Culture Vultures: Top 10 best museums in the UK
We’ve all been there: museum trips consisting of soggy macs and even soggier sandwiches, but not today! There are loads of mind-bending museums across the UK just waiting to be explored, with all sorts to expand little minds. Think living museums, animatronic T-Rexs or even dropping deep into a mineshaft - plus a lot of them are free.
So without further ado, check out our best museums in the UK and plan your next educational outing, rainy or otherwise.
National Space Centre, LeicestershireSuit up and step into the unknown, at the National Space Centre. Six interactive galleries take you on a quest through the museum’s lunar base, past alien autopsies (eek!) and on a wild ride into the solar system aboard 3D simulators. Your mission will then lead you right up to the iconic rocket tower; at 42m high, it’s a spectacle and houses actual spacecrafts and moon rock, as well as the Apollo Lunar Lander. It’s the perfect day out for anyone who ever dreamt of becoming an astronaut.
Best for: Watching a 360º show in Sir Patrick Moore’s Planetarium - one of the largest in the UK!
The Story Museum, OxfordshireBookworms are always welcome at The Story Museum. This hidden gem is home to literature's most beloved characters, and their worlds are recreated in incredible detail. Drop down a rabbit hole and take a seat at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, or push through the back of the wardrobe and into the snowy woods of Narnia. Kids can even dress up, choose a crazy title and take their rightful place on a gilded throne. If you’ve ever had trouble getting your mini monsters to pick up a book, this museum is the ultimate antidote.
Best for: Dressing up! The red carpet and throne really let kids play the part.
Roman Baths and Museum, SomersetBathtime with kids can be a challenge, but not at the Roman Baths and Museum! They’ll be desperate for a dunk when they see what their ancestors built with a grand temple and bathing complex, as well as natural springs and freezing plunge pools. While you won’t actually get in, Roman characters will guide you around the museum with insider tales of this ancient spot. Just don’t miss one of the amazing reconstructions where life way back when is recreated with projections, CGI and soundscapes.
Best for: Making history lessons fun - little centurions will love this slice of the ancient world.
Black Country Living Museum, West MidlandsTime travel is real - almost - at the Black Country Living Museum. This living museum opens a door to the last century of industrial history with proper period shops and costumed characters, a smithy, and even an old-timey fairground. You could hitch a ride on a vintage tram or take part in Edwardian school lessons - that is before tucking into a portion of 1930s fish and chips. Yum! Live demonstrations and the fact that this is one of the largest open-air museums in the UK make it totally immersive.
Best for: Costumed characters: the resident cast do a fantastic job.
York's Chocolate Story, North YorkshireOne word: chocolate! With the promise of interactive confectionary making, guided tours and plenty of samples, who could resist a visit to York’s Chocolate Story? It brings a whole new twist to your typical museum with tasty treats in place of fossils and parchment. In fact, the city of York was built on the sweet stuff so you’ll learn all about its 300-year history and how it’s made, while saving time for a family fondue at the end of your visit.
Best for: Tucking into the exhibits! Chocoholics will be very happy.
Glasgow Riverside Museum, Glasgow and StrathclydeThe Glasgow Riverside Museum serves up classic museum fare with a massive 3,000 objects, from paintings and skateboards to locomotives and loads more. Kids can have a nosy at armour dating as far back as 1440 or follow the Global Treasure Hunt through 150 interactive exhibits; just be sure to pay a visit to their very own Stormtrooper. He’s a life-size replica from the original costumes used in A New Hope, as well as being the ultimate selfie opportunity.
Best for: Interactive activities. Kids can even help save the day on a real-life fire engine.
National Football Museum, Greater ManchesterFooty fans may just have found their forever home at the National Football Museum. Whatever team you support it’s a brilliant way to experience the beautiful game with a Hall of Fame for the greats and all sorts of interactive action. Hold the grand trophy above your head or host your very own segment on Match of the Day; simulators will then throw you into a penalty shoot-out and everyone can test their skills fending off flying balls in goal. All in all, it’s a real game changer.
Best for: Packing in action with goal shoot-outs and sporty simulators.
Big Pit National Coal Museum, BlaenavonTake a trip into the deep, dark depths of the mine at the Big Pit National Coal Museum. Coal may not have been your first port of call for family fun but trust us - kids can marvel at the enormous devices used to scoop earth or team up on an activity trail, all before taking on the museum’s world-famous underground tour. Drop 90 metres underground (!) and with hard helmet firmly in place, discover the subterranean world of mining where bangs, crashes and flashes are sure to thrill.
Best for: Going on an underground adventure! 90 metres underground to be precise.
Jurassic Journey, East AngliaPut the bite back into learning at Jurassic Journey, where scales and tails make this museum a winner with kids. You’ll join forces with Professor PossilFossil on the trail for prehistoric - and in some cases, animatronic - beasts and discover some pretty roar-some facts about these monstrous creatures, as well as panning for fossils or handling genuine artefacts - including dino poo! Finally, test your knowledge with a specialist quiz before journeying back to the modern day.
Best for: Bringing history to life, literally, with animatronic exhibits.
The Natural History Museum, Greater LondonLet’s end with a bang! The Natural History Museum is an iconic London museum for more reasons than we could ever list: 80 million fossils, plants and animals spanning billions of years might be a good start though, as well as a journey through a suspended globe or spying their resident giant squid. If your brood are curious about the world around them, this is an adventure like no other; they can begin to get a grip on human evolution or take a dive into the ocean, all with the help of cutting-edge research.
Best for: Meeting their world-famous, 25-metre blue whale skeleton. You can’t miss him!
Looking for even more museums in the UK? Find one near you using the links below!
London Museums | Birmingham Museums | Oxford Museums | York Museums | Leeds Museums | Yorkshire Museums | Brighton Museums | Glasgow Museums | Milton Keynes Museums | Cambridge Museums | Manchester Museums | Newcastle Museums