Sir John Soane's Museum
Sir John Soane's Museum Review
Sir John (1753–1837), architect of the Bank of England, bequeathed his wonderful, eccentric house to the nation on one condition: nothing be changed. It's truly a house full of surprises. In the Picture Room, for instance, two of Hogarth's Rake's Progress series are among the paintings on panels that swing away to reveal secret gallery pockets with even more paintings. Everywhere, mirrors and colors play tricks with light and space, and split-level floors worthy of a fairground funhouse disorient you. In a basement chamber sits the vast 1300 BC sarcophagus of Seti I, lit by a domed skylight two stories above. (When Sir John acquired this priceless object for £2,000, after it was rejected by the British Museum, he celebrated with a three-day party.) The tranquil courtyard gardens are also open to the public, and a below-street-level passage joins two of the courtyards to the museum. Because of the small size of the museum, limited numbers are allowed entry at any one time, so you may have a short wait outside—but it's worth it. Hour-long tours are offered (check the website for details), and on the first Tuesday of the month there's a very popular candlelight evening opening, from 6 to 9 pm (best to arrive at 5.30).
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