How to Save on London Museum Visits

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Although visiting London can leave quite the dent in the bank account, one of the major perks about this incredible city is the plethora of free museums! The city clearly places value on the arts, which as a performing arts major, I greatly appreciate (I wish we had more access to free museums in the States, but oh well I’ll just have to keep dreaming.) I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite spots to visit whilst in the city to get exposed to the diverse range of galleries and exhibits London has to offer without adding an extra cost to your visit! I’ve divided them up by location in the city to hopefully make travel plans a bit easier, so here they are….

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1. The National Gallery

Located in Trafalgar Square, is a must see for anyone visiting London. It offers an array of paintings from as early as the thirteenth century! It is here that you’ll find the famous Arnolfini Portrait (gracing the pages of many history textbooks) as well as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. The free admission makes it a staple for both art enthusiasts as well as anyone looking to gain some insight into the classical works of Western Europe, or even a peaceful afternoon stroll away from the hustle and bustle of city life. During my time in London, I found myself wandering in here to gain some culture, and view a portion of the museum that I may have overlooked during previous visits. I even stumbled across the Joseph Wright painting “An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump” which served as inspiration for the Shelagh Stephenson play of a similar title! The museum is open daily from 10am-6pm with extended hours on Friday till 9pm.

Tube Stop: Charing Cross (Served by the Bakerloo and Northern Lines)


2. The National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is just around the corner from its relative, and just like the name implies, houses the  portraits of several important and famous people throughout history. This museum displays the collection of Tudor portraits, as well as paintings of the current Royal Family. If time isn’t a luxury on your visit, this is a perfect museum to pop into because it doesn’t take long to see the free exhibits! The museum is open to the public from 10am-6pm which is plenty of time to make it through the entire building.

Tube Stop: Charing Cross (Served by the Bakerloo and Northern Lines)


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3. Somerset House Exhibits

Somerset House offers a lovely area to simply grab a cup of coffee or tea at one of it’s cafes, and in addition to the permanent galleries that cost money for admission, often houses rotating free exhibitions. On my past visit to London, they had a fabulous photography display examining waste around the world. Currently on display for free admission are the AOI Illustration Awards Exhibition located in the Terrace Rooms until November 1st and the Marc Quinn Sculptures gracing the Fountain Court.

Tube Stop: Charing Cross (Served by the Bakerloo and Northern Lines) Temple (Served by the Circle and District Line) or Covent Garden (Served by the Piccadilly Line)


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4. The Hunterian Museum

This gem is hidden in a quaint square surrounding Lincoln’s Inn Fields and is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm. It took me until my second visit to London to make it over here, and I’m so glad that I did because it contains so much interesting information about the development and advancement of modern day surgery as well as anatomy displays from the collection of John Hunter. I would highly recommend this museum if you are fascinated by science, or are considering entering the medical field. The exhibit is located inside the the Royal College of Surgeons (When you see the sign in the photograph above, you’ll know you are in the right place), just check in at the reception desk and they will give you a visitor’s pass to access the museum.

Tube Stop: Holborn (Served by the Piccadilly and Central Lines)


5. The British Museum

The British Museum is probably most known for being the home to the Rosetta Stone, however, this museum not only offers incredible statues and artifacts from all over the world, the building architecture is breathtaking. Make sure to look up at the beautiful glass ceiling which allows natural light to beam through (and for instagrammers to get a perfect photo.) The museum is open daily from 10am-5:30pm with extended hours on Friday till 8:30pm.

Tube Stop: Holborn (Served by the Piccadilly and Central Lines)


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6. Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is home to a collection of many exhibits ranging from natural geological formations to prehistoric specimens. Sure, it may be similar to other Natural History museums out there, but the architecture alone makes this museum a must see. Plus, it is just a short walk from the V&A making it convenient to visit two very different museums in one day! The museum is open daily from 10am-5:30pm and if you stay late enough, you might just see the exhibit come to life….

Tube Stop: South Kensington (Served by the Piccadilly and Circle and District Lines)


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7. Victoria and Albert Museum

Traveling in a group? The V&A is one of the best museums to visit in London because it’s both free and offers a variety of exhibits to satisfy everyone’s interests. Unique to the V&A from the other museums mentioned, it contains an extensive fashion collection ranging from the 18th century to contemporary designs. The museum also has a lovely courtyard perfect for a visit on a sunny afternoon. The gift shop at the Victoria and Albert museum is one of my absolute favorites, so for those of you in the market for a souvenir or postcard to send to a loved one back home, I would take a stroll through here upon your visit! The V&A is open to the public daily from 10am-5:45pm, and on the last Friday of every month, the museum opens it’s doors for special late night events lasting till 10pm. While studying abroad, I attended a late night fashion event (read about it here) with a group of friends and we all had a lot of fun getting to participate in the festivities and explore the museum exhibits.

Tube Stop: South Kensington (Served by the Piccadilly Line)


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8. Tate Modern

The Tate Modern is a fabulous museum to visit for the modern art fanatic, or even to get a gorgeous view of Central London overlooking the Thames. With rotating exhibits, the Tate Modern keeps each visit fresh, and the interactive art center makes it fun for all ages! Here you’ll find the works of Picasso and Jackson Pollock along with several other contemporary works using different design mediums. Grab a cup of tea or coffee from the cafe and relax out on the balcony to get some prime photographs of the city, or settle down on a computer to create a modern work of your own and walk away from your trip as a modern artist! If modern art isn’t your thing, the free admission and proximity to both the Globe and the National Theatre along the South Bank make this museum a perfect place to pop into during your stay. The museum is open to the public Sunday through Thursday from 10am-6pm and Friday through Saturday from 10am-10pm.

Tube Stop: Southwark (Served by the Jubilee Line) Blackfriars (Served by the District and Circle Lines) or if you fancy a nice walk along South Bank take the tube to London Bridge (Served by the Jubilee and Northern Lines), pass through the market, and follow the Thames to the Gallery.

Well there are my top museum recommendations for visiting London! While there are so many amazing museums to see in this city, I hope that this helps narrow down and provide some suggestions for places to see during your travels. If you have any questions or travel recommendations, let me know in the comments! Keep an eye out for future posts about my advice and experiences studying abroad.

Until next time,New blog signature 2

Seaside Holiday

Brighton HeaderHere is a photograph of the pavilion on this gorgeous sunny day!

Let’s back track a little bit (or maybe A LOT) . . .  When my Mum came to visit me during Spring time in London, we decided to take a little weekend trip to Brighton to explore the coastal city and catch some rays along the beach. It was a quick and relatively inexpensive train ride from the centre of London and since the city is so walkable, finding our hotel was pretty straight forward. Luckily I had my mother with me who has a much better sense of direction, which if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll know that wasn’t a trait that was passed on to me haha. From our experience, the people in Brighton were very friendly and some even struck up a random conversation with us as we were walking to our hotel. The beach is really lovely on a sunny afternoon; however, if you are used to the sandy beaches of California, you may be surprised to find that the beach is more pebbly than anything. Being a Pacific Northwest girl this didn’t bother me at all because we’re pretty used to the rocky shoreline. After settling into our hotel, we took a stroll down the street lined with cute cafes and shops towards the Brighton pier which had the classic 1800’s seaside style. There were lots of people and luckily, the weather held up so we could enjoy a nice evening walk. I loved how vibrant the beach life was with tourists looking at the different seaside attractions, people on holiday basking in the sun, and street performers entertaining a crowd.  Continue reading

This is What Dreams are Made of

Rome HeaderThe Altare della Patria.

Well, we finally made it to our last destination on this trip, the lovely city of Rome! As I talked about before in my Florence post, I’ve dreamed about going to Italy for a while, and seeing The Lizzie McGuire movie when I was ten only made my urge to hop on a jet plane to Rome even more intense (as cheesy as that may sound). Continue reading

5 Things I Learned in Italy

Things I learned in ItalyPhoto of the ruins in Rome, Italy.

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you’ll know that I spent Spring holiday traveling around Europe with my best friend from back in the States. It was definitely a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity for the two of us, and we tried to make the most of it by visiting as many sights as possible as well as strolling around to see where the side roads would take us. Here are a few of the things that I took away from our adventures in Florence and Rome that I thought may be helpful to remember in the future!

1. Street Crossing-You know those little zebra crossings located in busy parts of the city? Become best friends with them! Unless you are super bold and are willing to risk your life crossing the street you might want to seek out a proper cross walk. Especially when trying to cross the road near a roundabout, and chances are you’ll encounter many of these. If you are feeling daring, you kind of just have to go for it and hope that the cars will stop, but please please be safe and just opt for the marked walkway.

2. Directions Please?-The cities we visited in Italy are not on a grid system like streets in the U.S. are, and often times the signs are tricky to find. For two girls who struggle with directions, you can only imagine all of the wandering around we did looking like complete idiots. If you have an idea where you are going beforehand this will save quite a bit of time, but just remember streets change into other streets and soon enough the city will have you walking in circles!

3. Food Glorious Food-Don’t be too quick to judge a place based on the prices, some of the best food we had was not the most expensive out there. Our Belgian friend we met in Prague advised us to find places far away from tourist attractions for the cheaper, most authentic options. As for the gelato, just because it looks beautiful doesn’t mean it’s the best. Try out a few places and see what you like! (But honestly, can you ever really go wrong with gelato?)

4.Tickets Anyone?-If you want to spend less time in line to see the sights of Italy, reserve tickets way in advance! We made the mistake of not doing this and I’ll just say that next time the minute I know about a trip I’ll be popping on my  computer ASAP.

5.Relax-Because there are so many tourists and people seem more relaxed, life moves a bit slower in Italy. Chill out and take a leisurely stroll to each venue. In the U.S and even in London, things seem more fast-paced, but sometimes it’s good to take some time to soak in all that a new city has to offer. When in Rome right?

Let me know what you’ve learned from your travels in the comments and any tips you have!

Until next time,New blog signature 2

Vienna Waits For You

Vienna HeaderHere is a photograph of the Hofburg Imperial Palace exterior just before sunset. Isn’t it just gorgeous!

After saying our goodbyes to the city of Prague, we took the train to Vienna, Austria. Despite the beautiful weather reflected in the photograph above, we stepped off of the train into pouring rain. Now coming from the Pacific Northwest, Emma and I are not strangers to heavy downfalls of rain, the problem was that we yet again had trouble figuring out the right directions to get to our hostel. Getting off the metro line in Vienna, we ended up walking about 20 minutes in the wrong direction, so by the time we arrived at the hostel sopping wet, I don’t think we even needed a shower. Continue reading

Waffles, Chocolate, and Our Encounter with the Manneken Pis . . .

Brussels Blog Post HeaderThe Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium on the first evening of our stay. The lights just add a lovely magical charm don’t you think?

This past month I had a holiday break from University in between Spring and Summer terms, so my best friend from back home Emma (Hello if you are reading this Ems!) and I decided to take a little backpacking trip around Europe. Cliche, I know but hey I figured since I’m so close to many different countries, I might as well take the opportunity to explore other cities out there because who knows when the next time I’ll be able to do that is. . . Before Emma ventured across the pond to come visit me, we had been planning out where we wanted to go that would be realistic to travel to in the three weeks that we’d be away for. Considering our wanderlust, deciding where to go was actually more complicated than we had thought! We decided to get a Eurail pass to save some money on train tickets, which was also a great decision to help us narrow down our options for where we could travel. Although we had originally planned to fly from London to Rome and then make our way back towards the U.K. through other countries our plans were changed when we discovered there was an airline strike occurring on the day we were meant to be traveling. That day seemed like everything that could’ve gone wrong did, but sometimes things just don’t work out exactly as you’ve imagined and you just have to roll with the punches. After all people didn’t come up with the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” for no reason! I think that part of the adventure of traveling is facing any glitches in the road while remaining positive because at the end of the day, it’s usually a small issue and ultimately makes for a good story! Since we weren’t able to fly out of London that day without paying for another expensive flight, we decided to take the train to mainland Europe and do our trip backwards. Our first stop was Brussels, Belgium! We only had two nights in Brussels and we definitely wanted to make the most out of the limited amount of time we had to soak in the city sights. I will admit, we had a bit of difficulty figuring out the transportation system to get us from the train station in Brussels to our hostel in the city centre but we managed to just observe other people and work out how to pay the tram fare. Our hostel was only about a two minute walk to the main square in Brussels pictured above, which was perfect since it made getting to the main parts of the city really easy. IMG_0935The exterior of the  Hostel Grand Place.IMG_0986The seating area at the hostel entrance. (The evergreens on the curtains in the background were a nice reminder of home back in the States)IMG_0987The opposite wall of the seating area.

We stayed in an eight bed room in this hostel and got to meet a fellow traveler from the U.S. who was really nice! Since we arrived in Brussels in the evening we decided to take a walk around the city centre and go out for dinner and drinks with the girl we met. Emma and I always love meeting new people and I think one of the amazing things about staying in hostels (in addition to the fact that they are usually a lot less expensive than a hotel room) is getting to swap stories with people from different parts of the world! Of course on our little walk that evening we just randomly ran in to the infamous statue of a little boy peeing in to a fountain, the Manneken Pis! IMG_0933We had heard that it was small, but we didn’t know that it was going to be that small! I think that’s what made this tourist attraction particularly funny because it isn’t very epic, yet it attracts so many people photographing and giggling at the uneventful sight. The next day we took a trip to the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, which is a must when you visit a place famous for making the delicious sweets! Although it was a smaller museum, it provided a lot of insight about the trade and history of cocoa as well as how chocolates are made. The end of our visit to the museum even concluded with a demonstration of how different types of fine chocolates are formed today and we even received a complementary piece to eat!IMG_0966The entrance to the Museum.IMG_0956Fashions constructed using chocolate!IMG_0965The chocolatier giving us a demonstration of chocolate making.

It was incredible to see how many chocolate shops there were around the city. Perhaps this is because we were staying in a fairly touristy area, but still you didn’t have to look far to find a sweet treat to eat! Brussels definitely knows how to attract fellow people like me who have a sweet tooth. Following our trip to the Museum of Chocolate we stopped by the Maison du Roi or The King’s House to have a look around the museum which just so happened to be free on the day we were visiting! IMG_0968Stained glass windows by the staircase to the top floor of the museum.IMG_0972A view from the top floor.

 Although we didn’t have the ideal weather during our brief stay in Brussels (We like to joke that the rain just followed us wherever we went on our trip) this didn’t stop the city from really coming alive at night. If the main square didn’t seem buzzing with tourists before, we really got a sense of community during the evenings when people would just find a place in the city centre to sit in a circle with their friends and party it up! I really enjoyed our time in Brussels, but I will have to say it wasn’t the cleanest city we traveled to, even our Belgian friends that we met at a hostel in Prague filled us in on their opinion of that. Next stop on our journey was Berlin, a vibrant city with an enormous amount of history . . .

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Until next time,New blog signature 2

Farewell Amsterdam!

IMG_0439Central Station at night! This was the main hub where we could catch a bus or tram back to our hostel.

Well, our trip had to come to a bittersweet end at some point, but we definitely made the most of our fourth and final day in Amsterdam. After eating a hearty breakfast at the hostel, Emily, Alex and I decided to head out to explore a different part of the city, visit the Begijnhof gardens, and eventually meet up with Christian and Katelyn later. Since we had all accomplished the touristy things on our list that we had wanted to do while visiting the city, we didn’t feel pressure to get to any sites in particular. On the way to the gardens we encountered this guy blowing bubbles in this square near a major shopping district.IMG_0408IMG_0414 IMG_0413

I always love to see what street performers and artists are doing in different cities! Of course some are more entertaining than others, but they always seem to make city life more interesting. The garden took a little while for us to find because it was situated in a residential courtyard located behind a large door in the square. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any photos in the garden, but it was neat to get to walk around such a peaceful area hidden from the main drag of shops. Next, we stopped in a small free museum exhibit at the Amsterdam Museum, which was about five minutes away from the secret garden. One of the art pieces was a carpet composed of several carpet squares corresponding to different countries around the world.

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After our brief museum visit, we headed over to Coffee Company, a local cafe chain in Amsterdam, to meet up with Christian and Katelyn and grab a cup of joe to warm up. We passed another massive square along the way that seemed to attract quite a few tourists.IMG_0427IMG_0433IMG_0432IMG_0293Of course this blog post wouldn’t be complete without a coffee picture! I sprinkled some chocolate on top of my cappuccino and it just happened to form a subtle heart shape.

Once we had all re-fueled and gotten our caffeine boost of the day, we took a tram over to another market along the canal. It was later in the afternoon, so this market wasn’t as busy as the first one we had attended, but it was nice to take a slow walk through the neighborhood. As usual, we ended up at another food place. When we saw the food truck selling frites, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try the chips in Amsterdam.IMG_0435I guess you could say we liked them ha ha. The cone of frites even came with miniature forks to eat them with!IMG_0437They were nice and crispy and weren’t overly salted.

We made it back to Central Station and stopped at a crepe restaurant for dinner. Although I was tempted to order a savory crepe, I just couldn’t resist the enticing combo of nutella, strawberries, and banana.IMG_0444A picture of Alex’s crepe. My camera died before I could snap a picture of mine.

Following dinner, we decided it would be a smart idea to pick up a few snacks for the long bus ride ahead of us back to London the next morning, so we found the nearest supermarket and made a quick pit stop before heading to the hostel. You would expect it to be just your average mundane trip to the grocery store, but oh no, no, no it definitely was much more than that! After grabbing some crisps, Alex and I went over to pick up some apple sauce near the produce and meat section. That’s when the evening got interesting . . . All of the sudden, I heard the sound of water running in the background so, being the curious person that I am, turned around only to find a middle-aged man peeing in the middle of the aisles in the supermarket!!! Alex’s and my reaction was to get the heck out of that area as soon as possible, I mean we didn’t need the yellow river making its way downstream to where we were standing. Dude, I get that you probably were drunk or on something and needed to go to the loo, but seriously you couldn’t have located the nearest restroom or at least gone out in an alley way? Come on!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVrJ8DxECbg (skip to 1:36 to see what my reaction was like) After Alex and I had evacuated the area to go check out, the guy started following us and saying something in Dutch, but we just avoided him and made our way to find the rest of our group. When one of the supermarket employees had seen the aftermath of the unfortunate event that had gone down, she asked if we could point out the guy. Luckily, Christian was able to track him down and he was taken into custody. Those poor, poor employees that had to clean up the mess though . . . All I can say is that if Cher could really “Turn  Back Time” I wish she could help erase the sight of the man urinating from my mind, which has now unfortunately been singed into my memory. It certainly makes for a crazy story to tell though, it’s not everyday that you are privy to golden showers in a supermarket. By the time all of us were done checking out as quickly as possible, we were definitely ready to go home, take a nice long shower, and relax. It was early to bed for all of us that evening because we had to be up and out of the hostel by 6:30 the next morning to catch our bus.

This time, making it to the bus was hassle-free and we made it back to the parking lot with ample time to spare. Instead of driving onto a ferry to make it over the Channel, we took a train. Here are some photos I took of that experience.IMG_0450IMG_0452IMG_0454

Well that concludes our final day in Amsterdam! I had a fabulous time visiting a new city and I look forward to someday getting to explore the Netherlands during the spring time!

Until next time,New blog signature 2