When you visit museums with your family, there’s a good chance you avoid the souvenir shops on your way out, since you’re used to overpriced, cheaply-made knickknacks that might not even survive the ride home. But while that may have been true in the past, these days you’re just as likely to find tasteful, quality merchandise that takes what the museum specializes in and makes it into something beautiful you can take with you. Naturally, that makes them perfect for holiday shopping, especially for your most cultured friends and family members. It’s fun, too. Wander the museum for inspiration, then browse the museum shop in peace and avoid the crowds mobbing the department stores altogether. So when you’re ready to give the museum shop another shot, here are a few to visit where the merchandise goes far beyond tee-shirts and keychains.
Shops at Tate Modern
The art-lover in your life has no doubt spent time at the Tate Modern already, so slip in here to find a gift related to their favourite artist or modern-art subgenre. Visit the glass-walled shop on the ground floor. It’s small, but packed with reproductions of famous works by Mark Rothko and Roy Lichtenstein, as well as classic English teapots and umbrellas emblazoned with famous art motifs or other decoration. Every Londoner needs an umbrella, after all. Why not give one with a colour wheel on it? With a bit more time, go downstairs and explore the even larger, bustling shop and bookstore. Walk among the shelves and explore books on everything from graffiti to video art. Whatever specialty you want, you’re sure to find a book that illustrates it gorgeously.
The UK’s most famous museum also has a hugely diverse shop with gifts for everyone you know. Replicas of the world’s most famous sculptures would suit your sibling who loves Renaissance art. A book on Japanese calligraphy – difficult to find in a traditional bookshop – would surprise your Japanophile friend. Your travel-mad aunt would be delighted by the illustrated book of maps, and a Rosetta Stone keyring would be a fun little surprise for that coworker who is determined to finally master French conjugations. The British Museum Shops are in the caverous, awe-inspriring main hall, where visitors flow in and out between exhibits. Stop for a cappuccino and people-watch as you mull over what to purchase. You’ll be surprised to realize how pleasant Christmas shopping can be.
Science Museum & Natural History Museum
Interested in science, education, or the mechanical world? The Science Museum’s sprawling shop has everything from electronic toys for children to space souvenirs. It’s like a laboratory, where mechanical arms and goofy eyeballs adorn the shelves amongst spaceships and X-ray oven gloves. Just next door, the Natural History Museum‘s gift shop has a particularly kid-friendly vibe, with furry animals, plastic dinosaurs, and pocket microscopes. Use your imagination and you’ll feel as if you’re shopping in the jungle at Jurassic Park.