We have visited many museums across the world but I don’t think we have experienced a museum quite like experiencing Ripley’s Believe it or not in London, which is also the largest Ripley’s attraction out of the 32 museums worldwide.
The building is unmissable standing tall and majestic in the heart of Piccadilly Circus. As you walk into the foyer of the museum you are greeted with a mini cooper covered in a million Swarovski crystals, a lifestyle replica of the world’s tallest man and the world famous lizard man.
Our 8 year old daughter was amazed at these bizarre items and that was even before we had officially started our journey.
For those of you who don’t know what Ripley’s is, it’s a museum attraction housing over 700 unique, unusual, extraordinary and unbelievable artefacts from around the world founded by the great Robert Ripley.
Robert was an American cartoonist, entrepreneur, and amateur anthropologist, who visited 201 countries in 35 years seeking the oddity, unusual and the unexplained.
From his travels he accumulated weird and unusual artefacts and created the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museums to showcase his findings.
At the ticket desk you pick up your collection guide book, map and children’s Ripley’s Experience Checklist. Ripley’s is a self-guided experience allowing you to explore at your own pace.
You begin your adventure by taking the lift to the fifth floor. As the doors to the lift close, a voice of Ripley welcomes you on your adventure accompanied by flashing coloured lights which I thought was a great way to start. There are 5 floors crammed pack with interesting and unbelievable memorabilia.
As you walk out of the lift you enter the first room of exploration and Ripley’s studio. A life size replica of a Ferrari made entirely from wool catches your attention first followed by the world’s largest rocking chair in the distance, which provided great fun as we took turns trying it out for size.
Along with an animatronic T-Rex there were lots of other bizarre animals to see including a 2 -headed calf, 6 legged deer, Siamese piglets and a 5 legged frog.
What makes the museum so interesting is the collection is continuously growing and hundreds of new artefacts and exhibits are added every year. This is a great way for visitors to keep returning to explore and see new exhibits.
As you enter the gallery, which was like no other gallery I had ever visited before, what caught my eye was the giant piece of bottle cap art of Michelle Obama. Other weird and wonderful pieces of art included a portrait of JFK made from butterflies, Abraham Lincoln made from keyboard keys and Robert Ripley made out of sweets.
Each corner you turn and each room you enter has something extraordinary to see. One room was decorated as an “Upside Down Room” where the tables and chairs are on the ceiling! A wax work of Thomas Wedders who holds the record for having the world’s largest nose and there was even a model of the Royal family created out of chewing gum.
It was just amazing to see so many bizarre things under one roof, ranging from a 8ft scale model of the titanic crafted from over 147,000 matchsticks, feeling how cold the sea water would have been when the Titanic sunk to an actual section of the Berlin Wall to see and touch.
A great photo opportunity is the optical illusion where you can place your head through a hole in a table to make it look like you have no body.
Some of the exhibits were animatronic wax works of real people from Victorian freak shows such as the dog faced woman to a talking statue of the The Crocodile Man, Bobby Blackburn who thought it was a good idea to replace his teeth with alligator teeth.
As we continued our tour we came across Khagendra Magar of Nepal, at just 22 inches tall he is the World’s smallest man and measured ourselves next to the world’s tallest man Robert Wadlow at 8ft 11 followed by checking our weight compared to the world’s heaviest man, which was great fun.
One of our favourite parts of our journey around Ripley’s was the section asking you to make a gurner face in the mirror. However unknowingly to the person making the face as you walk further around the museum you actually are looking at the people pulling faces. My husband and daughter were in fits of laughter watching people through this one way glass screen.
As we continued to explore the museum we came across more weird and wonderful things to see, The Shuar Indians and the shrunken heads, rock samples from the moon and mars, looking into a black hole and even the chance to touch an actual meteorite.
The Willard Wigan zone contained amazing micro sculptures. They are so small they could fit on a pinhead or even the eye of a needle as his hand crafted sculptures stand at just .005mm tall. Using microscopes the level of detail you see is just unbelievable.
For younger children the inhuman devices of torture section was a little scary, but you can bypass this area through an alternative door.
My daughter loved the section “Impossible Survivals” and in particular Rodney Fox surviving a great white shark attack in 1963 requiring a staggering 463 stitches. There were some truly eye watering artefacts on display from an albino alligator to prehistoric shark teeth.
Who could forget the dress that divided the nation on social media. Was it blue and black, or white and gold? This is a replica and it certainly looks blue and black to me.
My youngest daughter sadly couldn’t make the visit but she has been intrigued by stories from her sister about the lizard man and the vampire woman.
Towards the end there is the mirror maze which opens at 11am. The unusual floor lighting enhances the “infinity effect” by giving the illusion of continuing hallways, when in fact you are at a dead end! It was so much fun and we loved it apart from my husband who got lost as he tried to escape the maze!
At the end of the attraction is the Black Hole which was a rotating vortex tunnel and our favourite attraction of the day. As you walk across the static bridge the outer tunnel spins, making you think that you are actually spinning.
Once was enough for me, but my husband and daughter crossed back and forth the bridge multiple times in fits of laughter as they tried to stand up straight.
As in all of these types of attractions there are green screen photo opportunities, where you are superimposed onto a mock newspaper article, standing next to the tallest and heaviest man and beside some scary shrunken heads. It makes a lovely keepsake, but was a little pricey at £20.00
You exit the museum through the gift shop where there was plenty of Ripley’s memorabilia to purchase.
Ripley’s is a great experience for children discovering and introducing them to interesting people, art, history, nature and culture. It took us around two hours to explore this fantastic yet weird museum, including lots of questions from our fascinated daughter as she tried to make sense of some of the exhibits that she had seen.
Since our visit my children are fascinated with the Ripley’s concept and have been asking to travel worldwide to experience other Ripley’s museums. We have also bought the Ripley’s Annual to keep their fascination going.
Location and Pricing
The London Pavilion, I Piccadilly Circus, W1 (020-3238 0022,
At the time of writing on the door tickets for Ripley’s London are Adults £26.95, children £21.95, under-fours free.
However if you are planning a visit I would recommend booking your tickets in advance either through the Ripley’s website, tickets are Adults £23.75, children £17.48, under-fours free. Fast track tickets an extra £3.00 per person and are worth the extra to skip the admission queue especially on weekends and school holidays.
It is also worth looking at the offers on the National Rail website, where if you have a valid train ticket you get 2 for 1 entry to Ripley’s.
After our visit to Ripley’s we had a fabulous lunch at Planet Hollywood. (You can read our review here).
Planet Hollywood is the perfect location to dine at either before or after your visit to Ripley’s as it is just a short five minute walk away. In the foyer area of Ripley’s look out for 20% off Planet Hollywood promotional leaflets on display or on the Ripley’s website you can purchase a meal package ticket.