Visiting the Sherlock Holmes museum in London, England is probably every Sherlock Holmes fan’s dream. Even if you’re not a die-hard fan, you should find it amusing!
For starters, if you’re in London, take the metro to Baker Street Station where you’ll find the iconic silhouette of Holmes smoking his pipe along the walls of the station. Then, head down to 221b Baker St, Marylebone.
There used to be an online system where you could purchase tickets in advance but for whatever reason that service has been discontinued. To get tickets, you’ll have to walk into the gift store, which is right next to the museum. The tickets cost £15 each (around $26.00 CAD) for adults. Once you’ve obtained your “golden key,” line up in front of the door to 221b, which is guarded by men from the Scotland Yard, but have no fear because they aren’t real police. In fact, they’re super friendly and funny. Don’t forget to snap a few photos with them too! For details about the museum click here.
I visited the museum on a weekday sometime during the first week of September in the late afternoon, and the cue wasn’t very long. The museum allows a large group of people (I think 10-15) to enter at once, so even if there’s a long cue, you won’t wait that long. The tour begins in the famous study, and if you haven’t read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, it might seem underwhelming since many of the small details in that room—the violin, chemistry set, the wall covered in bullet holes—speak to Holmes’s hobbies and habits that any aficionado would pick up on. Luckily, there’s a guide who’ll explain the significance of each room, and because we’re all squeezed in a small space, there’s no way you’ll miss anything s/he says.
For me, the study represents an iconic space. It’s the place where Sherlock Holmes met many of his clients and where many of his adventures with Watson began. Unfortunately, when I went, there was rope barricading me from sitting on the chairs so I couldn’t role play as Holmes or Watson and snap a few pics (as I have heard others have done), but the museum showcases other really interesting artifacts. What stood out for me was a bound collection of fan made works and letters sent to the museum from China, and a framed, leaflet-like-poster titled “Holmes’s supporting cast” featured in both Japanese and English. This speaks to the sustained influence and popularity of Sherlock Holmes in Asia (and on a global scale) as Doyle’s work have been adapted across linguistic borders and cultures.
I’ve also been to the Sherlock Holmes exhibit in Kobe, Japan, which I visited in 2011, where the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was also highly anticipated (as you can see in the photo below). The study was set up in a slightly different way than at the location in London, but I love how the wax doll of Sherlock Holmes was placed in the study at the Kobe location. Is Holmes peering out the window because he spotted something suspicious? Is he waiting for his next client?
Upstairs in the London location, you’ll find a wax exhibit. I was most intrigued by the wax dolls of Holmes and Watson standing in the graveyard because it reminded me of a scene in a video game called Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2: Naruhodou Ryuunosuke no Kakugo (Great Turnabout Trial 2: The Resolve of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō), which adapts Doyle’s famous detective. It’s possible that the creators of the game had visited this museum (as well as Madame Tussauds), or it’s also possible that they utilized images of the museum(s) through online sources. Either way, it was cool to see how elements from the Sherlock Holmes Museum were integrated into a Japanese video game that not so many people know about (but now you do!). I presented a paper on this game at the British Association for Japanese Studies, which you can read about here.
Of course, all great tours end with a visit to the souvenir store (the so-called tourist trap), which I usually bypass at other museums, zoos and aquariums. Not this time. Like any fan girl, I felt like being in a candy store and at the end of the day, I paid for a watch, a book, a postcard and a pin as tokens to remind myself of my little adventure in Holmes’s abode.
BUT WAIT! Your adventure shouldn’t end here! Don’t forget to check out the bronze statue of Holmes and if you have time, go on a Sherlock Holmes tour, which you can find more information about here. There are many more attractions that you can indulge in, so here’s to many more fun adventures as you explore the world of Sherlock Holmes in London!
The game (is always) afoot!