The Best Museums to Visit in East London

The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History | © Oskar Proctor

London Travel Writer

London presents visitors and residents alike with an abundance of glorious museums, including plenty that are great for the kids. While many of the more famous institutes reside in the city centre, some of the lesser-known establishments – which are still stupendously educational, and sometimes wonderfully weird – can be found lurking in East London.

V&A Museum of Childhood

Experience the material culture and experiences of childhood throughout history in Bethnal Green at the V&A Museum of Childhood, an offshoot of South Kensington’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Venture into one of the institution’s four permanent galleries, which showcase everything from childish creativity to moving toys, or check out a temporary collection.

Inside the V&A Museum of Childhood

Barts Pathology Museum

Observe the magnificence of modern medicine in the making at Barts Pathology Museum, which is home to over 5,000 medical specimens that have been used to train the doctors of tomorrow since 1879. Catch a film night, participate in a drama workshop, engage in an artistic encounter with pathology or check out the skill of John Bellingham, the only person to ever successfully assassinate a British prime minister.

The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History

Bask in the glory of the weird and wonderful at The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, which features such highlights as two-headed animals, a shrunken head and an eight-legged lamb. That’s not to mention the large, living coral aquarium, the literary lectures, an array of fine art pieces and the death mask of Napoleon. Oh, and there’s a bar.

Cabinet dedicated to dead people at The Viktor Wynd Museum

Museum of London

Marvel at the rich history of the city that has served as the centre of Roman Britain, the base of the successful Norman invaders and the heart of the empire on which the sun never set. The Museum of London tracks the history of the UK capital from its prehistoric first settlers around 450,000 BC to the contemporary multicultural hub of the twenty-first century.

Museum of London Docklands

Uncover the importance of the city’s port in making London a bastion of trade and hub of international influence – both positive and negative – in this branch of the Museum of London. Travel through the history of slavery, trade and the River Thames, or have a play in Mudlarks, an interactive educational space for children under the age of eight.

Hackney Museum

Explore the incredible stories of the people of Hackney throughout the ages, from the Anglo-Saxon settlers of a millennium ago to the villas of the Victorians and the refugees of recent years. Get the whole family involved in the Hackney Museum’s interactive exhibits, which include loading a Saxon boat, donning historical garments and making Victorian matchboxes against the clock.

Geffrye Museum

Discover the history of the home and design at this delightful shrine to all things domestic. The Geffrye Museum in Hoxton documents how social and societal changes over the past 400 years have been reflected in the use and furnishing of the humble – or, in this case, not-so-humble – abode.

A display room at the Geffrye Museum

Ragged School Museum

Take a step into the Victorian era at the Ragged School Museum, which gives an insight into life in a 19th-century educational institution. The building itself, complete with creaky old floorboards and a rickety narrow staircase, is that which was used by the famous Dr Bernardo to help those children who found themselves in his care many moons ago.

Grant Museum of Zoology

Boasting an assortment of roughly 68,000 specimens, the Grant Museum of Zoology encompasses exhibits from all spheres of the animal kingdom, including skeletons, taxidermic examples and fluid-preserved samples. An arm of University College London, the museum was founded in 1828 as a teaching collection and contains many endangered and extinct species, such as the Tasmanian tiger, the quagga and the dodo.

Wombat skeleton at the Grant Museum of Zoology

Jack the Ripper Museum

Examine the crimes of Jack the Ripper, the infamous Victorian era serial killer who perplexed London’s 19th-century police in their futile pursuit of ‘his’ identity. The fascination of historians and creatives in equal measure, having spurned numerous books, theories and films, Jack the Ripper is sure to provide an exciting day out.

Museum of Happiness

Indulge in a jubilant experience that aspires to provide science-based techniques, through a range of events, workshops and interactive exhibitions, that can be implemented in everyday life to improve happiness and wellbeing. Cherishing four main values of compassion, community, creativity and consciousness, the museum could not be more constructive in combatting the contemporary pressures in the age of neoliberal individualism.

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