Strap yourself in and get ready for blast off. The final frontier is your first port of call but there’s also plenty of ancient history to discover in the city that brought you the king in a car park. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s a Leicester museum just waiting to thrill and entertain.
If you don’t get a buzz from the thought of Buzz Aldrin’s underwear then we feel very, very sorry for you. The second man on the moon’s unmentionables is just one of the star attractions at The National Space Centre, which crams a whole galaxy’s worth of activities and interactive displays into six galleries, the UK’s largest planetarium and an iconic 42-metre high rocket tower. Arrive early, as this is definitely a full day out for grown-up interplanetary explorers and junior space cadets alike. Thankfully, our Leicester Central (A50) hotel is just a couple of miles away, so it makes a pretty good moon base. And before you ask, yes, they do explain how astronauts go to the loo. In fact, it’s their most frequently asked question!
After all that futuristic exploration, how about a trip back in time? Leicester’s Guildhall was built around 1390, which means it had already been around for over 60 years when Richard III was born. Today it’s one of the best-preserved buildings of its type in the country and home to the medieval Leicester galleries, where you can stroll down the city’s streets as they would have been 600 years ago. If that sounds like fun, wait until you meet Crankie Gemma – a Victorian pickpocket who can be found lurking in the Guildhall’s Victorian police cells.
Dedicated to Lord Richard Attenborough, the Attenborough Arts Centre is an entirely modern building from the ground up, including its focus on disability access. Opened at the turn of the millennium, the spacious gallery hosts a rotating cast of exhibits and work from local artists with daily art classes. If you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon a live jazz recital at lunchtime or a theatrical pop-up show. The good value café makes it perfect for lunch or coffee and a cake, and it’s less than a mile from our Leicester City Centre hotel.
Another very modern interpretation of a museum, New Walk Museum & Art Gallery looks to cater for families and kids of all sizes. The Den Gallery was created with children under five in mind, but the dinosaur and wild space exhibits will interest kids of all ages. If you head down on Mondays, you can catch their craft sessions, which include specially created making and sketching sessions around the museum. Open seven days a week until 5pm and with an excellent city centre location perfect for those staying at our Leicester City Centre hotel, this is the ideal museum for families.
A certain regal figure looms large in the city’s recent history, ever since his remains were discovered beneath a car park next to Leicester Cathedral in 2012. Now you can find out more about this incredible tale at the new £4 million King Richard III Visitor Centre, which tells the story of both his life and the discovery of his body through a stunning multi-media display.
As well as its medieval history, Leicester is proud of its industrial heritage too. The Abbey Pumping Station Museum is the city’s very own museum of science and technology. This stunning Victorian building may have a less than glamorous past (it’s a former sewage works), but it’s a suitably grand home to Leicester’s celebration of its working past. Pride of place goes to the four giant beam engines that were still pumping the city’s ‘night soil’ as recently as 1964. Other highlights include a narrow gauge steam railway and the mighty Ruston-Bucyrus steam shovel. Located just across the road from the National Space Centre, you can visit both for a day that takes in the best of the industrial revolution and the space race.
Leicester has its fair share of interesting boutique museums too. The National Gas Museum, near the King Power Stadium, a 14-minute drive from our Braunstone hotel, does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s the home of the world’s biggest collection of gas-related items and is housed in the Grade II-listed gatehouse of the city’s former gasworks.
The Retro Computer Museum in Thurmaston is a brilliant collection of computers and games consoles from the 60s to the present day. If you’re desperate to show the kids your Sonic the Hedgehog skills, it’s worth remembering that the museum is only open to the public on Sundays.
There are no fewer than seven Leicester hotels to suit your needs when planning a visit - so you can choose whatever's best for you, whether you're indulging in some retail therapy or treating yourself to a night out.
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