London Sights to See - Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and The London Planetarium
One of the most popular London sightseeing attractions, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (they dropped the apostrophe a while back) is one of the very few attractions in the great city of London that is centuries old and completely modern at the same time!
Madame Marie Tussaud learned her unusual craft of modeling figures in
wax by creating death masks of those who were executed by guillotine in 18th and 19th
century France. Among her "clients", if you will allow the use of the
term, were Louis XVIand Marie Antionette. That mixture of precise art and macabre display is reflected in the modern museum - but with a big dose of fun mixed in!
The museum displays a large, and varying, collection of famous figures
from world history along with the latest Hollywood celebrities. She was trained in
her art by Dr. Phillipe Curtius in Bern, where her mother was Dr. C's
housekeeper. The present collection traces its origins to Madame Tussaud's inheritance of her tutor Dr.
Curtius' collection in 1794. In 1802, she moved from Paris to London and the museum which bears her name began in 1835.
Despite all the historical baggage, far from being simply an historical
relic, the collection has been continually updated and there are several very different subsets of displays for tourists of all interests.
The Chamber of Horrors continues the grisly tradition of displaying
murders, bloody warlords and others - but, though realistic enough to scare sensitive children, the emphasis is on amusing visitors.
The Garden Party features a rotating roster of politicians both old and modern, movie
celebrities, sports stars and others in the news for one thing or another.
The Spirit of London
is a taxi-ride ala Disneyland's
but here it's through 400 years of English history. One highlight of
the ride is a portion showing the sights and sounds of London at the
time and place of Jack
the Ripper, including the old carver himself.
The Grand Hall
Tussaud's also has figures from British
history, with a variety of famous (and not so famous) examples of
Royalty and Head of State, and it was there that my own children got to
see, and my daughter was photographed in, the wedding of Prince Charles to Diana Spencer in
One of the most popular tourist attractions in London, the museum is
crowded with visitors. There are over two million visitors annually.
to have a photograph taken with celebrities ranging from The Hulk to Brad Pitt, from Jack
the Ripper to Princess
Diana or Winston
Churchill. On our visit, my son had his picture
taken with his hero, Dr.
Who, as portrayed by Tom
Baker, standing in front of the TARDIS (Time And
Relative Dimension In Space), with which he traveled the known, and
The figures are almost all done with extraordinary fidelity. The
lifelike figures are one of the reasons for the frightening effect in
the Chamber of Horrors,
which also shows a variety of modes of torture
and execution. No expense has been spared to hire the finest modeling
craftsmen to bring the figures to life.
Housed in the same building, and admitted on the same ticket, is the London Planetarium, renamed
simply The Auditorium. Though shows have
been reduced in number and length, visitors can still get an impressive
view of the sky as seen from London's latitude and longitude. The
current show lasts only ten minutes and with the renaming it's
uncertain how long the owners - who also own Madame Tussauds - will
continue it. So, catch it while you can.
The attractions are easily accessible via the tube (the London
Underground subway system). Exit at the Baker Street (where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson lived)
tube stop, near Regent's
Park. Expect to wait in line outside and dodge elbows
where there is still often a wait of 20 minutes or more. It tends to be
a little less crowded in the very early or late hours.
Telephone: +44 (0) 871 894 3000
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