Attraction Reviews,  Things to Do

Charles Dickens Museum Review: The Best of Times… or the Worst?

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London has been home to many seminal literary geniuses over the centuries. From William Shakespeare to Jane Austen to Zadie Smith, this city inspires something special in the great creative minds of any era. Of course no list of important London authors would be complete without mentioning Charles Dickens! Dickens called London home during several chapters of his life, and one of his London homes forever immortalizes the man and his work at the Charles Dickens Museum.

During my time at school in London, I literally went to class every day down the street from the Charles Dickens Museum… but I never visited. I feel like this was a lost opportunity for sure, but I made up for it during my trip to London in August 2023. A friend and I popped into the museum; he and I were with enthralled with the information despite having generally different travel styles and interest!

Charles Dickens Museum Review Hero

In this post, I’ll share all about the Charles Dickens Museum to help you decide if you want to visit or not. This Charles Dickens Museum review covers the basics of visiting plus show you what the museum is really like through both photos and a recap of my visit.

Bonus! As part of the London Pass, you can receive free admission to the Charles Dickens Museum (valued at £12.50pp in 2024!). Click here to read my London Pass review and click here to buy your own London Pass and save during your London trip.

Basics of Visiting the Charles Dickens Museum

Before jumping into my experience, it’s helpful to cover the basics – this will let you know if you can make a visit to the Charles Dickens Museum work in your planned itinerary, before I convince you that it’s well worth visiting (and you’re thus disappointed that they’re not open on Mondays or Tuesdays when you hoped to visit!).

Location & Transport

Me at school, just down the street from the Charles Dickens Museum.

The Charles Dickens Museum is located in Bloomsbury, at 48-49 Doughty Street (I went to school on John Street, which becomes Doughty Street after a few blocks). Part of this address (number 48) was actually the London home of Charles Dickens from 1837-1839; during this time he wrote The Pickwick PapersNicholas Nickleby, and Oliver Twist.

Doughty Street is a 9-minute walk from Russell Square Station (Piccadilly Line) or an 11-minute walk from Chancery Lane Station (Circle Line). King’s Cross Station is a 15-minute walk away. There are also a number of buses from the southern end of John Street and the intersection with Theobald’s Road, including the #17, #38, #46, #55, and #243. (Be sure to check my list of essential London apps to find a good transit app for your trip!)

Hours, Admission & Tickets

The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm with last entry at 4pm. (You need at least an hour to see the museum, so this makes sense!) Admission is £12.50 for adults and £7.50 for children, but I wouldn’t say this is one of the most kid-oriented museums (unless your child is really into Dickens!). As mentioned, you can get free admission with the London Pass!

Food Options & Facilities

If you’re peckish at the museum, the Artful Tea Room is worth planning into your visit. They have a cream tea (afternoon tea) with sweets and treats, as well as soups and quiches depending on the day.

Nearby, there are loads of options; for a proper pub, check out The Lady Ottoline – I used to pop in here during my school days, and it’s gotten quite posh now.

In terms of accessibility, the museum is well equipped: there’s a lift to access each floor, plus an accessible toilet on the first floor near the lift. There are other toilets throughout the museum, too.

Gift Shop & Souvenirs

As expected for any museum worth its measure, there is a gift shop at the Charles Dickens Museum; you’ll be in it when you pay admission (or show your London Pass for free admission). Called the Curiosity Shop (and also available online), you can find all kinds of Dickens-inspired and Dickensian products including books, cards, and ornaments, as well as quirkier options like the “Please Sir” Oliver Twist bowl and the Charles Dickens rubber ducky.

My Experience at the Charles Dickens Museum

As mentioned, I visited the Charles Dickens Museum in August with a friend. We arrived in the mid-afternoon and I was four months pregnant (if you’re expecting and visiting London, check this resource I wrote to help you still have a great time). I was completely wiped after visiting the London Transport Museum (where it was quite stifling!), but this museum was a welcome respite. The row houses were quite cool despite the summer heat and I was able to rest on benches a few times to stay comfortable during my visit.

You might have noticed that the Charles Dickens Museum has two numbers in the address; it’s actually comprised of two side-by-side row houses: #48 is the house Dickens and his family lived in, and is replicated in the style of – and with artifacts from – that era of Dickens life. #49 is connected but houses more modern exhibits, such as one about the pollution in London during that time. Together, the museum is not too large, and I think you could easily visit in 1-2 hours – add an extra 30 minutes if you decide to have tea during your visit.

Upon entry, you start on the ground floor, including the dining room, kitchen, and other parts of the home that would have been used for both daily living and entertaining visitors. If you can, climb the stairs to each subsequent floor, where you’ll find bedrooms, private sitting rooms, and an office where Dickens wrote. (Also, from the first floor upward, you’ll find those special exhibits I mentioned.)

Despite being tired from sightseeing, I found the museum completely enthralling and actually loved climbing the creaky stairs between floors – the sounds and smells of the house transport you back in time to give a better sense of what life was like for Victorian Londoners, including those who were quite well off as the Dickens’ were by this time.

My favorite rooms were the dining room (with a fully laid table), the top-floor children’s room (which was quite a shock for what children had back then!), and – of course – Dickens’ office with his desk. (This was actually not his desk while living in this home; instead, it was the desk he used in his later life while living at Gads Hill, and was memorialized in Sir Samuel Luke Fields’ Empty Chair “portrait” of Dickens after his death.)

I also loved seeing some of the small, personal artifacts – the museum has some 100,000 Dickens items in its collection –, like the beautiful turquoise inlaid engagement ring that Charles gave his wife Catherine.

As you can tell, I quite enjoyed myself – with one exception. During our visit, my friend and I were dogged rather closely by one of the security people in the museum. Strangely, I got the sense they thought we might touch or disturb the museum in some way and were keeping an eye on us… I’ll take the generous view now that maybe they realized I was quite exhausted, pregnant, and might need a chair to collapse into – maybe they were just trying to ensure I used a modern instead of a historic one? In any case, I still had a great time.

Wrapping things up, you might wonder: is the Charles Dickens Museum worth visiting?

Obviously, you can tell my answer is yes. I am not the hugest fan of Charles Dickens (and am perhaps less so after learning about how he treated his wife in later years) or his work (though I obviously appreciate his many literary contributions!), but I still found the museum interesting.

It’s a slice of life of Victorian-era London, fascinating from a literary perspective, packed – but not overwhelming – with artifacts of Dickens’ life, and compact enough to not exhaust visitors. As mentioned, it’s not particularly well-suited for children who aren’t already interested in the subject – but I think adults will really enjoy it.

I hope that helps! Have any remaining questions after reading my Charles Dickens Museum review, or wondering how to fit it into your itinerary? Let me know in the comments below!

Don’t Forget! As part of the London Pass, you can receive free admission to the Charles Dickens Museum (valued at £12.50pp in 2024!). Click here to read my London Pass review and click here to buy your own London Pass and save during your London trip.

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Valerie fell in love with London on her first trip to the city way back in 2011. Since then, she spent a year living in London and visits as often as she can (you can find her recent trip recaps here!). She launched LOMM in 2021 to help other travelers fall in love with her favorite city on earth.

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