Fancy getting to grips with some archaic surgical instruments or breezing your way through a collection of vintage fans? Of course you do. Amy Dawson rounds up some of the most brilliantly bizarre museums in London.
Your imagination (and a certain disregard for total historical accuracy) is required at this ‘still life drama’, created by American eccentric Dennis Severs. In a series of tableaus, arranged as if the occupants have literally just upped and left, this Spitalfields townhouse tells the story of a fictional family of Huguenot silk weavers. (And why not, eh?) Each room brings to life a different period in history, from 1725 to 1919, complete with scene-setting smells and noises.
Spitalfields | Mon, Wed and Fri 5-8pm | £15.
Poke your way round the family home of Sigmund Freud, the Godfather of psychoanalysis, who fled from Nazi-occupied Vienna with his family in 1938. Features include his huge collection of antiquities, writing desk, and – of course – that unbelievably famous couch, draped in a richly patterned throw. The whole place gives a quirky, humanising insight into an intellectual colossus.
Hampstead | Wed – Sun 12pm-5pm | Free-£9.
Transport yourself – not literally, luckily – back to a time of leaches, sawdust surgery floors and pre-anaesthetic amputations at this small but fascinating museum, housed in the attic of an 18th Century church. It’s the oldest surviving surgical theatre in Europe, and accessed via a narrow spiral staircase. The ultra atmospheric space frequently hosts mock Victorian surgery demonstrations, and even gigs.
London Bridge | Mon 2pm-5pm, Tue – Sun 10.30am-5pm | £3.50-£6.50.
Housed in an old Fitzrovia building and run as a family business, this museum is packed to the (slightly ramshackle) rafters with curious and colourful old toys – puppets, painted theatres, toy soldiers and more. By turns nostalgic and slightly unsettling – all those dolls can’t help being a bit creepy – it’s a quirky little alternative to the (brilliant) V&A Museum of Childhood. Bring your smallest family members to marvel – or yawn – at a life before iPads.
Fitzrovia | Mon – Sat 10am – 5pm | £4-£7.
Housed in a listed Georgian townhouse and a stone’s throw from the Cutty Sark and the Greenwich riverside, this niche collection of fans is full of surprises, from a fan designed by Salvador Dali to feathery Art Nouveau beauties. There’s also a pretty Orangery covered in murals, which is a good spot for afternoon tea if you’re feeling fancy.
Greenwich | Tue – Sat 11am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm | £3-£5.
Totally enthralling, but not for the faint-hearted, this teaching collection of 68,000 zoological specimens is a warren of skeletons, taxidermy and specimens preserved in fluids. Many of the items are extremely rare and precious. There are bisected heads, dodo bones and the skeleton of a quagga – the zebra subspecies which died out in the 19th Century, and became the first extinct animal to have its DNA analysed in 1984.
Bloomsbury | Mon to Sat 1pm-5pm | Free.
In the 1860s, artist Frederic Leighton commissioned this red brick house in Holland Park. He filled it with Pre-Raphaelite artwork (including many of his own paintings), decorated it in dazzling style and filled it with the opulent treasures he had collected across the globe – residing all the while in a rather plain, single bedroom. Come for some seriously maximalist interiors.
Kensington | Weds to Mon 10am-5.30pm. | Free-£9.