Article published in Hindustan Times Next) London truly is one of the most expensive cities in the world and visiting touristy places generally comes at a steep ticket price. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do almost free of cost. The city houses many famous art galleries and museums that are packed with vast and awe inspiring collections of artifacts from around the world. I must confess that as much as I enjoy other cultural activities such as theatre, I used to associate museums and galleries as places for solitary visits. However, I have discovered that on-going events for adults and interactive activities for children make these attractive day-out options for families, especially on days when the weather is not conducive for outdoor pursuits.
The Natural History museum located in the heart of Central London is one such place where you can spend hours exploring the objects on display. The museum is home to more than 80 million organisms from across the world but it is most famous for its dinosaur collection. A combination of real skeletons, fossils, live models of roaring dinosaurs and videos on digital screens convey information about the lives of the dinosaurs and the times they lived in, and make the experience exciting for children and grown-ups alike. Another eye catching spot in the museum is a life-size model of the massive blue whale. The almost 30 metres long replica stretches across the hall, almost the size of a football court. Replicas of a few other large animals placed in front of the blue whale puts its size in perspective and you stare in disbelief when an elephant looks insignificant in front of this enormous mammal. Besides the replicas, the museum also has dedicated areas where children can get a hands-on experience of investigating the specimens.
Another equally fascinating public place in London is the National Gallery located in the iconic Trafalgar Square. It is estimated that the world’s 2300 best paintings are displayed here and it is amazing how easily accessible this has been made to the public. There are free guided tours led by art experts who provide an overview of the gallery’s collection and discusses a few paintings in greater detail. I have attended one such tour in the past and found it insightful to hear about the meaning of each painting, how it reflected about the times it was produced in and how the artist’s background influenced the work. To inculcate an interest in the art among children in a fun way, there are plenty of options for children of all ages – from story telling sessions to art workshops and specific walking tours designed for families.
With so many dedicated activities on offer at zero cost, it is no wonder that London’s museums and galleries attract millions of visitors every year.