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Upon a recent visit to London, I visited the World famous Madame Tussauds which I have wanted to do for many years. Madame Tussauds is one of London's and indeed the country's leading attractions - did it live up to expectations or was it as fake as the dummies ?
A brief history ......
Madame Tussaud, born Marie Grosholt in Strasbourg, was born in 1761 and became a courtier in the famous court of Versailles in her early years. Being a member of the aristocracy in the turbulent times of the French revolution, she came to London to avoid the hostilities. When she did return to Paris, she married Francis Toussaud and finally became Madame Toussaud. In 1802 she brought her exhibition of waxworks to London for the first time and in 1835 opened a bazaar in Baker Street not far from its current location. Unfortunately she died in 1850 at the grand old age of 89 but her Grandson kept her work going and moved the waxworks to its current location in Marylbone Road in 1884. The Works had it's problems last century including being devastated by fire in 1925 where it lost many of the exhibits - luckily it was restored three years later. It was bombed in World War two and again most of the exhibits were lost - interestingly enough Adolf Hitler survived though!! Over the last fifty years, the waxworks has time and again been one of Londons most famous and popular attractions and still thrills people to the current day carrying on the work of Madame Tussaud in the process.
Madame Tussauds is situated in Marylbone Road in central London. It is an impressive dome shaped building which is hard to miss. The nearest tube station is Baker Street, one minutes walk, which is a main junction on the underground serving the Bakerloo, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and city lines. The site is also well served by buses being on a main road - buses 13, 18, 27, 30, 74, 82, 113, 139, 159 and 274 all stop outside as well as all of the tour buses of which there are many.
Opening Times and queuing
On weekdays Madame Tussauds opens at ten O'clock and closes at five thirty. At weekends it's a bit earlier at nine thirty opening. Bear in mind the opening times can fluctauate depending on seasonal variances. The only day they are not open for business is Christmas Day. With regards to queuing, this attraction is hugely popular, especially at weekends and the queue can stretch right around the whole building for two hundred metres or more so you can literally wait for over an hour to get in! You may think by getting there early will get around this problem but you'd be wrong because a lot of people think this too, so the queue can be quite long an hour before opening. Unfortunately because of it's popularity this is a problem that will not go away BUT don't despair I have my best bit of advice of the whole op if you're planning a visit - either book online or pre-book so you have your tickets in hand prior to your arrival THEN simply walk straight past the queue into the pre-paid entrance. This is what's known as the 'Fast track entry system' and it can be very self-gratifying watching peoples faces as you walk straight past them hehe. I suspect this method will become highly popular however so still be prepared to queue a little anyway.
There are three pricing categories depending on what time of year you visit;
Adults (Mon-Fri) £14.95 Adults (Sat-Sun) £16.95
Children (Mon-Fri) £10.50 Children (Sat-Sun) £12.00
Adults (Mon-Fri) £14.95 Children (Mon-Fri) £10.50 Senior Citizens (Mon-Fri) £11.70
Off Peak Rates
Adults (Mon-Fri) £10.00 Children (Mon-Fri) £5.00 Senior Citizens (Mon-Fri) £8.00
Under 5's are free no matter what time of year!
I have seen a few opinions which have stated that they thought the admission prices were a rip-off but I disagree, far from being cheap or reasonable but I would consider them fair and no more or less than that.
Group parties and School parties are welcomed but should contact Madame Tussauds directly prior to their intended visit.
This also is the case for wheelchair users who are warned to contact prior to their visit - note wheelchair access and lifts are in operation.
Pushchairs are not allowed on safety grounds but baby carriers are provided free of charge if needed.
The exhibition is split into different sections, the first section is the Garden Party. This is where new, topical and currently popular waxworks are such as Gerri Halliwell, Brad Pitt, Graham Norton and Tim Henman. There are about thirty models in this section which leads to a section named 'Goal'. In here you will find sporting models such as David Beckham, Sven Goran Erikkson, Pele and Eric Cantona - you would be forgiven for thinking this section is full of men - when I went is was full of females drooling over Beckham. The next section is a relatively new addition entitled 'Fever' - just one model in here - Kylie on all fours showing off her ass and knickers, when I went through all the men were looking up her skirt haha. On we went to 'Premiere Night' where filmstars of today and yesteryear were scattered about including Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Samuel Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and John Wayne. This was a particulary busy part of the tour, maybe because the models were more wide-ranging and recognisable to a greater number of people. The next section was the biggest entitled 'Grand Hall' - this is full of World Leaders, Kings and Queens and famous folk from down the centuries. This in turn leads to 'The Chamber of Horrors' - note this section can be by-passed by the young as it has some very distressing sights and could give them nightmares! Several flights of stairs lead down to a very dark dungeon style section which houses notorious criminals and events which occured in the past. I found this section very interesting as it was accompanied by lots of notes which explained what and how things happened. On the other hand I heard others saying 'oooo this is sick' or 'jeez creeeeppyyyy' !!
In the Grand Hall is a Costa Coffee shop which allows visitors some refreshments and light snacks if needed, beware though it is very expensive e.g £2.50 for a coffee!! Still things can be very busy and tiring and it makes a nice break before going on to complete the Chamber of Horrors. Toilets are handily placed throughout each section and are clean and well maintained. Disabled toilets are also available. At the end of the tour is a giftshop which sells countless souvenirs and knick-knacks to celebrate your visit. The pricing is quite reasonable here - One thing I would recommend is the guide book which is a great read for when you get back home, it does explain how the waxworks are constructed from start to finish and is fascinating reading.
The first waxwork I came across was Tim Henman and the thing I noticed straight away was how false he looked. In fact 90% of the waxworks just aren't realistic in my view. I know it's virtually impossible to create something that could pass as human and maybe I was expecting too much but to be honest I was disappointed with the exhibits. Quite a few of the waxworks looked like they were wet through with sweat, maybe something to do with the atmosphere ? One thing I do think they have down to a tee is the hair and eyebrows - does anyone know if this is real hair ?
Another thing that is quite annoying is that the place is full of tourist snapping away with cameras and it's quite difficult to do the whole tour without spoiling someone's photo. Not that you shoudn't take a camera though, in fact it's a must! I got a shot sat down with Sven Goran Erikkson musing, hands on chin and it looks really realistic.
Be prepared to battle your way through hourdes of people to get a glimpse of the most popular models such as Kylie, Beckham, Princess Diana and Tony Blair and also expect to wait to get camera shots with some of them.
The most impressive and lifelike models in my view were Samuel L Jackson, Sven Goran Erikkson and Picasso the painter.
The Chamber of Horrors is a very interesting end to the tour which I would recommend, especially to the historically minded like myself, but I would advise avoiding this area to the very young.
I was impressed with the presentation of the works and how they were seperated into themed areas - I thought this worked and is to the attractions advantage. The whole tour took me roughly two hours to complete which I think makes the entrance price quite reasonable, do take your time and make sure you view every model. Some exhibits can be changed from week to week so that if your visiting a second time, theres likely to be a few different exhibits from your first visit.
In hindsight maybe it's best to visit at off-peak times to avoid the huge amount of people inside and then maybe I would have enjoyed it more.
All in all I am glad I visited and I enjoyed myself but I wouldn't go again. It's ok to go once and to be able to say you've been but in my view it is slighly over-hyped.
If you do intend to visit, do remember to pre-book your tickets otherwise you will be in for a nasty surprise.