Sir John Soane's Museum

Museums , History Holborn Free
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© Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
© Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
© Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
Hogarth's A Rake's Progress

Henry Hudson, A Rake's Progress: The Levée, plasticine on canvas, 2011

© Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
Sir John Soane bust © Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
The library © Martin Charles
© George Scharf
© Martin Charles
A model of The Pantheon

François Fouquet, Copy of the Pantheon at Rome

When he wasn’t designing notable buildings (among them the original Bank of England), Sir John Soane (1753-1837) obsessively collected art, furniture and architectural ornamentation. In the nineteenth century, he turned his house into a museum to which, he said, ‘amateurs and students’ should have access. The result is this perfectly amazing place.

Much of the museum’s appeal derives from the domestic setting. The modest rooms were modified by Soane with ingenious devices to channel and direct daylight, and to expand space, including walls that open out like cabinets to display some of his many paintings (Canaletto, Turner, Hogarth). The Breakfast Room has a beautiful domed ceiling, inset with convex mirrors. The extraordinary Monument Court contains a sarcophagus of alabaster, so fine that it’s almost translucent, that was carved for the pharaoh Seti I (1291-78 BC) and discovered in his tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. There are also numerous examples of Soane’s eccentricity, not least the cell for his imaginary monk ‘Padre Giovanni’.

In May 2015 the Museum opened Soane's private apartment and Model Room to the public. The apartments had not been open to visitors for over 160 years, so guests paying a visit to the fully restored model room, bedroom, bathroom, book passage, oratory and morning room will get a true glimpse of London's past.

Venue name: Sir John Soane's Museum
Address: 13
Lincoln's Inn Fields
Opening hours: Tue- Sat 10am-5pm (last admission 4.30pm) First Tue of each month 6pm-9pm
Transport: Tube: Holborn
Price: Free, £10 Sat tours, free students and concs
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Average User Rating

4.2 / 5

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christopher M
1 of 1 found helpful

An astounding, educational, eccentric and unique London experience.

I am a keen supporter and visitor to this place, every visitor should have this house museum on their list of "musts"

Even with much building and restoration work taking place it's fascinating.

Many people comment on entrance bring free, but PLEASE support this worthy cause by donation or purchase in the museum shop.

Now stop reading this and GO!

1 of 1 found helpful

Lovely museum just off Kingsway and ideal for a short break away from the office. All sorts of quirks but admire the varied glazing and the quality of light which has provided inspiration for many a modern architect. A nearby cafe in the park by Lincoln's Inn means you can enjoy a coffee or snack before returning to the bustle of Holborn.

1 of 1 found helpful

Truly a hidden gem, and..... be still the beating of my tight little Yorkshire heart... it's all free!! A curious house which belonged to eighteenth century architect: Sir John Soane, who designed famous buildings in the Neo-Classical style . This museum proves that artistic types with huge amounts of money and time do form the basis of the most fascinating of collections. Indeed what makes SJS so amazing is the never ending curious and surprising objects and artefacts. One minute you are in a room, comfortably admiring the Rake's Progress by Hogarth, the next minute they have opened the walls up to reveal more works of art... The proportions of the house will also shock you, it is truly like the tardis with the narrowest -seeming frontage but inside a real warren of rooms, leading down to a real, bona fide Egyptian scarcophagus. Do check opening hours before you go... The best museum in London...

Michael Goldrei
1 of 1 found helpful

Preserved since he lived there in the 19th century, The Sir John Soane's Museum is a gem of peculiar bits and pieces collected by the architect of the original Bank of England. While alive, he allowed his students to come and sketch things from his collection, which includes an Egyptian sarcophagus as well as things taken from other buildings. The highlight for me is the wood-panelled room with hidden panels concealing the original version of Hogarth's 'A Rake's Progress' which, if you're lucky, will be explained to you in a highly amusing way by one of the staff. Best of all, the whole thing is free.

1 of 1 found helpful

Great museum. Quirky experience. Almost entirely unique opportunity to view a house museum - house museums predate the current purpose built museums we visit today. Also an opportunity to become a visitor of the 19th century, and an opportunity to see how the architect Sir John Soane transformed the house into what we see today - with windows everywhere, and ingenious lighting techniques. Don't miss the picture room - and ask the staff to open the panels for you - and the room turns into a balcony looking onto the basement! Tip: the staff can be very friendly and informative. Just be confident and not afraid of asking questions! Text panels and plaques to inform you about what you are looking at are few and far between, (to preserve the house as Sir John Soane intended it), so the staff are there to fill you in instead!

Tara P

Sir John Soane’s Museum sums up in a nutshell what I most love about London.

Yes, we have giant, world-leading cultural attractions – The British Museum, The National Gallery, The Natural History Museum - containing fabulous and unique exhibits that continue to attract global tourists year-on-year, and for good reason.

But even amongst the smaller, lesser-known establishments there are gems of such quality that make you wonder how you could ever see and learn and do all of the best things that this city has to offer.

Sir John Soane’s Museum is one such place. A small, historically preserved building, it houses fantastic pieces from the private collection of just one man: Sir John Soane. The history of the museum is almost as fun as its contents – Soame created it with an Act of Parliament that bequeathed it to the British Nation, cutting his rather peeved son out of his inheritance in the process (his loss is our gain). 

Here, you can not only explore a beautiful building and the largely architectural collection, but also encounter the fascinating “A Rake’s Progress” by William Hogarth. This moralistic series of 18th Century paintings are not only beautiful works of art, but a fable to unravel. Hogarth’s attention to detail is a sight to be seen – but make sure you don’t miss them, as the museum’s fun method of displaying them can lead a lot of visitors to stroll by without noticing they’re there. “A Rake’s Progress” alone is worth the visit.

The Museum has also assimilated itself well into modern London life. Its small size means that you often have to queue – which anyone who’s anyone knows that means it’s worth a visit! The management have also considered the appeal of the “museum late” session, with a popular candlelit event occurring on the first Tuesday of every month.

So, when you’re next looking for an hour of culture, head to Lincoln’s Inn Fields: the best thing is, it won’t cost you a penny.

Chlo Fo

Step through the door of Sir John Soane's Museum and be transported back in time. This time warp remains exactly as it was when Soane passed it over to the State in the early 1800s. It's unbelievable really that it still remains open as a free public museum today. This house is not like any national trust house you may have visited, here you can see exactly how Soane lived and picture him sitting at his little desk working out his next grandiose structure (he was an architect). Take time to ponder and look up and around in every room, there are little nuggets everywhere. The highlight is the picture room, in this small space over 100 pictures are displayed, but you'll have to wait for the attendant to show you exactly how so many have been crammed sure not to miss it. With the installation of a new lift now all can enjoy the museum. When I visited there was a Sarah Lucas exhibition on display, showing that despite not have changed in 200 years, they still remain on the pulse of modern culture. Factor in a bit of queueing time when visiting as they limit the number of people allowed in the house at a time, but it's well worth the wait.

Christina H

A celebration of the Great British Eccentric, with intellect, beauty and curiosity. Hurrah for Sir John Soane, whose museum is a haven and sanctuary from economic, driven hurly-burly.


This is a must  for everyone who is interested in architecture and art.

Not only the building is worth a peek, but Sir John Soane collected some marvellous pieces during his lifetime, which are on display.

Stepping through the door feels like a journey through time - this museum is not only nice to look at, but also very educational.

There might be queues outside, but it is well worth the wait and I have never grown tired of spending my lunch breaks there on a miserable day, as you will find a new detail every time you go and visit.

Freire Barnes
moderatorStaff Writer

Be warned you may well have to queue to see inside this not so secret London gem. But it’s worth it as Sir John Soane’s former home is like walking into a cabinet of curiosities. You can do your best Loyd Grossman impression of “Who lives in a house like this?” as you snoop around the fascinating house filled with antiquities. Designed by Soane’s it reveals the inspiration and eccentricities of the great British architect. It’s a real treat to see Hogarth’s ‘A Rake Progress’, especially as they are displayed on panels that fold out from the wall, unfortunately you’re not allowed to do this yourself but the ever accommodating docents will be happy to oblige. You can easily spend a couple of hours and as the renovations on the rest of the property reveal more of this charming building, it’s worth revisiting because you never know what you might discover.

Eve D

My favourite London museum, this place is packed with personality and is a truly unique destination in London.

You imbue the history of Georgian era London just walking through these amazing rooms, make sure to ask a member of staff to direct you to the picture room to see A Rake's Progress by Hogarth. A morality tale par excellence.

By appreciating Soane's  possessions and interests you leave with a real sense of the man he was and his practice as an architect. 

Make sure you donate to keep this gem open to the public.

If you can, try and visit on one of the evening openings when the house is lit by candlelight, it's simply magical.

0 of 1 found helpful

One of the worst experience of my life! Long queues that do not move, and the rudest staff I ever encounter! Having working in customer services for more than a decade, I can not see how are their employees allowed to deal the public at all. Only go there if you wanted to stand in the cold for hours and get shout at by their members of staff!!

0 of 1 found helpful

this museum is a dying breed... I had half an hour to kill and wanted to quickly pop round. The very officious and brusque doorwoman forced me to turn off my mobile "we're a museum!" and then tried to get me to decant the entire contents of my bag into a plastic one. No thank you. Treat your visitors with a bit more respect and they'll respect you. Here's hoping the management changes soon; I won't be back before then.