While there’s obvious charm about wandering around a gallery or museum looking at lovely art or artefacts, a living history museum is a tourist experience like few others.
Getting a glimpse into how people lived way back when can be both thrilling and educational. Here are just some of the top living museums across Britain and Europe for you to visit this summer
Beamish Living Museum, England
One of the finest and most fully realised living museums in the world, Beamish stands across 300 acres in County Durham and shows life as lived in the north east of England in the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s. There’s a town, railway station, farm, colliery, pit village and baker’s where you can get freshly baked bread. Thankfully, the dentist will just tell you how they extracted teeth in the olden days rather than demonstrating.
Ulster American Folk Park, Northern Ireland
Immerse yourself across 40 acres in the story of Irish emigration. Follow the trail as you journey from the thatched cottages of Ulster on board a full-scale sailing ship leading to the log cabins of the American Frontier. Along the way, meet an array of costumed characters with traditional crafts to show, tales to tell and food to share.
New Lanark Visitor Centre, Scotland
As one of just five World Heritage Sites in Scotland, New Lanark tells the fascinating story of the cotton mill village of New Lanark which became known under the enlightened management of social pioneer, Robert Owen. Highlights include the Annie McLeod Experience ride which takes you back in time, Robert Owen’s School for Children, the millworkers house, and working textile machinery.
St Fagans Natural History Museum, Wales
Visit the 18th century smithy where horses were shod, household items made and mended, and metal tyres put on wagon wheels. See the resident blacksmith use traditional tools and equipment to make pieces of decorative forgework. The Woollen Mill produces traditional shoulder shawls and blankets and you can visit the clogmaker’s workshop or pop into the Melin Bompren Corn Mill.
Black Country Living Museum, England
This award-winning corner of the West Midlands is now one of the largest open-air museums in the UK with an entire Black Country village created brick by original brick. There are charismatic residents to chat to there or you could take a trip below ground for a mining experience.
Stockholm’s Skansen is the world’s first open-air museum, founded in 1891. Here you can stroll through five centuries of Swedish history, peopled by characters in period dress. Traditional rural culture is brought to life by exhibiting furnished houses and farmsteads, cultivated plots and gardens, and both domestic and wild animals such as bears, wolves and lynx.
Created in the mid-50s to preserve the ‘old Reykjavik’, Árbæjarsafn features a replica of a smithy, a boy-scout hut, a farmhouse, a drill formerly used to search of gold, a stable and a labourer’s cottage, while the museum church can be hired for ceremonies.
Netherlands Open Air Museum, Holland
‘Experience Holland in a single day’ is its motto and the Netherlands Open Air Museum delivers. Established in 1912 the museum covers fifty topics that make up the ‘Canon of Dutch History’. There’s the story of the 1953 flood disaster, a ‘nodding donkey’, historic trams and a 17th century converted farmhouse.
What’s the best living museum you’ve visited?