Reviewed by Melanie Allen
Ripley’s Believe It or Not London is a unique and interactive family experience in the heart of Piccadilly Circus, easily accessible by public transport. It is set over 5 floors, each of which is as extraordinary and bizarre as the next.
Upon arrival on a busy Summer Sunday afternoon at the beginning of the school holidays with my husband and 2 children, we were greeted by friendly and knowledgeable staff who offered us a book to complement our visit which cost a reasonable £3.50. As my ten-year-old son loves all the Ripley’s books, this was an essential purchase.
We were told to make our way to the fifth floor by lift and then make our way down each floor. I asked if there were any toilets in the building and was surprised to hear there were some on each floor, which is always good when you have children with you! Each floor is crammed with weird and wonderful pictures and models, appealing to all ages. The top floor had a section all about the incredible life and history of Robert Ripley. There are over 30 Ripley’s museums in ten countries.
There was a variety of statues of odd animals with 2 heads or 5 legs, a full sized knitted Ferrari and Tower Bridge made out of matchsticks, plus unconventional pieces of art made of sweets, smoke, corks and there was even a picture of Princess Kate made up of lipstick kisses! My favourite work of art had to be the picture made of out toast – I’d never seen anything like this before.
As we made our way down the floors, there was an actual piece of the Berlin Wall with accompanying educational video, real body and cultural oddities and lots of extreme people (shortest, tallest and heaviest). I found these fascinating – there was a video on how the Padaung women of Myanmar appear to stretch their necks by wearing heavy brass rings. We all had our photos taken next to the tallest man and there was a weighing station so that you see how heavy the heaviest man was. We all got on the scales and it still was nowhere near his weight.
There was section on torture but if you had young children who were frightened by this, you could skip this part. In this was Ripley’s dark side collection of genuine torture items the most famous of which is the Iron Maiden of Nuremberg.
The kids went mad with their cameras, taking pictures of all the optical illusions and my youngest even managed to open the impossible gate (well he did cheat and found the answer on the wall). The infamous blue/black or white/gold dress that went viral in the news a few years was also on display (I could only see the blue and black stripes). My husband was in awe of the Willard Wigan’s sculptures which aren’t visible to the naked eye and were found inside the eye of a needle using a microscope.
The interactive experiences were fun – the Mirror Maze (an ingenious idea to wear plastic gloves whilst doing this must have saved them hours of cleaning!) and the spinning Black Hole tunnel – which I couldn’t do as I get motion sickness but it looked amazing and the kids thought it was ‘sick’.
We spent around 2 hours in this bizarre museum and really enjoyed it. Areas for improvement were the condition of the toilets – the sinks were almost hanging off the wall on one floor and in need of renovation. Also, there were too many things to try and get you to spend more money along the way (coin stamping, dinosaur teeth, gems, refreshments etc). The photo package of £25 was far too expensive in my opinion – if they reduced this to say £10 I’m sure more people would take up the offer. In some places, the exhibits were a bit tired looking and I’m not sure you could come here more than once but for a one-off experience it is well worth a visit and I highly recommend it.
Tickets cost: £20.99 (child) / £27.99 (adult) – book at least 1 day in advance for discounted tickets £17.48 (child) / £23.79 (adult).
For more information or to book tickets visit ripleyslondon.com.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not London, The London Pavilion, 1 Piccadilly Circus, London, W1J 0DA