When it comes to defining features of London there is one common theme that runs deep – transport.
New York has its yellow taxis, Venice has its gondolas and London has its black cabs and red buses. For years, people from all over the world have come to the English capital to jump on one of these famous modes of transport. This is not forgetting the Tube network which has been the backbone of the city since 1863.
Many Londoners may take these aspects for granted but for tourists it can be worth a picture for the collection. The famous London bus has undergone a huge transformation over the years but the latest version of the Routemaster includes a rear entrance complete with pole to give it that authentic feel.
Like the London taxi, they have become famous in their own right with visitors knowing that their British driver will be able to have the entire map of London memorised. It is small aspects such as this that makes London one of the most popular destinations on the planet and why millions flock there every year.
Since 1980, the London Transport Museum has been celebrating the various vehicles that patrol the capital's streets on a daily basis. The museum aims to converse and explain the transport heritage of the city and is a huge favourite with tourists and locals alike. So if you're in London, the museum is an absolute must.
So what is there to know about the London Transport Museum? Here is our in-depth guide to this popular attraction.
About the museum
Opening its doors in 1980, the London Transport Museum charts the history of public transport and other vehicles that have populated the capital in the past 200 years. It highlights the key link between transport and the growth of modern London culture and society since 1800. Everything from the humble black cab to the numerous trains that serviced the likes of King's Cross and Waterloo are on show here.
It is not just a case of taking a walk down memory lane, the museum also looks at developments in present-day transport. Whether this is the urban transformations that have been going on in recent years to the government-led projects such as HS2, HS3 and Crossrail, the latter of which is designed to improve travel across London.
The collection of vehicles currently displayed by the museum originates from the 1920s when the London General Omnibus Company decided it would preserve two Victorian horse buses and an early motorbus. The first Museum of British Transport opened its doors in the 1960s in an old bus garage in Clapham, south London.
As it grew in popularity by 1973, the museum was on the move once again when it relocated to the west London area of Syon Park where it was renamed as the London Transport Collection. In 1980, it moved once again, this time to the Victorian Flower Market building in Covent Garden and assumed the name London Transport Museum. It has been here ever since.
Over the years it has grown hugely popular with visitors coming from all over the world to marvel at some of the great vehicles that have been regularly used in London.
What to expect
The London Transport Museum has a huge range of famous vehicles that are mainstays of the attraction but there is also the added bonus of temporary exhibitions. Launching on April 19th is the 'Goodbye Piccadilly: From Home Front to Western Front' which explains how transport played a key role in war effort.
It tells the untold story of the role of London's Home Front during World War I. Whether it be drivers taking their buses to the Front to support British troops heading abroad to fight or how women were advanced in the transport workforce for the first time while war raged. Goodbye Piccadilly paints a picture of Britain at wartime.
There are a number of vehicles set to be on display from this era. For the first time the 'Ole' Bill', a 1911 B-type bus No. B43, will be shown at the museum thanks to a partnership with the Imperial War Museum. There will also be a host of wartime artefacts which document Britain's transport role when it came to fighting the war.
Over the next couple of months, there are a number of temporary art displays which all carry a transport theme, including a retro look at the displays which would once don the walls of train and bus stations in the capital.
Opening times and prices
Opening times at the museum differ throughout the week for the different exhibitions. For the museum galleries, between Monday and Thursday, Saturday and Sunday it opens its doors at 10:00 BST and closes at 18:00 BST with the last entry being at 17:15 BST . However, on Fridays it opens at the slightly later time of 11:00 BST but retains that closing time.
The museum shop is open Sunday to Tuesday (10:00 to 18:30), Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday (10:00 to 19:00) and Friday (11:00 to 19:00). For the Upper Deck cafe bar, this opens its doors on Sunday to Tuesday (10:00 to 18:30), Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday (10:00 to 19:00) and Fridays (11:00 to 19:00).
Individual tickets are priced at £16 for adults and £13.50 for concessions (senior citizens, students with a valid ID card and those in receipt of state benefit assistance). Each individual ticket allows you unlimited admission to the museum for a 12-month period from the date of purchase.
If you are travelling with ten or more people then you can purchase a group ticket which will reduce the price to £11.50 for adults and £10 for concessions. However, this ticket can only be used on the day of purchase.
You can also buy fast-track tickets which will help you beat the queues at this popular tourist attraction.
How to get to London Transport Museum
Situated in the heart of Covent Garden, the London Transport Museum is fairly accessible by the Tube, as you would expect. Hop on the Piccadilly line and get off at Covent Garden Underground station and the museum is only a short walk from here. Depending on which direction you are coming from you can also use Leicester Square, Holborn, Embankment or Charing Cross.
If travelling by bus use the RV1, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23 or 139 services and alight at Strand or Aldwych. These stops are just a stone's throw from the museum. If you're feeling a little more adventurous you can take the Thames Clipper boat route and get off at Embankment Pier which is just a ten-minute walk from the museum.
You can of course drive to the museum but it is advisable to just use the multiple transport links in the city. However, if you need to drive there are a limited number of parking spaces available near the museum and charge £4.40 an hour with a maximum stay of around four hours.
Grab a memento of the day
You can't leave the London Transport Museum without grabbing yourself a souvenir of the day. The museum has you covered with a variety of gifts and mementos of your visit to this piece of London history.
Situated in what was once the entrance to Covent Garden's Victorian flower market, the stylish gift shop has a range of designer gifts, books, toys, limited edition models, furniture and exclusive moquette accessories. Among the most popular items are iconic posters which chart the history of transport design.
The museum boasts an incredible array of posters with one of the largest archives in the world. Over 5,000 posters and 700 original poster artworks are housed in this Covent Garden attraction featuring shots taken from when the London Underground was first in operation. There are also some done by world famous artists and designers
Purchasing one of these prints could be a real treasure to frame and place on the wall back home.
Things to do around the London Transport Museum
Since its move to Covent Garden, the London Transport Museum has become an all-day event with an abundance of things to do around it. Covent Garden boasts some of the best restaurants and bars London has to offer and all within a short walk of the museum itself. Base yourself at the Underground station and there is so much to see and do.
Fancy taking in a show after a day at the museum? Well, the London Royal Opera House is only a stone's throw away and listings can be found on its website. How about unwinding with a spot of retail therapy? Well, you're in luck as Covent Garden has a multitude of high street and designer outlets to suit all your shopping needs.
Whether you want a sit-down meal or something to snack on while on the go, then you can not go wrong in the huge amount of restaurants that populate Covent Garden. You can also stay up long into the night at one of the many late licence bars catering to all your needs.
At the end of the night you can jump on the Tube to wherever you are staying as Covent Garden's Underground station provides key links to the rest of the capital. You can then relax at any one of the London boutique hotels you have booked for yourself.
If you are thinking of activities to do in London make sure the London Transport Museum is at the very top of the list, it is an attraction simply not to be missed.