London Day Trips: Museums and Gardens

Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory. Neil Setchfield
By Stephen Brewer & Donald Olson

Excuse us while we drag out those wise and oft-quoted words from Samuel Johnson yet again: "When you grow tired of London, you've grown tired of life." Well, they're true. But a trip to London can include more diverse sights and scenery than you ever thought possible, and we've tried to capture the better options in Best Day Trips from London. In a small country such as England, historic castles, picture-perfect villages, ancient cathedrals, and unforgettable landscapes are often no more than an hour away-close enough for you to easily visit as part of your London itinerary. Here are nine sights worth adding to your itinerary.

Photo Caption: Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory.
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Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Musuem. Zylian
The Fitzwilliam Museum, one of Britain's most important art collections, includes stunning collections of antiquities, medieval illuminated manuscripts, and a surprisingly large number of masterworks, by artists ranging from Van Dyck to Picasso. Kettle's Yard, meanwhile, is a showcase of 20th-century art and design.

Photo Caption: Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Musuem. Photo by Zylian/Flickr.com
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Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. Abitiffy
The Pallant House Gallery, one of many notable attractions in this charming town, is one of the country's finest showplaces for modern British art, and works by Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, and Henry Moore hang in stunning galleries.

Photo Caption: Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. Photo by Abitiffy/Wikimedia Commons
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A view of the National Maritime Museum from atop the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. John Troynousky
Greenwich, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is awash in architecturally significant buildings and unusual museums. Explore the 19th-century clipper ship Cutty Sark, then step into the National Maritime Museum for a look at England's seafaring past. Next door you can enjoy the architectural and artistic delights of the Queen's House, the first neoclassical building in England and used as a model for the White House. Afterward, climb the hill in Greenwich Great Park to the Old Royal Observatory, where you can see the collection of gleaming chronometers that helped mariners establish longitude at sea; right outside the observatory is the Prime Meridian Line (longitude 0°), from which all time is measured.

Photo Caption: A view of the National Maritime Museum from atop the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.
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Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath. Steve Cadman
Palatial Kenwood House, on Hampstead Heath, contains a marvelous collection of paintings, including a Rembrandt self-portrait and Vermeer's The Guitar Player. Fenton House, another Hampstead treasure-trove, contains a priceless collection of early keyboard instruments. Built in 1939 by the architect Erno Goldfinger as his home and office, 2 Willow Road is a rare example of the International Style. The Freud Museum, home of famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud from the late 1930s until his death, contains a collection of his books, letters, and antiquities.

Photo Caption: Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath. Photo by Steve Cadman/Flickr.com
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The West Front entrance at Hampton Court Palace Hollenbeck Productions
The palace is filled with artwork, but our favorite paintings are on view in the Lower Orangery. This is where you'll find a series called The Triumphs of Caesar, painted by Andrea Mantegna and completed in 1505. The series is considered one of the most important works of the Italian Renaissance. Hampton Court's Renaissance Picture Gallery contains 16th- and early-17th-century works by Lucas Cranach, Pieter Bruegel, Correggio, Bronzino, Titian, and others.

Photo Caption: The West Front entrance at Hampton Court Palace
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Victorian glasshouse conservatories in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. a.drian
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (called Kew Gardens) is a living museum of plants from around the world. Now over 250 years old, this 300-acre (120-hectare) site is so botanically important that UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site. Wander the beautifully landscaped grounds and visit the extraordinary Victorian glasshouse conservatories.

Photo Caption: Victorian glasshouse conservatories in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Photo by a.drian/Flickr.com
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Norwich Castle Museum. Ell Brown
Perched on its hilltop, the high-walled Norman keep of Norwich Castle is the home of the Norwich Castle Museum and contains several fascinating collections relating to Norwich and the surrounding East Anglian countryside. You'll find outstanding works by the Norwich School of painters, a porcelain section with teapots from 1720, and even the remains of a 600,000-year-old elephant, excavated in 1992.

Photo Caption: Norwich Castle Museum. Photo by Ell Brown/Flickr.com
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Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Mark Hillary
A visit to the world-class Ashmolean Museum is a highlight of a visit to one of the world's most famous universities. Casts of the Parthenon frieze and other antiquities, Islamic pottery and Chinese ceramics, and such masterpieces as Paolo Uccello's Hunt in the Forest are among the treasures.

Photo Caption: Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Photo by Mark Hillary/Flickr.com
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The National Railway Museum in York. David Jones
York is filled with museums, but pride of place goes to the National Railway Museum, where you can view the private train cars used by Queen Victoria in the 19th century and Queen Elizabeth II in the 20th. The York Castle Museum uses a trove of now-vanished everyday objects to re-create slices of life over the past 4 centuries. York Art Gallery displays 7 centuries of western European painting. The Yorkshire Museum provides a solid overview of Yorkshire's history from the Roman era up to the 16th century.

Photo Caption: The National Railway Museum in York. Photo by David Jones/Flickr.com
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