Charles Dickens Museum

Museum in The West End

A £3.5 million renovation funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund has made this museum – located in a handsome four-storey house that is the beloved Victorian novelist's sole surviving residence in London – bigger and better than ever. A period kitchen in the basement and a nursery in the attic were added, and the acquisition of 49 Doughty St increased the exhibition space substantially.

Not that the prolific writer stayed here very long – a mere 2½ years (1837–39). But this is where his work really flourished: he dashed off The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist, despite anxiety over debts, the death of his beloved sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth, and his ever-growing family.

The house was saved from demolition and the museum opened in 1925, showcasing the family drawing room (restored to its original condition) and a dozen rooms containing various memorabilia, including the study where you'll find the desk at which Dickens wrote Great Expectations.

The charming Garden Cafe (open 10am to 4.30pm Tuesday to Sunday) is free to visit, without requiring admission to the museum. Audio guides are £3 (or download the free app to your smartphone). One night a month, the museum is open till 8pm (check the calendar on the website), with last admission at 7pm.