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  • Constance M, A Well-Read Wanderer

The Sherlock Holmes Museum: A Visitor’s Guide


Sherlock Holmes Museum and shop London literary sites literary travel sir arthur conan doyle how to get to the sherlock holmes museum
The famously beautiful facade of one of London's hidden gems, the Sherlock Holmes Museum

221B Baker Street, London -- one of the most famous addresses in all of literature, an address you likely recognize immediately as the home of Sherlock Holmes and his partner in crime detection, Dr. John Watson.


What you may not know is that this famous fictional address exists in the real world: a historic London building at 221B Baker Street actually houses the Sherlock Holmes Museum and the Sherlock Holmes Museum shop.


London is a city rich with literary history, and you could spend weeks here exploring every literary site. But if you are one interested in literary travel, the Sherlock Holmes Museum is a must visit on your trip to London.


Read on to find out what you can expect when you visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum and Shop in London, including who would enjoy it, what you’ll see there, how to get tickets, and how to get there.


I’ll also start with some context on Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so you can be prepared to make the most out of your visit to this fun literary site in London.




Related: Read my guide to visiting the Charles Dickens Museum just a few tube stops away from the Sherlock Holmes museum!



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Sherlock Holmes: A very brief history and some facts that might surprise you


Whether or not you’ve read a single Sherlock Holmes story, the name can’t be unfamiliar to many in the English-speaking world. Sherlock is often called the first detective in fiction; even if others predate him, Sherlock is certainly the most famous.


Sherlock Holmes Museum and shop London literary sites literary travel sir arthur conan doyle how to get to the sherlock holmes museum
A bust of Sherlock Holmes found in the Holmes Museum

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published stories featuring the crime solving duo, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, from 1887 until 1927. The official Sherlock Holmes canon consists of four novels and five short story collections, stories originally published individually in serials.


Sherlock was not quite an instant success when Conan Doyle first published A Study in Scarlet in 1887, but it gained a wide audience within just a few years. Once the British public got a hold of Sherlock, they just couldn’t get enough! There was a serious case of Sherlock fever starting in the 1890s, enough to rival the Sherlock fever that followed the Benedict Cumberbatch BBC adaptation several years ago.


You may be surprised to know, however, that the author tired of his famous detective much sooner than did his audience. Sherlock’s famous death at the end of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, “The Final Problem” (published 1894) was meant as Conan Doyle’s way of ending his detective writing to focus on more “serious subjects.” It was not initially meant as a set-up for a famous comeback, though of course it did later become that.



There was such public outcry and demand for more detective tales that Conan Doyle agreed to write another Sherlock mystery, arguably his most famous, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901), which takes place chronologically before his death in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.


Public appetite for Sherlock was still not sated, and Conan Doyle resurrected the character with The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905), in which we learn that Sherlock’s death was staged (how’s that for rewriting history?), and Conan Doyle blessed his audiences with many more stories about Sherlock Holmes.


Sherlock Holmes Museum and shop London literary sites literary travel sir arthur conan doyle how to get to the sherlock holmes museum
All the employees of the Sherlock Holmes Museum are in costume and in character

A little chronologically confused? I don’t blame you. I am no Holmes expert, but I think this is a good guide if you’re wondering in what order you should read the Sherlock Holmes books.


One last fun factoid before we get into the nitty gritty of the Sherlock Holmes Museum: Conan Doyle was actually more like Dr. John Watson than Sherlock. Like Dr. Watson, Conan Doyle was a trained doctor who split his time between practicing medicine and writing. We see that he also had a similarly on-again off-again relationship with Sherlock; the good Dr. Watson, you may remember, several times moves on with life only to be drawn back into Sherlock’s magnetic field.



 


Who would enjoy the Sherlock Holmes Museum?


The website and informational materials given at the Sherlock Museum make it very clear that all are welcome, from the superfan to the person who’s never seen or read anything about Sherlock Holmes before.


From my personal experience here, I’d say that anyone with a foundational interest in Sherlock Holmes will find something to enjoy at London’s Sherlock Holmes museum. Of course, the superfans will get the most out of the experience, but even casual fans will likely be inspired to deepen their knowledge of Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


When I was visiting, there was a dad and his preteen daughter also visiting, and it was adorable seeing them share an obvious interest in the site. I’d say the Sherlock Holmes museum is fully appropriate for kids, but will be most enjoyable to kids who are at least familiar with some of the detective tales.


At the Sherlock Holmes Museum shop, you’ll find lots of kid-appropriate Sherlock retellings for purchase.



 

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Search for hotels for your London stay here:



 

Visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum: What to Expect


Sherlock Holmes Museum and shop London literary sites literary travel sir arthur conan doyle how to get to the sherlock holmes museum
The sitting room of the Sherlock Holmes Museum

The Georgian building that houses London’s Sherlock Holmes Museum dates back to 1815. The museum first opened in 1990, converted from an old lodging house to recreate the apartment as Holmes would have known it when he resided there from 1881 to 1904, according to the canon.


Upon arriving at the museum, you’ll join an outdoor, uncovered queue (so bring an umbrella if it’s a typically rainy London day!). There are two separate queues: one for advance ticket reservations and one for walk-ups. The costumed bobby outside can direct you to the proper queue.


Once you enter the Sherlock Holmes Museum, you can take your time visiting the three floors of exhibits. You can take your time, but the average visit time is between 35-45 minutes.


The first half of the experience is a guided tour of the main floor, including the sitting room and Sherlock’s bedroom. (Don’t forget to count the steps as you enter, lest Sherlock be disappointed in your observational powers!).


Sherlock Holmes Museum and shop London literary sites literary travel sir arthur conan doyle how to get to the sherlock holmes museum violin
Sherlock's chair. Can you spot his famous violin?

This fun guided tour portion is short and sweet, directed by a costumed maid who will take you into the real (fictional) world of Sherlock and Dr. Watson, such that you’ll forget they never really lived in these very rooms (or at all, for that matter). She regales with delightful stories about Sherlock’s peculiar tobacco smoking preferences and his other quirky habits. She will also point out where Sherlock shot the letters VR (for Victoria Regina, aka Queen Victoria) in the wall with his pistol in a fit of boredom (much to Mrs. Hudson’s dismay).


Sherlock Holmes Museum and shop London literary sites literary travel sir arthur conan doyle how to get to the sherlock holmes museum
VR, shot by Sherlock Holmes

After this brief guided portion has ended, you will be free to look at these two rooms on your own, though keep in mind another tour group will be coming through shortly! While looking around, make sure you check near the chair under the window to see Sherlock’s famous violin.


Once you’ve finished the main floor of the Sherlock Holmes museum, you can move to the upper two floors at your leisure. On the next floor, you’ll find Dr. Watson’s bedroom, laid out as though he just stepped outside for a moment.


You’ll also find Mrs. Hudson’s room, which you can explore independently. In this room, you will find many small objects of significance in various Sherlock stories. Of course, these will be best understood by those familiar with the stories, but well-placed signs can enlighten even those who are less familiar with the mysteries. Keep an eye out for the revolver hidden inside a Bible, from the story “The Solitary Cyclist” and the bust of Napoleon that was smashed by Holmes in “The Six Napoleons.”


Sherlock Holmes Museum and shop London literary sites literary travel sir arthur conan doyle how to get to the sherlock holmes museum tickets
One of the many things you'll find on display in the Sherlock Holmes Museum

On the top and final floor of the Sherlock Holmes Museum, you’ll see more “artifacts” as well as several life-sized dioramas of some of the most famous scenes from the Sherlock mysteries. You definitely can’t avoid the creepy statue of the infamous Professor Moriarty.


Sherlock Holmes Museum and shop London literary sites literary travel sir arthur conan doyle how to get to the sherlock holmes museum professor moriarty
Professor Moriarty, Sherlock's greatest rival

After taking your time through these three floors of the museum, you will make your way next door to the Sherlock Holmes Museum Shop. Here, you will find a good variety of books and memorabilia to appeal to any Sherlock fan. You can even buy a Holmes-style deerstalker hat, though as the housemaid points out, Holmes would never have worn that hat outside of a hunting expedition.


As is my tradition, I purchased a copy of the complete stories of Sherlock Holmes from the site, though I was disappointed they didn’t have a stamp or engraving with which to mark the book, as many literary gift shops do.



Related: Looking somewhere delicious and scenic to have afternoon tea while you’re in London? Check out why I think The Library is the best afternoon tea for book lovers in London.



 

How to get to the Sherlock Holmes Museum


The Sherlock Holmes Museum is centrally located in Marylebone and is easily accessed by public transportation.


The museum is about a 2-minute walk from the Baker Street tube station, accessible by the Bakerloo, Circle, Jubilee, Metropolitan, and Hammersmith & City lines.


Sherlock Holmes Museum and shop London literary sites literary travel sir arthur conan doyle how to get to the sherlock holmes museum statue baker street 221b tube station
You can find this larger than life Sherlock statue outside the Baker Street tube station

As you exit the station, make sure you find the larger-than-life Sherlock Holmes statue out front!


There are also several bus routes that will take you nearby; use Google Maps for the must current recommendations.

 

How to get tickets for the Sherlock Holmes Museum


You have two options for getting Sherlock Holmes Museum tickets: pre-purchase online, or buy a walk-up ticket.


If you purchase your ticket online in advance, your ticket will be specific to one date and time. On the day of, you must arrive 10 minutes prior to your reserved time, or you will lose your ticket. Also, booking online you will pay a small convenience fee.


If you wish to purchase a walk-up ticket for the Sherlock Holmes Museum, bear in mind that ticket holders with a reserved time will get first preference, so you may end up waiting between 10-60 minutes to get inside. To get a walk-up ticket, go first into the museum shop and purchase at the register before joining the appropriate queue out front. The bobbies are happy to direct you to the appropriate place if needed.


As for me, I elected for a walk-up ticket but arrived shortly after the museum's opening. I ended up waiting about 15 minutes outside and spent the time reading a Sherlock story on my phone; a very pleasant (and appropriate) way to pass the time.



Related: London can be an expensive city to visit, and while it’s not in everyone’s budget, read about why I think that travel is still (almost) always a good idea.



 

Other London Sites for Sherlock Fans


If you are a diehard Sherlock fan, you may be wondering what other Sherlock-related sites London has to offer. Here are a few more to check out:


  • Sherlock Holmes statue, as mentioned previously, just outside the Baker Street station

  • Sherlock Holmes pub, a Victorian-style pub themed around Sherlock Holmes, also featuring some Holmes memorabilia upstairs

  • The Criterion restaurant, the place where Holmes first meets Watson in A Study in Scarlet


 

Well, I hope this post answered all your questions about visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street in London.


Have more questions? Feel free to drop them in the comments.



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I'm an avid reader and traveler, writing all about literary travel, books, tea, and chocolate.

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