Located in London’s bustling Convent Garden and housed in the famous Flower Market Building, the London Transport Museum is a must-see for anyone with an interest in the history of our capital city and its transportation dating back to the early 1900s.
The London Transport Museum
Having frequented Covent Garden over the years, I’ve always passed this unassuming museum in the corner of the Piazza. It’s only since having Monkey – who is obsessed with trains, cars, buses and vehicles of any description – did I think it would be worth a visit. And what better way to celebrate his birthday than to let him drive a real London bus and a tube train simulator!
Children under 17 get in for free, while adults pay £16 and get an annual membership pass which allows them to come an unlimited number of times throughout the year.
What to see at The London Transport Museum
The London Transport Museum is split into several galleries – beginning with 19th century London on the first floor. Monkey went straight up to all the interactive displays and, as we were given a free stamper trail, we could follow the story told throughout. A great way for the kids to get involved.
It was fascinating looking at all the horse-drawn cabs and horse buses. The capital’s first licensed public transport was the sedan chair, an example of which is on show, but the beautiful horse-drawn omnibus, from 1805, and its painted, flower-bordered designs is what caught our attention.
It is astonishing to think of Londoners moving out to the ‘suburbs’ back in 1915 and the development of the Metropolitan Railway. We took a seat in a wooden Metropolitan coach – and it was surprisingly comfortable.
Heading downstairs, though, is where most of the action – as far as children are concerned – is. For Monkey, it was the huge range of vehicles from the first electric tram in 1901, the trolly buses of the 1930s and the more modern Route Masters which we see on London’s roads today, that got him giddy with excitement.
For us, it was the Design Exhibit that captivated. Frank Pick changed the face of London’s public transport through progressive design. He saw this as essential to being ‘fit for purpose’. The Underground’s design legacy includes London iconic bar and circle logo. My favourite part was learning more about Harry Beck’s original tube map – and seeing how it developed over the century to what we use today.
The highlight for Monkey was being able to sit in the cabin of the bus and pretend to drive it. But that wasn’t all for him. The museum also has a Northern Line simulator whereby children (and grown-ups!) can guide the train through the tunnels. On both occasions, it was difficult getting him to give up his turn as a queue steadily began to form…
London Transport Museum’s Family Playzone
But that’s not all. The London Transport Museum also has a family playzone which is open to children up the ages of 7, with a separate section dedicated to younger visitors that is filled with an interactive wall and building blocks. For Monkey though, he loved driving the black cab and repairing the Thames Nipper. He also joined in with other children in the ‘lost property’ area. There’s a whole host of mini-fleet vehicles which are available for children to drive and board, as well as dress up uniforms. For the parents – plenty of comfy seating to watch the children play.
Monkey was in vehicle heaven – the museum has made it enjoyable for little ones of all ages from the playzones and displays, to the opportunities to go onboard several different modes of transport.
The museum wasn’t busy, either, and we visited on a weekend. We didn’t have to queue and had plenty of time and space to peruse each exhibit. And, with step-free access throughout, buggy parking, a café and changing facilities, families are made to feel very welcome. The museum store also provides a great selection of toys and transport memorabilia. We couldn’t leave without buying Monkey a keepsake – and not surprisingly he opted for a London bus!