Last week on a rainy Thursday afternoon, my husband, Darius, and I found ourselves wandering down Museum Street in central London. It was cold, wet and windy and my umbrella was next to useless. We wanted desperately to get indoors, and I was getting cranky due to a lack of food (story of my life).
We don’t go to London all that often, but we do love museums. So earlier in the day, we had googled recommendations and stumbled upon the Camera Museum. It sounded interesting and was easy enough to get to, being a stone’s throw away from a couple of tube stations including Tottenham Court Road and Holborn. And despite having Google Maps open on my phone, we walked right past it.
The camera museum is tucked away in the basement of the Camera Cafe. You enter though a little door, walk across the cafe and down into the museum. The owner of the place is very friendly and gave us a cheery hello the minute we walked in. We decided to check out the museum first, which took a bit of willpower because the menu above the counter looked bloody good. We walked down a narrow set of stairs into the main museum area.
What it lacks in size, it makes up for the sheer variety of cameras on display. I love photography and everything to do with it, so I was always going to enjoy this. But even if you’re not an enthusiast, it still makes for a fascinating experience.
Admission is free, but I would gladly have paid for entry because this place is incredible.
The cameras and equipment on display range from the 1800’s to the present day, and it is immediately apparent that this collection has been lovingly put together. Darius had a chat with the owner afterwards, who said that this museum runs solely on donations. We were the only ones down there at the time, and spent a good half an hour looking at everything. Kodak, Panasonic, Canon. Pentax, Vivitar, Polaroid. Cameras that have been taken apart and lenses as long as your arm. They’re all in there. I spotted an Olympus film camera that my dad had back in the 90’s and it made me so so happy. There’s a little room off to the side with some more vintage goodies and a funhouse mirror because… why wouldn’t you have one really?
Once we had our fill of everything on display, we headed back upstairs to take a closer look at that menu.
This was early evening on the Thursday before the long Easter weekend. Most of the other cafes we had passed were already full, but this one was blissfully quiet. Maybe it has something to do with how it’s almost hidden in plain sight, but we didn’t mind one bit. We had our pick of seats, and honestly – is there anything more satisfying that being in a cozy cafe while the rain pours outside?
I ordered a jasmine tea while Darius got himself a cappuccino, and we decided to share a plate of nachos. It didn’t take too long to get our order and it seemed like we finished it even faster. (That probably explains the lack of photos.) The tea was amazing and the nachos were a dream with a generous dollop of sour cream, guacamole and oh so many jalapenos.
This cafe had a mellow, relaxing vibe; we could have happily spent hours in it. We’d had a long day filled with busy trains and lots of jostling people, and it felt so good to be able to kick back and unwind.
If you look at the picture on the right, there’s actually a camera shop behind the counter as well. We didn’t go in there, but according to the website, they specialise in selling, buying and repairing different kinds of camera equipment. There is also a gift shop if you want to buy photography or camera-related posters, t-shirts, postcards or that kind of thing.
Both the cafe and the museum are definitely worth a visit, I had a great time. I hope you found this post useful!
Do you live in London or visit often? Have you ever been to the Camera Museum? Let me know in the comments! And add in your recommendations as well, whether they’re in London or elsewhere in the UK. I want to travel more this year, and I love discovering hidden gems like this! 🙂