Days Out: V&A Museum of Childhood, East London

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The Independent Travel

The venue

The museum, which has been in its Bethnal Green home since 1866, reopens next Saturday after a £4.7m renovation. With a new gallery and entrance, an activities room and updated displays, the museum has entered the 21st century while maintaining its Victorian charm. Old favourites, such as the adorable rocking horses, are now joined by hands-on displays.

For children

Hundreds of teddy bears, dolls, costumes, train sets and clockwork toys keep young children enthralled for hours, while older children are drawn to the life-sized robot, Bratz doll and Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 broomstick. Families can put on puppet shows, make a mess in a sandpit and play hopscotch together. The current special exhibition celebrating 50 years of Dick Bruna's Miffy is also sure to be a hit with the under-fives.

For adults

As you skip between the cases on the mezzanine level, Rubik's Cube, Scalextric, Spacehopper, Papa Smurf and Darth Vader will transport you to a time when the only web you cared about was Spider-Man's. Upstairs, voyeurs can peek through the windows of dolls' houses, with examples dating from the 1673 Nuremberg House, built to teach domestic skills to young girls, to the 2002 Kaleidoscope House. Beautifully designed pieces, such as the miniature 18th-century Chinese rock gardens and an early 19th-century Dutch beach buggy, will delight fans of quality craftsmanship. Best of all, nothing is off limits to grown-ups.


A licensed cafe serves hot and cold food, tea and cakes.


Fully wheelchair accessible; disabled toilets, parking on request. Baby changing facilities. Hearing loop.


Open daily 10am-5.45pm. Admission free, but it's advisable to take a good supply of 20p coins to kick- start some of the displays.

How to get there

V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA (020 8980 2415; By underground: Bethnal Green. By train: Cambridge Heath and Bethnal Green. By bus: D6, 8, 26, 48, 55, 106, 254, 309 and 388. By road: limited metered parking on some roads Monday to Friday.