Advantages 'meet & touch' celebrities
Disadvantages expensive, small, crowded, not enough to see
|Is it worth visiting?|
I first encountered Madame Tussauds Waxwork in London when I was working as a tourist guide many moons ago and had the good fortune (or rather misfortune) to take groups of tourists to this attraction. It's fun the first couple of times but then you start to resent the place with a passion. Luckily the job only lasted a few years but it left me with a bitter taste in my mouth regarding this particular London attraction and no desire to ever set foot into the building again.In Spring this year when I got another Tussauds Group annual pass (6 months too late for cheaper renewal) - allowing entry into all Tussauds properties in the UK and abroad - Thorpe Park, Chessington Worlds of Adventure, Alton Towers, Warwick Castle and the London Eye to name but a few - I decided to pick it up in town at Madame Tussauds Waxwork, mainly because they were the only ones who'd forgotten to up the price for the pass unlike all the other sites. I got the pass £5.00 cheaper - £80 instead of the £85 it normally is - by buying online and picking up at Madame Tussauds. And as I was there anyway I decided to have a look how things had changed over the past 10 or 15 years (or more) since I last bothered to go. I went a second time only a few weeks ago when friends came to visit and we all went together again thanks to free entry with annual pass.
Getting there:Madame Tussauds is easily found by either bus or underground. It's situated almost exactly on the corner of Marylebone Road and Baker Street - if Baker Street Underground Station wasn't taking up the corner plot. But walking out into Marylebone Road from Baker Street Tube you will notice the green domed building to the left. That's where you're heading. If you decided to take a bus from central London (Oxford Street and so on) be aware that Baker Street is one way only (southbound traffic) and the bus stop for Madame Tussauds (northbound) is actually in Gloucester Place, about 5 minutes further away than Baker Street. As it is still considered Central London I think it's not advisable to take a car. Apart from distinct lack of cheap parking you will also get clobbered with the £8.00 per day congestion charge.
Very Short History:Madame Marie Tussaud - a French woman married with family - became famous during the French Revolution when she took death masks from guillotine victims, including those of the French Royal Family including King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette and revolution leader Robespierre. She later emigrated to the UK where she exhibited her death masks.
Nowadays there are a number of waxwork museums around the world all carrying her name with a large number of historical figures, former and current celebrities, sport stars as well as political and religious leaders as well as current and past members of the Royal Family.
Tupac has gone home to Las Vegas, Christina Aguilera has moved in and the two Princes, William and Harry, are currently on tour stopping off at Madame Tussauds' around the world and are not expected back in London until some time next year.
If you already have your tickets you can go straight to the main entrance where your tickets will get checked as well as a quick security check if you carry a bag.You then walk up the grand staircase to the first level where you are shown to one of the lifts that will take you to the exhibition level.
The first room (Blush) you enter after a short ride in the lift is filled with stars like Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith, David Jason, John Travolta as well as a number of other UK and international film and music stars. One of the latest additions here is Colin Farrell who I had imagined taller but it turns out he's about knee high to a grasshopper.Rapper Tupac Shakur is a temporary exhibit on loan from Madame Tussauds Las Vegas. I'm not particularly familiar with the singer and his music, all I knew was that he was killed in a gang related shooting 10 years ago. I'm not sure that many people in the UK will flock to Madame Tussauds to see this exhibit and in a way I feel it's a bit of a wasted space.
If you're into Big Brother you can go into a replica of the Diary Room where you can leave your video diary - but be aware that people milling around outside will see and hear your answers.David Beckham and wife have been moved to a new place in this room and I must admit, I had a laugh watching people taking pictures. Most people were only interested in David Beckham but Victoria is very close to him, she would normally be in the picture, too. Due to the fact that Victoria is incredibly thin, anyone (any normal size person) can just stand in front of her and she is totally blocked from view, leaving just David and whoever wants to be photographed with him.
Walking past another concessions stand - the second in this room - offering sweets and single use cameras amongst other things, you enter a temporary exhibition area. The room is rather small and you normally find the latest movie or sporting achievements here. At the moment you will find 'Pirates of the Caribbean II' with the three main characters exhibited, Captain Jack (Johnny Depp), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) in what appears to be the bowel of a ship.From here you continue into the next room called 'Premiere Night' with stars of the big screen including Pierce Brosnan, Sean Connery, 'Indiana Jones' Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins, director Steven Spielberg and the great but long dead Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart and Charlie Chaplin. You can also see what Michael Jackson used to look like about 20 years ago.
Following the stairs down you will enter the 'World Stage' where you find mainly figures from history, politics and religion. Set aside is also a small corner for sports celebrities and of course a café (Costa Café in this case). If you're into politics you will find most of the current world leaders here, including Blair and Bush next to a podium where you're welcome to stand between the two and 'deliver' your speech while a Tussauds photographer takes your picture. It's cheaper to do it yourself and ask family or a friend (or even a passer-by) to take you photo.While most of the leaders seem to be current, I noticed that two exhibits are not. Germany's had a female chancellor for quite a while now yet they still exhibit the old chancellor. There's also still the new pope missing. Madame Tussauds are currently exhibiting the old pope - I don't mind much, he was much loved by a lot of people but they should really make sure they update, too.
There are two further big photo opportunities here in this, the largest, room. The British Royal Family invites you to mingle, the Queen, Princes Philip and Charles on the one side and on the other you will find the young princes William and Harry. These are popular exhibits so if you want a photo taken with these figures you might have to wait on a busy day.I have noticed that over the years people visiting the museum have become much more accepting of history and even the dark figures and tyrants and homicidal maniacs are exhibited openly. You will find hate figures the likes of Saddam Hussain and Adolf Hitler displayed openly. I can remember the first time I went to visit Madame Tussauds back in 1984 on a school trip when Hitler was behind thick glass away from the main exhibit (on the way down to the Chamber of Horrors). Apparently it was necessary as people let out their anger and had damaged the figure on many occasions.
You are leaving the 'World Stage' and continue you journey down a flight of stairs towards the Chamber Of Horrors. If you don't want to go through or have smaller children who might not appreciate this kind of exhibit you can escape before you actually get down to the main room.When I first went to Madame Tussauds all those years ago I only ever liked the Chamber of Horrors, a recreation of Jack the Ripper's London streets, dark and dingy, never knowing what's around the next corner. It's all different and you can go two ways, either you paid extra for what they call 'Chamber Live' where you're lead through a kind of haunted house in small groups with real life people jumping out at you, trying to scare you, or you bypass this part and just continue with the exhibits. The Chamber Live theme at the moment is mass murderers but it could have been anything really. I must admit that I found this part extremely underwhelming and I would have really gone mad had I paid extra for this. It's not worth the £2.00 on top of your already expensive ticket. I say give it a miss but if you've got the Tussauds annual pass it's included and all you need to do is show the pass and they let you in.
The torture methods of centuries ago are few and far between, some behind glass. You will find the garrotte as well as a demonstration of the electric chair.The chamber is certainly not for smaller children but it's not really that frightening either. It used to be a lot better and more frightening but maybe one day they will change it again. After all, if you want horror then London has a place for that too, the London Dungeon where they concentrate on horror or torture. Here at Madame Tussauds it's more or less a sideline, an afterthought, although the founder Madame Tussaud herself started here by taking death masks, some of which can be seen here.
To round off the visit you are led to the "Sprit of London" ride where you're sat in what is supposed to be a London cab. You're taken back in history and time to the time of the Great Fire of London, Queen Victory, the industrial revolution and 1970s hippy London. Wheelchair users cannot ride as you need to be able to hop on and off the ride unaided.The last part of the museum is actually the former planetarium (the green dome shape you can see from the outside). Before you're allowed into the auditorium under the domed roof - basically a cinema screen, a bit like an IMAX without the great movies or comfortable seating - you are being entertained by a Tussauds employee, explaining about the latest movie showing. At the time we went it was a cartoon about aliens coming to earth wanting to meet 'stars' or 'celebrities'. It was a little disappointing and not really worth watching but it extends your visit by about 15 minutes that you would have otherwise been out on the streets again. If you're not bothered, give it a miss, it's not that interesting.
This museum keeps changing and updating so by the time you read this some exhibits might have already changed again. When we were there a few weeks ago in September Madame Tussauds were supporting Breast Cancer Week and had placed all big female stars together on stage in the first room you enter. Before that I remember the same stage was inhabited by different folk. There's a constant coming and going so don't be surprised to find people in different rooms (or completely removed).I really don't know if I can whole heartedly recommend to visit. If you're on a budget it will eat up a huge chunk of your money and you might feel cheated. If you can get in cheap or free then by all means go and see it. It's not brilliant but certainly worth a look in.
The exhibits are not 'interactive' so apart from standing next to the wax likeness of your favourite celebrity there's not much you can do - although you apparently can make J Lo blush by pinching her bottom.It's quite amazing how life like some of the people look like but you can still see they're just not real, the wax is still very obvious and most figures are very shiny under the lights. But all in all, you do recognise most of the exhibits - and those you don't, there's always a plaque either next to or near the person so you can check.
If you have someone in your party in a wheelchair, make sure you contact Madame Tussauds prior to your visit to let them know. Due to the amount of people visiting it's not always possible to accommodate too many wheelchairs.
Tips and other advice:
I cannot comment on the toilets as I have yet to see them. Luckily I never actually needed them but I can't actually remember seeing any signs pointing them out.Families with pushchairs cannot take the chairs in either due to size of the rooms and amount of people visiting. You will be asked to leave your pushchair and pick it up at the end of your visit.
My personal tip is to go during the week when it's quieter. Weekend will automatically be busy and you might not get to see a lot and feel rushed through. If you go on a weekday you might get the place to yourself and walk through at a leisurely pace. Make sure you take your time in each room and seek out all exhibits. Once you leave that particular room you cannot return and before you know it you end up in the small but kitschy gift shop where you can buy tacky London gifts for a lot of money.I don't find the attraction is worth the money they want you to pay for it. It's very expensive for what it is and if you're not careful and walk fast you might only get half an hour to spend inside. You have to make it last to get you money's worth and even then I reckon that paying £20+ is daylight robbery. I went because it's free with my annual pass and I would have complained very loudly had I actually paid for the visit.
Weekdays 9.30 - 17.30
Weekends 9.00 - 18.00
If you only want to visit the attraction half an hour before closing you will get a price reduction of at least £8.00 per ticket bringing the price down to £15.00 for adults (£10 for children) but you only have 30 minutes to rush through.There are concessions for seniors, disabled and groups.
If you book online you can save £5.00 per ticket but you can always find other special offers if you look carefully. Tesco Clubcard vouchers can be exchanged for tickets. If you visit a lot of the Tussauds Group attractions in the UK and worldwide - other Madame Tussauds waxworks in the USA, China and Holland or UK Theme parks (Alton Towers, Chessington Worlds of Adventure, Thorpe Park) you may want to invest in a Tussauds Annual Pass available for £85 for adults, family passes are available. You then have free access to Tussauds properties around the world for a year and with the prices they are charging, the annual pass could pay for itself after just three visits.
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