Before you decide to be a Londoner, you have to prove you can do two things: complain about the weather, and complain about public transport. Whether your train was 3 minutes late or the person next to you on the bus was sneezing on you the whole ride, you have to practice being thoroughly unsatisfied with your journey at the risk of being found out as a foreigner (or a northerner, which is basically the same as a foreigner if you’re from the south).
In reality, London’s transport system is one of the oldest in the world and has also won multiple awards. The tube itself is the oldest underground railway, full stop, and London transport is far more efficient and reliable than many cities are used to. The London Transport Museum celebrates this history and innovation in public transport in its Covent Garden location.
The museum is divided into three floors. You start in the 1800s and work your way through the history of London transport, from riverboats to trolley buses to the first underground line to current trains to an imagined transportation future. To go into every detail of the museum and London’s history would take ages, but we spent a solid two hours there and could have spent two more.
Now, I unapologetically love museums and also have a fascination with public transportation after living in “if you don’t have a car, you’re out of luck” Florida my entire life, but I genuinely think the London Transport Museum is one of the best museums in the city. It strikes the perfect balance between “a bunch of boring historic items in glass cases” and “so many screens I could have just stayed home and watched a documentary.”
The result is a really engaging space where you can sit on old trains and listen to the conversations of the past, learn about the effects of pressure on the tube, and explore the designs of the past and future London Transport maps. My boyfriend and I enjoy museums differently: he likes to read all of the signs and captions and make sure he’s really absorbed all of the information, while I like to climb on every interactive display and watch the videos and hop from picture to picture. We both had plenty to keep us occupied.
Because of the “past to future” layout, it’s also a fun outing for anyone who enjoys history. The story of London is undeniably connected to its transport system. As the city grew, so did its train networks. Once the city was overcrowded, extensions of the tube began to encourage people to live outside of the city and the London suburbs were born. The tube stations also acted as shelters in WWI & II and the museum has tons of old posters and photographs from that period.
If you have children (or have the attention span of a child), the museum has plenty of spaces for kids to play and many of the exhibits are kid-friendly. There’s also a giant gift shop with plenty of options because obviously your dad needs a pair of socks with the Northern Line sign on them. OBVIOUSLY.
The only downside is the price. At 16 pounds per adult and 13.50 pounds per student, it’s significantly more expensive than the free museums we are spoiled with in London. However, your day pass will get you in for the rest of the year for free if you’d like to visit again, so that’s a perk. Also anyone under 18 goes completely free, so it could definitely be a good value for a family day out.
The final room in the museum before you leave is one of the future and shows the ways we may travel as human progress continues.
There’s also a nifty quote to remind us that time marches on and that innovation should never stop. Can you say most inspirational museum exit ever. I left with a new passion for building ALL THE HOVERBOARDS and will not stop until my flat is connected by air-rail to America.
Well, actually, I might settle for air-conditioning on every tube line. Let’s start small.
The London Transport Museum provided me with a free ticket, but the review is entirely my own opinion and this post is not sponsored. I just really love public transportation, what can I say.