Top 19 Unusual London Museums

London is full of wonderfully quirky museums and bizarre historic collections.

These unique London museums offer an ideal way to discover lesser-known artefacts, learn more about the history of the stranger sides of London, and to delve into some the city's peculiar corners. Where else in the world can you find a museum dedicated to a fictional character, as if he were real; a model of Tower Bridge made from matchsticks; and a museum dedicated solely to fans?

Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Explore the weird and wonderful at Ripley's Believe It or Not! in the heart of London's West End. Ripley's contains more than 700 artefacts that celebrate the beautiful and the bizarre. The London museum features a life-sized knitted Ferrari, an 8ft (2.4m) Transformer, a mirror maze and the Impossible Laser Race.

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19 Princelet Street

Free

Located at former Huguenot house at the address of the same name, 19 Princelet Street was created by children and artists. Its central exhibition explores how immigration has shaped London, through stories of settlers from France, Ireland, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Open scheduled days only. 

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Anaesthesia Heritage Centre

Free

Whether you're an anaesthetist or just curious, the collection at London's unusual Anaesthesia Heritage Centre - which counts over 2,000 objects, dated from 1774 to the present day - provides an absorbing story and historical account of advancements in medicine and pain relief. 

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Brunel Museum

On the site of the Thames Tunnel, The Brunel Museum showcases the work of famous engineers Marc Isambard Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Among the objects on display are drawings, watercolours and engravings of the pioneering tunnelling project as well as artefacts from the Fancy Fairs that took place there.

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London Canal Museum

The Canal Museum tells the story of London's canals, cargoes, boats and trade. Discover a Victorian ice well and learn about the people who lived and worked on the canal. You can even learn about the process of ice cream making – all in a waterside former ice warehouse near King's Cross.

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The Cartoon Museum

Anyone who loves comics like The Beano, The Dandy and Topper is sure to enjoy Bloomsbury's Cartoon Museum. Opened in 2006, this small museum is dedicated to preserving British cartoons, comics and animation from early Punch to current favourites, such as Giles and Steve Bell. There's also fun, interactive activities for kids.

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The Cinema Museum

The wonderful world of the big screen is brought to life in an awe-inspiring collection of posters, projects and memorabilia at The Cinema Museum. The comprehensive collection includes more than 17 million feet of film, cinema designs, seats and even samples of carpet! A must see for all cinema fanatics. By appointment only.

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Dennis Severs' House

Enter a time capsule in Dennis Severs' House in East London. You'll wander silently through an 18th-century house, lit by fires and candlelight, and absorb the sounds, sights and smells of a "recently abandoned" family home. The house's 10 rooms create 10 different pictures thanks to artist Dennis Severs' incredible work.  

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Fan Museum

One of London's most unusal museums, the Fan Museum is home to the world's finest collection of fans, dating from the 11th century to the present day. Housed in a pair of restored 18th-century houses, this surprising museum also features a Japanese garden and spectacular orangery where visitors can enjoy afternoon tea.

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Freud Museum

Visit the Hampstead-based family home of Sigmund Freud and his family, who came to England in 1938 as refugees from Nazi-occupied Vienna. See Freud's library and study which remain as he left it, including his famous psychoanalytic couch. Visitors can also watch screenings of Freud's home movies and marvel at his huge collection of antiquities.

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Kirkaldy Testing Museum

A must for anyone with a love of machines and engineering. Opened in 1874 as David Kirkaldy’s Testing & Experimenting Works, his 116-ton ‘universal testing machine’ still works and was used to test materials’ strength for bridges, locomotives, ships, airliners and more. 

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London Museum of Water and Steam

The giant beam engines at London Museum of Water and Steam (formerly Kew Bridge Steam Museum) are the largest of their kind in the world. Housed in a Victorian waterworks, these engines pumped London's water for more than 100 years. Plan your visit for a weekend or Bank Holiday to see the steam-pumping engines in action.

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Magic Circle Museum at the Centre for Magic Arts

There's more than a rabbit in a hat and never-ending coloured handkerchiefs at the Magic Circle Museum. See some of the magic world's most important memorabilia, including handcuffs used by Harry Houdini and props used by HRH Prince of Wales during his induction into the mysterious Magic Circle. By appointment only.

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Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in Notting Hill features more than 12,000 original items from the Robert Opie Collection. Step inside for a nostalgic journey through childhood toys, fashions, magazines and more from Victorian times, through austerity Britain to the swinging 60s.

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The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret

This is a real one-off – the only remaining 19th-century operating theatre in England, which sits at the top of an old church. Inside, you can watch demonstrations of surgical techniques and volunteer to be "operated on". The smells emanating from the herb garret (originally used to store and cure medicinal herbs) just add to the atmosphere.

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The Postal Museum

Find out all there is to know about the postal service in the absorbing The Postal Museum. An assortment of stamps, post boxes and post office vehicles are just some of the artefacts on show. There's also a chance to learn about the Royal Mail and its evolution from inception to the present day.

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Royal Academy of Music Museum

Free

Whether you have a musical ear or are tone deaf, the Royal Academy of Music Museum is the place to go for all things melodic. On display are numerous instruments, documents, images and musical relics. There is also a large collection of rare Cremonese stringed instruments – you may even hear some in action!

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London Sewing Machine Museum

Free

Open on the first Saturday of every month, the London Sewing Machine Museum in Balham houses a fascinating collection of more than 600 antique sewing machines, dating from 1850 to 1950. Highlights include a unique machine bought by Queen Victoria for her daughter, one from the Great Exhibition and the first-ever Singer. 

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Sherlock Holmes Museum

Visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum, a Grade II-listed lodging house on Baker Street which has been furnished as the apartment of Conan Doyle's famous fictional detective and his friend Doctor Watson. The museum features waxworks, Victorian ephemera and a very popular gift shop selling Sherlock Holmes collectibles and novelty items.

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