From the thrills of outer space to the wonders of wireless communication, and featuring artifacts as diverse as historic locomotives, long-range guided ballistic missiles, antique clocks, and household appliances, London’s Science Museum is full of interactive galleries and fascinating exhibits that chart the growth and development of the sciences across the past several centuries. The Science Museum is also home to an IMAX theatre, multiple cafes, and a flight simulator. It occasionally hosts temporary exhibitions, too.
History of the Science Museum
London’s ever-popular Science Museum has existed in one form or another for roughly 175 years now. It can trace its roots all the way back to 1851, when that year’s Great Exhibition was such a hit with the public that plans were made to create a more permanent structure to host science-related exhibits. In 1857, the South Kensington Museum was established on the grounds where today you’ll find the Victoria and Albert Museum; it brought together some examples of contemporary and historical machinery, as well as a Patent Office Museum.
Eventually, the decision would be made to separate the South Kensington Museum’s art collections from its scientific collections; the art collections would become the Victoria and Albert Museum, while in 1909 the Science Museum came into existence. Its current building, designed by the architect Sir Richard Allison, was built between 1913 and 1928 (work was significantly interrupted by World War I). It has been expanded and renovated on multiple occasions across the intervening decades. Today, its permanent collection numbers over 300,000 distinctive objects.
Science Museum Highlights
No matter what aspect of science most interests you or your little ones, you’ll find numerous galleries here to your liking. Some of the Science Museum’s most popular exhibits include Engineers, where you can learn about the many achievements of engineering, from GPS to surgical robots and beyond; Information Age, which traces 200 years of communication technologies from the nineteenth century to today; and Making the Modern World, a gallery home to approximately 150 of the museum’s most prized objects and artifacts like historic space suits, satellites, and the world’s oldest surviving steam locomotive.
Other highlights of a visit to the Science Museum include Wonderlab, where you can watch live science demonstrations and interact with a host of scientific phenomena; Power Up, which features 160 gaming consoles on which you can play some of the world’s most popular video games from the past 50 years; Flight, a fascinating gallery containing numerous historic aircrafts; and Mathematics, an exhibit that demonstrates how everyone from sales clerks to professional gamblers to garden designers utilize math in their work.
Another perennial favorite destination at the Science Museum is the IMAX theatre. The Science Museum shows a range of productions here, including Hollywood blockbusters, acclaimed documentaries, and films on such topics as outer space, Antarctica, and the ocean floor, just to name a few. For screening times and ticket information, see the Science Museum’s official website in advance of your visit.
More to See and Do at the Science Museum
The many wonders of the Science Museum are spread out across seven floors of educational exhibits, interactive displays, and fun-filled galleries. Here are several more things to see and do during your visit.
*The Science Museum is so large, in fact, that certain galleries may close from time to time for one reason or another even as the majority of the museum remains open to the public. For more information on potential closures or holidays that might be scheduled to affect the attraction when you plan to visit, check out the Science Museum’s official website.
*Visitors hoping to enjoy a snack, meal, drink, or dessert during their visit to the Science Museum are in business. The Energy Café serves salads, sandwiches, cakes, and coffees; both in-house seating and to-go boxes are available. Shake Bar, specializing in custom-made milkshakes, is situated near the Wonderland exhibit. The Diner is a family-friendly pizzeria just steps from Power Up, while the Gallery Café and Basement Café are two more options for salads and sandwiches. The museum also contains two dedicated picnic areas perfect for those visitors who want to bring along their own food and drink.
*For many visitors, taking home a souvenir is part of the fun of a trip to the Science Museum. Those interested will be spoiled for choices, as the Science Museum sells all types of toys, books, games, accessories, clothes, homeware, science kits, and more.
*Thrill-seekers won’t want to miss the chance to experience the Science Museum’s flight simulator, which enables participants to feel as though they’re at the controls in the cockpit of a fighter jet.
*The Garden is a dedicated play area for children between the ages of three and six years old where your little ones can learn some science basics while exploring a delightful and interactive space.
Why the Science Museum Should Be on Your Must-See List
For sheer range of distinctive exhibits and interactive galleries, the Science Museum is tough to beat; it’s the sort of attraction where you could pop by just to catch a show at the IMAX theatre or devote the better part of an entire afternoon to exploring it room by room. Families with younger children will definitely want to spend some time here. What’s more, the Science Museum’s prominent location in London’s lovely Kensington neighborhood means that it’s also smack dab in the midst of other popular London attractions like the Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Palace, and the Design Museum.