It’s only natural that the home of the Victorian movement would be on our top ten list–and with a little input from Dale Rowles, a native and a member of BB Blackdog (one of our favorite Steampunk bands, to be sure), we’re excited about the authenticity of this tour.
Start in London, because your plane is likely to begin there anyway. You can check out Visit London for details on various methods of transport–but why not secure rental bikes and make your way around town in appropriate style? Why not rent a penny farthing, perhaps? Make sure you get tips on riding!
Moving on, Dale recommends the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, and would like me to note that many steam trains still run in England and even connect to the main train lines.
Stop at the Tower of London on your way, and explore the Victorian era in style.
Naturally we like museums on historical tours, so I will recommend a few that fall into the Steampunk arena. Start with the London Transport Museum, which houses many wonders of transportation from ancient to modern (but will set you back about 14gbp, or $20ish at the current exchange rate). Now lighten your load at the Museum of London, which explores British history from the beginning of the Roman era, and is conveniently free to access. The Royal Museum Greenwich is the largest maritime museum in the world, and features the explorable Cutty Sark, the last surviving “tea clipper” ship. some parts of the museum are free and others require tickets. Finally check out the Victoria & Albert museum, which sports 3000 years of history through art–and a history of fashion section, which should not be missed.
Swing by Elizabeth Tower, the third tallest clock tower in the world. It also happens to hold Big Ben, the large bell at the top. Originally it was named “Clock Tower,” but since it was built for Elizabeth I it makes sense that they’d rename it for Elizabeth II.
Also swing by the Alice in Wonderland shop, Twinings of London for the Celestial Seasonings experience with real tea, and for an insider’s tip, sneak into Soho’s Secret Tea Room at the Coach & Horses for afternoon tea.
If you want a more directed tour of London, take a look at London Walks–they do a “Darkest Victorian London” two-hour tour of the seedy underbelly of Victorian London, and end at what they claim is the best cafe in the area. You can also stay at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel (which was established in the 1850s and is now a Marriott property, so save your points) and join one of their four-times-a-day history tours with the on staff historian. Only in England would a hotel keep a historian on staff!
Now that you’ve explored London to your heart’s content, move on to everything else in England… For example, the Crich Tramway Village, an entire village of pubs, tearooms, and trains… what more could one ask for?
The Bradford Industrial Museum is basically the British Industrial Revolution encapsulated in museum form, even featuring textiles and furnishings of the era. In contrast the Derwent Valley Mills historic site is the revolution given factory form–with lots of opportunity for interesting photography.
The Museum of Science and Industry blends history and modern science to create modern Steampunk at its finest–go, practice mad science.
If you are into the maritime, don’t miss the chance to explore the “oldest frigate afloat” at Hartlepool–the HMS Trincomalee. I don’t know what her name means either, but she’s a beautiful site to see.
If you want to connect to those steam trains I was telling you about, use the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway (EVR). Check out their “Experiences” tab if you want to learn how to drive a steam engine–for the modest sum of 398gbp.
For more cool information to plan your trip, go to Secret London.