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London Museums: Second Entrances and Shorter Lines

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A couple of weeks ago I saw a photo of the line for the Tower of London that snaked around the front of the tower and up the sloped walkway that comes out of the tube station. I have never seen it that way, but then, I try to avoid London in the Summer months because of the over-crowding. This year is special. Flights are being cancelled like crazy and AirBnB's are, too. People are traveling like pre-2019 and Europe, especially is overwhelmed. London has been crowned (no pun intended) as the number one European destination this year.

And, of course, it seems that everyone wants to see the same things so the lines are enormous. Here are a couple of my travel agent secrets for shorter lines. Honestly, when people say, "I don't need a travel agent", you probably do. Yes, you can book your own flights just fine, but do you really know where the best areas are or the best hotels or the best restaurants? Or, in this case, the best way to see things that maximize your time? I specialize in London because I know it well. I also know much of Northern and Western Europe because I've been there so many times. If you ask me about the Caribbean, I'd refer you to one of my colleagues because that's not in my knowledge bank. I offer what I know and I know more than most. I'm going to share a couple of my insider secrets with you about attractions and lines at London Museums.

TIP NUMBER ONE: Many free museums have second or secret entrances. Every tourist seems to wander up to the main entrance and stand in the giant line. You often don't need to do that. Paid attractions don't usually have another entrance because that would mean setting up another set of registers, but free museums often have alternate ways to get in.

The British Museum: There is a second entrance on Montague Place, which is located off Russell Square. This entrance is often quieter than the main entrance on Great Russell Street.

second British Museum entrance

The Victoria and Albert Museum: There is a second entrance on Exhibition Road, which is located opposite the Natural History Museum. This entrance is often used by school groups and is less crowded than the main entrance on Cromwell Road. There is also an underground tunnel entrance from the tube that is REALLY unused. It's open from 10:00 am - 5:30 pm but occasionally closed unexpectedly. If you are arriving by tube, keep your eyes open for it. There is usually just a bored and lonely security guard there.

Sackler Courtyard Entrance for the Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert Tunnel Entrance

The Natural History Museum: There is a second entrance on Queens Gate, which is located near the Royal Albert Hall. This entrance is often used by people who are visiting the nearby museums and is less crowded than the main entrances on Exhibition Road and Cromwell Road. Be prepared for this one to possibly not be open as there has been some work going on.

The Tate Modern: There is a second entrance on Bankside, which is located near the Millennium Bridge. This entrance is often used by people who are walking over the bridge and is less crowded than the main entrance on the South Bank.

National Gallery Layout

The National Gallery: There is a second entrance on Trafalgar Square, which is located near the National Portrait Gallery called The Getty Entrance. This entrance is often used by people who are visiting both galleries and is largely for people who need step-free access and is less crowded than the main entrance on the north side of Trafalgar Square.

The Imperial War Museum: There is a second entrance usually used by school groups on the west side of the building. Turn right after entering the grounds and walk down the right side of the building to the entrance. They let us in here without a problem.

Imperial War Museum Second (West) entrance

TIP NUMBER 2: While it may not be necessary to purchase a timed entrance for many attractions anymore, purchase your tickets online before arriving at a paid attraction like Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, etc. In order to have flexibility, I have literally purchased tickets online the night before we wanted to see something.

There are often TWO LINES when you arrive. First, everyone will have to go through the security line so you can't escape that. But, at some point, the "haves and the have nots" will be separated. The "Haves" have their entrance tickets already and will go through a line where they are just scanned. If you can't tell, ask a worker and they will be happy to direct you to the correct queue "line". The "Have Nots" will be stuck in the longer line because they have to purchase tickets and then they will have to wait in the second line to get the tickets scanned. That's THREE queues for them (security, ticket booth and scanning). That's just TWO lines for you!

Hopefully this helps you navigate the summer queues that are inevitable for London during the busy travel season.

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