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As I write this post, the conversion from pound to US dollar is 1.58!  With that conversion, living in London can be pretty steep.  Mr. Selfish and I have accordingly become very fond of the museums since the vast majority of them are free.

We went to eight museums during our time in London.  This post will review the four larger museums we visited – the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Natural History Museum, and the Tate Modern.  Part 2 will review the four smaller museums that Mr. Selfish and I visited during our stay.

1.  The British Museum – Established in 1753, this museum focuses on human history and culture.  It contains over 8 million items in its permanent collection.  Mr. Selfish and I personally enjoy the Egyptian and Asian permanent exhibits.  We also visited the temporary Picasso exhibit, which contained over 100 etchings by Picasso.

It is always worthwhile to visit the British Museum.  Mr. Selfish and I have been here separately and together on a number of occasions.  The only downside is that it can get pretty swamped by tourists, especially the Egyptian exhibits.  I would recommend not visiting the British Museum on the weekends but going during the weekday.

2.  National Portrait Gallery – Opening in 1856,  it was the first portrait gallery in the world.  It contains a collection of portraits of historically important and famous British people.  The museum contains modern portraits, as well as the portraits of the past monarchs and royalty.  It was fun reading about all of the royal family drama.

It was different to visit a museum that focused solely on portraits.  Mr. Selfish and I also went to the National Gallery but that was a little overwhelming.  I think that the National Portrait Gallery is a much more manageable size and contains a stunning collection of art.

3.  Natural History Museum – This museum contains an impressive 700000 million life and earth science specimens.  We made the mistake of visiting this museum on a Saturday.  Although there were some interesting exhibits, the massive crowd and the tunneling design of the museum did not make for an enjoyable experience.  In particular, the dinosaur exhibit forces everyone above the actual dinosaur exhibit on a high platform.  Because the actual exhibit is below, the crowd is slow moving even though you can’t read anything from the platform.  Plus, the T-Rex replica at the end of the tunnel forces the crowd to a standstill as everyone wants to take a photograph of it.

Nevertheless, this museum is quite educational and would be tons of fun for children.  I would only recommend avoiding it during the weekend, especially weekends during the Olympics!

4.  Tate Modern – Mr. Selfish and I generally do not have an appreciation for modern art.  We nevertheless decided to give the Tate Modern a try since it came so highly recommended.

Surprisingly, Mr. Selfish and I enjoyed bits of this museum.  I’ve always like Picasso, and Mr. Selfish took to the anti-Nazi war art.  I would recommend this museum to modern art lovers and even those, like us, who are a bit skeptical.  There were a couple of pieces of “art” that were questionable (as Mondrian is want to be) but overall, the Tate Modern is a good museum.

In Part 2 of this series, I’ll go over the Wallace Collection, the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, the Hunterian Museum, and the British Library.