the world. The permanent exhibitions include: London before London (prehistory mainly), Roman London, Medieval London, War, Plague & Fire, Expanding City, People’s City gallery (there’s an actual red phone box!), World City, The City Gallery (very small) and the London 2012 Cauldron.
Money, money, money..makes the world go round! I strongly disagree! I’m not like Carrie from SATC that my money hangs in my closet but I can still see where my money has gone..I just need to open a photo album and see all my beautiful travel photos! Thus visiting a bank museum isn’t exactly something I’d normally do.
On my recent trip to London (this May) I visited the Bank of England Museum. I have done a lot of free museums in London and when I saw that the Museums at Night festival coincides with my visit to London I decided to choose one of the museums that stayed open longer because of the festival. I browsed the Museums at Night website and I decided to go to the Bank of England Museum mainly because it was free and small and looked interesting enough.
Bank of England Museum
Of course, the Bank of England Museum is situated in the Bank of England building in the City of London. The closest tube station is Bank but even though I have walked around the City before and have certainly been on the Royal Exchange square more than once I was slightly confused to where is exactly the entrance to the museum. The Bank is to the left of the square but the museum’s entrance is in the small street Bartholomew Lane.
At the museum’s entrance you go through airport-like security and then go into a big room. It was around 7 pm (the museum is usually open until 5 pm) and there were quite a few people wandering around the museum. I was looking at some old photos of the bank building when a museum guide approached me and started speaking quickly about the bank’s history. I don’t know whether this happens usually. I guess this was because of the Museums at Night festival. I saw several other people looking amused too when they were approached by other museum guides.
The first port of call on a cloudy Sunday morning in Stockholm was Vasa museum on Djurgården island. My husband and I strolled all around Gamla Stan (the Old Town) the previous day so we decided to use the underground today. You can read all about our visit to Vasa museum famous for its historical warship in a separate post.
Vasa ship in Vasa museum
Djurgården island is a peaceful retreat in Stockholm where you can find several museums, an amusement park and plenty of green space for a lovely picnic in the summer. Unfortunately, despite being April it wasn’t warm for such activities and it even started to rain heavily. Luckily, just about when my husband finally finished with all the exhibits in Vasa museum the rain stopped and we walked back towards the underground station.
interesting buildings near the Swedish history museum
The next item on my to-do Stockholm list for Sunday was the Swedish History Museum on the way to Karlaplan station. It’s got free admission and it was a great place to spend a few hours on a rainy day (yes, it started to rain again). What were the highlights of this museum for me? Firstly, the Gold room on the lower floor which contains 52 kilos of gold and over 200 kilos of silver in the form of jewelry, religious objects, crowns and other things from different periods. Impressive, right? Secondly, I really liked the Viking exhibition on the ground floor. I am a big fan of Vikings series. At the very entrance of the Viking room I read how Vikings were perceived differently through different historical periods (and political situations). The concern today is that current portrayals of Vikings as only cruel warriors (TV, video games etc.) might leave a confusing legacy to the future generations.
The museum displays Viking weapons, clothes, tools, model ships and an interesting model of a Viking village. It is a very fascinating and informative exhibition. Thirdly, I enjoyed the exhibition A thousand years of Swedish history. It’s got a lot of interactive elements. I especially enjoyed sniffing through a small cupboard to guess which spices were brought to Sweden. I didn’t guess them all:) I also did an interesting quiz to see if I was a witch ( after all I do have a cat!). Also, this was the first museum that I’ve visited where I saw a trail through various exhibitions with the comments of LGBTQ community offering their perspective on various historical events. The museum also has exhibitions on Prehistory and Medieval life and art. I preferred this museum to the Vasa museum, to be honest.
Riddarholmen island, Gamla Stan
If you follow my blog or just occasionally read my posts you know that I’m totally crazy about London. As it happened just three weeks before my 11th trip to London my husband and I spent a weekend in Stockholm, Sweden. Because I was creating my to-do list for my solo trip to London I didn’t really spend a lot of time on planning our Stockholm trip. Also, I didn’t want to over-plan our stay since we literally had just a bit more than 48h to enjoy Stockholm. Our plane landed on Friday evening and we had our return flight on Monday morning (this April).
on the way from the airport
On the drive from Skavsta airport to Stockholm we got to admire the Swedish landscape: forests and lakes and colourful wooden houses. The scenery resembled our drive from the airport to Oslo center two years ago. Our trip to Oslo influenced this trip because when I researched briefly Stockholm sights I found a lot of similar things/museums as in Oslo and I didn’t really want to do the same things twice (e.g we visited the Norwegian Folk museum in Oslo so I didn’t see the point in visiting a similar museum in Stockholm).
this doesn’t look like Stockholm but it is
On Saturday morning we had a big breakfast so that we could explore Stockholm on foot. The sun was shining and the temperature was around 6°C. We walked straight to the Central metro station and then turned left towards the Kungstradgarden which was in full bloom. I decided to follow more or less the suggested walk from a Lonely Planet guidebook to explore the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and a few other islands. We passed by a nice church and reached the water.
Stockholm is built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. So, yes any comparison with Amsterdam or Venice is valid. I was confused all the time whether I was standing by the lake or the sea or the river because Stockholm was founded at Lake Mälaren’s freshwater outflow to the Baltic Sea. Stockholm is an old city. Its beginnings date from the 13 century when Birger Jarl, the city’s official founder built a castle. The name of the city Stockholm could be translated as a tree-trunk islet. My main focus was to wander around the Old Town (Gamla Stan) spanning over several small islands.
We all know how expensive London is. Every year the admission prices for various attractions rise as well as the cost of the public transport (tube). Add to that your accommodation cost and you are left with very little money to spend on food and souvenirs. That is, unless you are a millionaire (I read recently that the biggest number of millionaires live in London). Luckily, London has a lot of FREE MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES. Most of these museums are world-known and house many priceless artifacts that are important for a lot of nations. So, you may be in London but when you visit some of its museums you’ll feel like you’ve travelled to faraway places.
Here’s my list of top 5 free museums in London
1.The British Museum
Warning! It’s huge! It’s better to choose some parts of it that are of particular interest to you then to try to see it all. Unless, it’s really cold & rainy and you really like spending an entire day in a museum. When I first visited it I was shocked by the sheer number of visitors. Well, that’s because it’s free. So what can you see in the British Museum? I think the better question is what can’t you see there!:) It’s got around 8 million items spanning 1.8 million years of world civilization from the Egyptian, Greek and Roman galleries to Asian and American ones and everything in between. The museum was established in 1753 by Sir Hans Sloane which makes it one of the oldest museums in the world too. Some of the most famous exhibits include the Rosetta stone, Mixtec-Aztec Mosaic Mask, Parthenon Sculptures and Mildenhall Treasure. Be sure to check out the Reading room too!:) If you get hungry don’t worry. As in many other museums there’s a café as well as a souvenir shop (and toilets and a cloak room of course). There are also some temporary exhibitions for which you have to pay the ticket. This is valid for all the museums on this list.
2.Natural History Museum
What I particularly liked about this museum was the Dinosaurs Wing. You can see big life-like animatronic models and be scared by the sounds they make. It’s like you’re in a Jurassic Park movie (almost!). Apart from the dinosaurs you can see many other fossils, skeletons, gemstones and even journey through the Earth (via the escalators of course). 🙂 The building itself is really beautiful, especially the grand entrance. In the winter you can skate on an ice-rink in front of the museum. This is a very family friendly museum with a lot of hands-on exhibits for the kids. Did you know that many of the items were collected by Charles Darwin and Captain Cook’s botanist Joseph Banks?