Explore museums in the surrounds of Bloomsbury

London is the museum capital of the world, sharing the top spot with Washington
View from Senate House roof top
Make the most of your time and discover lesser known museum gems [view from Senate House rooftop overlooking the British Museum]
Capturing the day to day life of the Egyptians, the Petrie Museum of Archaeology has an extraordinary range of over 80,000 objects, which includes the 3,000-year-old Tarkhan dress

The British Museum is in the top five most visited museums in the world place, drawing over six million visitors last year. It is followed by, in the top 20 world musuems, the National Gallery, Natural History Museum, Tate Modern, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

If you prefer quieter, more intimate museums we highlight less crowded venues than our famous next-door neighbour the British Museum [BM]. A good tip getting into the BM is the quieter backdoor entrance on Montague Place, it will take you through to the impressive glass roofed great court. [See above photo, viewed from the top of Senate House].

Visiting can involve military precision planning if you drop into our capital for a short time so read on for highlights and use the Museum mile to plan ahead.

Don't forget to don a good pair of comfortable shoes to trot around Bloomsbury and further afield to Somerset House. Some museums are free, or their permanent collections are, and some have late open evenings, so do check ahead.Senate House foyer showcasing Reformation exhibition

Senate House Library

First up is ‘Reformation: Shattered World, New Beginnings’. Focusing on London during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, this exhibition traces the impact of the Reformation on culture, society, communications and the new world order.

The exhibition is free and runs from 26 June to 15 December 2017. Full details and events are on the Senate House Library website. [photo left: display in Senate House foyer].

The Brunei Gallery

Next door to Senate House. The gallery focuses on contemporary and historical exhibitions from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, forming part of the SOAS University of London. Current exhibitions are ‘Buildings that fill my Eye’ which focuses on the ancient architectural heritage of Yemen.

Alongside this is a selection of photographs by South African artist Mohau Modisakeng. Mohau shows large, striking black and white photographs exploring memories related to the black struggle in South Africa’s colonial history and the later era since apartheid.

Petrie Museum of Archaeology

This small museum really captures the day to day life of the Egyptians from all spheres with over 80,000 objects of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology. Included is the Tarkhan dress which is over 3,000 years old. This museum is under the wing of our member institution, University College London. [image right: sandstone block with head and shoulders of Osiris]

Detail of sandstone block with head and shoulders of Osiris

The Egyptians wore two-toed socks – dating from 400-500 AD

Grant Museum of Zoology

The only remaining university zoological museum in London, set in an atmospheric room with a gallery of skeletons peering over visitors. Delightfully small and stuffed to the rafters with objects and jars from the natural kingdom. Another museum under our member institution, University College London.

The Foundling Museum

This was the site of Britain’s first home for abandoned children. The museum explores the story of the Foundling Hospital with a focus on art and history. A visit will also appeal to those with an interest in Handel’s music. Situated on the edge of Coram’s Fields, a large open space for children to enjoy. www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk

The Charles Dickens Museum

Number 48 Doughty Street is a Georgian dwelling which was Dickens' town house for just over two years. It was here that the up-and-coming author finished Oliver Twist and wrote The Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby. The museum gives a vivid insight into his domestic life with handwritten drafts of the novels in the author’s study. It also has a courtyard café. www.dickensmuseum.com

Wellcome Collection

Based on the permanent collections of antiquities which belonged to medicine man Henry Wellcome, providing a fascinating range of exhibitions with perspectives on medicine and health. The current temporary exhibition is ‘A museum of modern nature’.

The light filled modern café on the ground floor is right next to an absorbing shop filled with oddities from X-Ray oven gloves to a range of books to satisfy the most curious adults and children.

Pollock's Toy Museum in FitzroviaThe Cartoon Museum

A small museum housing British cartoon and comic art from the eighteenth century to the present day. It also has a library of over 5,000 books and 4,000 comics related to the subject. www.cartoonmuseum.org

Pollock’s Toy Museum

Located in the neighbourhood of Fitzrovia, another small venue with a thoroughly delightful shop set in two historic buildings. www.pollockstoys.com [image right: a collection of tin toys in the shop].

Sir John Soane's Museum

Within walking distance to Holborn, the Sir John Soane's Museum sits on the edge of one of London’s largest squares – Lincoln’s Inn Fields. This was home to one of the greatest English architects who lived here more than a century and half ago. The house remains largely unchanged since Sir Soane’s death in 1837. It contains a quirky and atmospheric collection including an Egyptian sarcophagus in the catacombs and multiple hidden panels of paintings.

The Courtauld Gallery

The Courtauld Institute retained its top position for History of Art in the Guardian University 2018 Guide. It is an independent College of the University of London and set in the majestic grandeur of Somerset House near the river Thames.The Courtauld Gallery

With a world famous collection of art from the early Renaissance to twentieth century, this museum is also known for its outstanding Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.

Amongst the current displays is ‘Bloomsbury Art and Design’, displaying items from the Institute’s extensive collection of the Bloomsbury Group, including Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell [sister to Virginia Woolf].

The Courtauld Café is a pleasant outdoor place to recharge and dotted around Somerset House are further cafes and restaurants for coffee or a bite to eat. Entry is free to our International Programmes students. [image left: the main staircase inside the gallery] www.courtauld.ac.uk

Useful planning information

A handy guide Museum mile lists most of the museums above and more. It features maps with essential bits of info from where to walk or hop on a bus to visit 13 venues from the British Library near King's Cross down to the Courtauld Gallery by the river Thames.

The Guardian University 2018 Guide: League table for History of Art, top position is held by the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London.