Sir John Soane's Museum
The John Soanes Museum, tucked away in Holborn, is another of those quirky, oddball attractions that make exploring London so charming and rewarding. Students of architecture will love it, but there is also plenty to interest the layman.
John Soane was born in 1753, and worked as an architect, becoming Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806. During his long career he indulged a passion for collecting, and gathered a great number of architectural plans, models and paintings, as well as turning his own home into a place to experiment with new architectural techniques - by buying up his neighbour's houses and remodelling them. He bequeathed that on his death this giant townhouse be turned into a museum to display his collection (partly as a way of disinheriting his children, who he was rather disappointed with).
Today the house is kept much as Soane left it, and it must be one of London's plushest and distinctive historical interiors - though it is all a little cramped, with artefacts jostling for attention all around the elegantly appointed rooms. Notable works include drawings of Elizabethan houses by John Thorpe and the great fantasist Piranesi's sketches of Paestum. In the ingeniously designed gallery pictures are kept on folding panels to maximise space - look out for the three delicate Canaletto's, but the highlights here have to be the eight canvases depicting the Rake's Progress, by that great English satirist, Hogarth.
The Sir John Soanes museum is at 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP and is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10-5pm. Admission is free.
Nearest underground station is Holborn