The bustling transport hub of King's Cross in London is the unlikely venue for such a peaceful retreat as the London Canal Museum. Housed over two floors of a 19th-century ice warehouse, this volunteer-run project tells the story of the capital's waterways, revealing what the boats carried and who worked and lived on the network. But canal heritage isn't the only history on offer here: there is also information about the ice and ice-cream industry formerly run from this building. The vast ice well, which dates back to 1857, can still be seen - the only complete example of its kind. Its eerily lit depths would once have been filled with ice imported from Norway. By 1904 the building was converted for use as a horse and cart depot for the ice industry; you can see the ramp used to get the horses up to the stables.
The first floor has plenty of ingenious hands-on activities for kids, such as how to build a perfect arch bridge. There are workshops and summer activity days suitable for children aged 6-12 years. Children must be accompanied by an adult who remains with them in the museum or on a boat trip (normal admission charges apply to adults).
One of the major exhibits is a narrowboat, the Coronis, dating from 1935, which is fitted out as it would have been at the time. It provides an insight into how cramped conditions were afloat. There are several displays of canal art, such as "lace and ribbon" plates and "rose and castle" painted objects, along with Measham Ware pottery, which goes back to the 1820s. The history of the Regent's Canal is told through displays and a short black and white film dating from 1924.The museum lays on lots of events, including guided walks, boat trips and talks.
The museum shop sells cold drinks and ice-creams. Eat them outside at the rear of the building where it backs on to Battlebridge Wharf. Next door in King's Cross are plenty of cafés.
All parts of the building are fully accessible except for the narrowboat cabin, but a virtual computer tour is offered for wheelchair users. There is an accessible toilet, baby-changing area and a series of lifts and ramps. There are good facilities for people with hearing disabilities and the visually impaired.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-4.30pm, last admission at 3.45pm. Also open Bank Holiday Mondays. Closed certain days at Christmas and New Year. Call to check. Adults £3, children (aged 8-15) £1.50, concessions £2.
How to get there
London Canal Museum, 12-13 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RT (020-7713 0836; canal museum.org.uk). By public transport: the museum is a five-minute walk from St Pancras and King's Cross mainline, Thameslink and Underground stations. Several buses serve King's Cross. By car: there is limited meter parking available in nearby streets, and the museum is outside the congestion-charge zone.Reuse content