How to make the most of the Science Museum, London
When making the most out of the Science Museum in London, you’d have to spare at least 2 hours to cover the whole museum. Like the Natural History Museum and the British Museum, the Science Museum can be tiring. Below, is an insider’s guide on what to see and do when you get there and recommended visiting time.
What can you see at the Science Museum in London?
There are many things to see at the Science Museum in London. The Science Museum is broken down into departments. Even though there are 5 floors in the Science Museum, there are so many things to discover.
Here is what you can see:
Making of the Modern World
Watch the IMAX 3D Cinema
Our Future Planet
Who Am I?
The Clockmakers’ Museum
Brass, Steel and Fire
(Unfortunately, the second floor is closed due to refurbishment)
Engineer your Future
And of course, Science Museum Shop which you can visit at the end of your tour. In the Science Museum Shop, you can buy scientific toys for all ages, books such as the Encyclopaedia, storybooks for pre-schoolers, robots, t-shirts, keyrings, and many more.
How long do you need at the Science Museum?
Spend at least 2 hours if you’re short of time. To cover the whole museum, it can take around 3 – 4 hours here covering the whole museum. Plan well and you’ll get the chance to visit the Natural History Museum and the V&A Museum next to each other.
My experience at the Science Museum
Like the Natural History Museum, you’d have to book your entry time slot on their website. The admission is also free, and it’s advisable to book 2 hours before or after the Natural History Museum. You won’t have time to cover everything if you’re short of time, but since it’s next to the Natural History Museum, 2 – 3 hours before or ahead of booking the Natural History Museum is more practical. You can also book the Victoria and Albert Museum on the same day for the remaining 2 – 3 hours of your time.
There were around 10 people in line before me, and we didn’t really have to line up long. There is an optional bag search, and when you booked your ticket online, you should have got an email containing the e-ticket. You scan your QR code on the ticket machine, and you’re all set to go.
When you step into the Energy Hall, you’ll be taken back in time to the 18th Century, and you’ll learn more about steam engines and the inventor James Watt. These steam engines had been a lifesaver during the Industrial Revolution and as Brits, we were quite wealthy.
As I stepped inside the Energy Hall, there was four gigantic steel machinery. Start reading number one to the last number in the hall and you’ll learn how steam engines were used to transport farm items, and the engines to make natural resources on land as opposed to using horses and carriages. Apart from some smaller to mid-sized machinery, you’ll realise the sheer size of some of these machinery when you see it in real life than from some old photos. I couldn’t imagine the stamina these peasants had to go through to make sure they get the outcome they needed for their crops.
At the end of the hall, you’ll find out more about James Watt himself, and the tools he and his fellow inventors used to make this happen.
Once you’ve finished learning about the rise of steam engines, you’ll be taken to a dark room, and you’ll hear sci-fi music in the background. Sit in the middle of a dark room with other people, and see an illuminous sphere of what looks like a globe spinning around in circles. Listen to the narrator talk about the beginning of time, and our planets in the solar system. You’ll see a gigantic rocket in the ceiling and several rocket ships taking you to space. It’s bigger than I thought.
Making the Modern World
In this bright side of the area, you’ll learn about how we used to live and how our lives changed because of technology. Like the rest of the area in the Science Museum, it’s still as noisy as ever with small kids talking and shouting. In this room, you’ll find out what materials were made using the tools that were available back then. Going back to the mid-1700s to the millennium, you’ll discover transportation that used to carry natural resources such as coals, wood, and other minerals. You’ll also see private transportation, when it was first invented around 200 years ago, as well as aircraft, trains, horse and carriage, as well as musical instruments, chinaware, and the old spinning wheel to make thread and wool. There are more collections here than there are in Exploring Space and Energy Hall. You’ll also see a gigantic hanging aircraft made in the 1800s and a selection of colourful cars made in the 60s. There is an upstairs area, but that’s the Medicine Department.
Feel free to visit upstairs if you like, but before you head there, see a gigantic aircraft that was made for a 7-year mission to go to Mercury. Introduced in 2018, its purpose was to research Mercury’s surface and its materials. It’s still under research, but looking at the spacecraft, it’s bigger than what I imagined.
This area is also where you can watch a documentary in the IMAX Cinema. The exhibitions here can be in demand, so book your slot in advance or if you’re lucky, you can buy your ticket at the ticket office. Although it’s not free, you’ll learn a lot about nature and science.
Our Future Planet
When we’re thinking about our future of our planet, we think about healing the world. In this department, you’ll learn about how carbon dioxide is polluting the earth. We know that human activities such as deforestation, the production of coal, and decomposition releases carbon dioxide and too much of it can affect the way we live. We need to prevent that from happening, and here, you’ll find out more about carbon dioxide, and how we can prevent climate change. From car pollution, factories and other natural resources, scientists are finding ways in which to reduce or sustain carbon dioxide, so we have a better future ahead of us. Learn more about the mechanical tree, which absorbs carbon dioxide and other tools to prevent pollution in our planet. You can also watch a video about how we can save the planet as well as interactive videos and games children can play with.
Who Am I?
Have you thought about who you are inside? The way we behave, the way we look, our genes, our personality, and our thought process? Well, you can find out more about yourselves here in the “Who am I?” section.
In this room, the first thing you’ll notice is a gigantic screen asking you questions. “Am I intelligent?” “Am I old?” “Am I happy?” The room is dark, you’ll see silhouettes of people finding out about who they were, children on interactive video pods finding out about their personality, and their family. There are many objects ranging from tools used when planning for a baby using IVF, tools to find out about your DNA, and whether the dead can tell tales according to our DNA using materials from a skeleton.
Further up, you’ll see many different types of toys from dolls, cigarettes, computers and many more. This glass case will find out why we change our interests and hobbies when we get older. Find out why we keep and lose our memories using DNA and science, as well as looking at our genes from our parents. Have you thought about why we fear certain objects, our phobias of spiders, buttons, and snakes?
Engineering our Future
The third floor is the last floor on the tour. In this dark room, you’ll find out more about engineering. You’ll learn more about why science and maths are crucial to shape your future. There are photos of students and their occupation telling us how they’ve helped change the way we live for the better.
There are so many children from 11+ years playing interactive games, finding out where they want to be in the future. The interactive games proved to be educational since they enjoyed themselves, there was a long line of kids taking their turns on these games. I’m not a big fan of engineering, but if you’re an engineer buff, this department is for you.
At this point, I was already tired of walking around the museum, but I was tempted to see more about the medicine department, the last department on this tour. Another half an hour to an hour wouldn’t hurt.
The Medicine department feels peaceful than the Who am I section. I liked it here. The room feels less claustrophobic than the rest. A giant statue of a man stood in the middle of the room, and it’s the first thing that catches your eyes. On your left, you’ll notice five models of a human body in a glass case dating back to the 18th Century. These models were used to help students with their Medicine degree and to learn more about what lies beneath the skin and how to dissect. Considering that it’s been built in the 1700s, it looked good quality to work with.
In a glass case by the wall, you’ll see a large steel coffin, and in this large coffin used to lay the dead. During the 18th Century, schools of anatomy would need hundreds of dead bodies to dissect, and they were carried out on criminals. Later, dead bodies were stolen from their graves, and the ‘grave-robbers’ which they were known, would murder people until 1832, which by then, introduced the 1832 Anatomy Act where students were allowed to dissect the poor as a repayment of the charity that they received when they were alive.
Aside from grave robberies, you’ll learn more about dissection and childbirth between the 18th – 19th Century, the tools used to dissect women and men, the tools used for urine samples between the 18th – 19th Century to the present day, the development of the operating table, how they measured blood, the models of people’s brains and how it measured their intelligence, hospital beds, the introduction and development of the NHS, and an old booklet containing information on fees for hospitals before the introduction of the NHS.
2 of At the end of the room, step inside a small room, and feel how the mentally ill were tossed in this room without food and drink. Listen to a real life mental patient talking about their experience as they were thrown into this room. When I was in there, I didn’t feel claustrophobic or feel any type of tension, but I can imagine it must have been torture for them.
Further on, step inside a replica of a 19th Century chemist. The room is small and dark, and you’ll see a replica of how people bought medicines, and the tools used to produce pills. You can also see what the bottles of prescriptions look like back in the Victorian times.
At the end of the hall, you’ll see many spiritual Gods influenced from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Here, you’ll discover how people relied heavily on spiritualism and religion to improve their health.
That’s it guys, this is where the tour ends, and I’ll be sure to review the second floor and the basement once it’s safe to do so. Aside from going to the V&As and the Natural History Museum before or after, check out 2 of the 8 Royal Parks of London, Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park to relax. If you’re visiting the museum on a Saturday, Portobello Road Market is buzzing with people scrounging for vintage, antiques and street food. It takes 20 minutes to get there by bus if you wait in front of Kensington Gardens. Holland Park is also a 20 minute bus ride, and a nice quiet park away from the hustle and bustle of museum life. If you have any questions, message me down below or contact me on Facebook. But for now, stay safe and take care!