Note: For the sake of clarity, I will be putting up 5 parts, with each part giving you a detailed description of each of the 5 museums as well as my personal experience and rating.
The city of London is known for its royal palaces, beautiful Victorian style buildings and rich ethnic diversity. The city is also home to some of the world’s most famous museums like the British museum, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum and the Natural History Museum, to name a few.
However, apart from these big shots, there are a few other unusual yet fascinating museums which lie camouflaged at street corners and within narrow cobblestone alleyways. These are some of the city’s hidden gems which most tourists and even some Londoners themselves aren’t aware of!
Well, if you are in London on a leisure trip and happen to be interested in the quirker side of things, then these are the top 5 museums that you must visit during your stay:
- The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine arts and UnNatural history
- Pollock’s Toy Museum
- The Clink Prison Museum
- God’s own Junkyard
- Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret
Some of the museums on this list also have attached cafes which serve the best food and drink!
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine arts and UnNatural history
Located on Mare street in the London borough of Hackney, this museum houses a collection of bizarre and seemingly insignificant treasures which caught the eye of its founder ‘Victor Wynd’ during his journey across the globe.
The quirkiness of this place is evident from the words scrawled on the door of its entrance: ‘Not a Brothel, No Prostitutes Live at this Address’, which definitely makes it easy to spot!
It is interesting to know that the significance of this sign is that it was put up outside the house of the late London artist ‘Sebastian Horsley’. Horsley was an eccentric person who was often known for his art and drug addiction. He died of a drug overdose on 17th June 2010. Some of his works have also been displayed in the ‘Horsley chamber’ at the museum.
The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 5pm to 10pm and has an entry fee of £8 with a free cup of tea offered upon request. However, the most convenient day to visit this museum would be on a Thursday, when a discounted entry fee of £2.50 is available from 5pm to 10pm.
The place is run by Viktor Wynd as well as the ‘Last Tuesday Society’, which is known to be one of the most lushest cocktail tapas bars in the city. The bar has a unique menu consisting of a wide range of unusual spirits such as ‘Absinthe’ as well as appetizers which can be enjoyed in the pleasant ambience of dim lighting and peppy music.
The place has an overall quirky vibe to it! Even the toilet is a mini gallery decorated with candles and has a sculpture of huge buttocks on the door! The museum is located in the basement and requires you to climb down a narrow spiral stairway. So, make sure to mind your head as you proceed!
The museum is divided into 4 different sections, with one of them (a display of African masks) being located upstairs. It houses a collection of the strangest and most bizarre artefacts that you could ever imagine! Ranging from grotesque mummified, shrunken human heads and dead piglets in bottles to a jar containing pop singer Amy Winehouse’s poo!! Unbelievable isn’t it?!
However, unlike other museums, no attempt has been made to classify and characterize the items on display. As quoted on their website: “The museum focuses on the pre-enlightenment origins of the museum as Wunderkabinett – a mirror to a world so suffused with miracles and beauty that any attempt at categorization is bound to fail.”
The collection also includes a wide range of occult books and symbols as well as taxidermied animals and animal heads hanging from the ceiling! Definitely not for the faint hearted!
However, as crazy as it may sound, the overall vibe of the place is pleasant and you can literally hear the peppy music playing upstairs! So you definitely wouldn’t freak out spending time all by yourself in the basement with a dozen glassy doll eyes staring right through your soul!
They also have a life sized chocolate Pamela Anderson and Paul Robeson unification cake on display in a glass case with japanese spider crab and isopod skeletons placed on them! (in the figures below) How much weirder can things get?
The museum also has a lion room which holds a long glass table containing a 19th century human skeleton facing a caged lion skeleton. The walls of the room are adorned by several erotic paintings including a Mervyn Peake painting. It is often open for private dinners and can seat upto 10 people.
Moreover, several interesting events such as talks, guided tours and taxidermy classes are offered at the museum on specific days.
It was a small museum, but I literally spent more than 2 hours in the basement going through every object in great detail. What fascinated me the most was the idea of the museum being a Wunderkabinett, which it most certainly was.
I figured that the very nature in which objects that had little or no relation to each other were kept together was symbolic of the way a string of unconnected thoughts are generated by the human brain. The fact that one thought often connects to the other, despite the understanding that these thoughts, when looked upon superficially could in no way seem to have a relation to each other is mindblowing and becomes a thought in itself!
This is purely my personal interpretation. However, the scatter of objects in the museum may be understood in different ways by different people.
Since I am the type of person who is drawn to all things dark and mysterious, I was especially interested in the book of the occult and the various objects of magic.
I was also captivated by the sight of Pablo Escobar’s gold plated hippos from Africa! In a video, Viktor talks about how the Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist Escobar often illegally imported animals such as hippos from Africa and other parts of the world. When one of them died he had it plated in gold! One of Escobar’s gold plated hippo now lies in a glass cabinet in the museum of curiosities and is said to be worth more than £20,000!
I was also shocked when I saw the packets of condoms and viagra which were known to have been collected from a hotel room where the ‘Rolling Stones’ once stayed!
The museum has a lot more stuff, all of which is far from normal! I would literally need to turn this blog into a novel to provide a description of every tiny treasure that I spotted in there!
After spending a solid 2.5 hours in the basement, I decided to treat myself to a cocktail upstairs. The food and drink seemed quite pricey, given that they had some exotic items on the menu, which also included ‘scorpions’!
This bar is also one of the few bars in the city to serve ‘Absinthe’ which is known to be one of the most potent alcoholic beverages in the world! This drink is strong enough to make you hallucinate and can even kill you if consumed in large amounts!
On a scale of 1-5, I would rate the museum a solid 5/5 for its uniqueness and the food at The Last Tuesday Society a 4.5/5 since I personally felt that the menu was quite overpriced.
A big ‘NO’! The museum is definitely 18+ and NOT suitable for kids, simply because of the fact that it contains erotica and a wide variety of sexual images and objects.
Couple and Group friendly?
A big YES! The museum and the bar is suitable for couples and groups who are looking forward to celebrating their special day, or just hanging around and looking for a place to chill out!
As we approach the end of this blog, all I would like to say is that :
As gory as it may sound, this museum lets you escape the hustle of the city and welcomes you into the curious world of ancient wonders! The lip-smacking food and drink will obviously have you coming back for more! Needless to say, this place is definitely worth a visit!
Thanks for Reading! I hope you enjoyed this blog! Please share and leave your thoughts in the comment section below!