It’s hard to believe that in a fairly innocuous house just round the corner from Holborn Tube you can gaze upon such treasures as the sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian king, Seti I. For this we can thank Sir John Soanes.

Soanes was one of the UK’s greatest 19th-century architects, counting the design of the Bank of England among his achievements.

He also happened to be a passionate collector of paintings, sculptures and curios from around the world.

Thankfully he had the generosity (and the ego) to rebuild his home as a museum to display his wares.

Two hundred years later, it still feels like a well-kept secret, offering a bite-size alternative to the British Museum.


» Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP Holborn (020 7405 2107; Free

Verdict: A well-Guarded, wondrous collection