Lonely Planet review
Housed in a converted warehouse dating from 1802, this museum offers a comprehensive overview of the entire history of the Thames from the arrival of the Romans in AD 43. Well-organised with knowledgeable and helpful staff, it's at its best when dealing with specifics such as the docks during WWII, as well as their controversial transformation into the Docklands during the 1980s.
The tour begins on the 3rd floor (take the lift to the top) with the Roman settlement of Londinium and works its way downwards through the ages. Keep an eye out for the scale model of old London Bridge. Other highlights include Sailortown, a re-creation of the cobbled streets, bars and lodging houses of a mid-19th-century dockside community and nearby Chinatown, and more detailed galleries such as London, Sugar & Slavery, which examines the capital's role in the transatlantic slave trade.
There's lots for kids here, including the hands-on Mudlarks gallery, where children can explore the history of the Thames, tipping the clipper, trying on old-fashioned diving helmets and even constructing a simple model of Canary Wharf. The museum has special exhibitions every few months, for which there is usually a charge. There's also a great cafe on site.