As entertaining as it is educational, the Museum of London meanders through the various incarnations of the city, stopping off in Roman Londinium and Saxon Ludenwic before eventually ending up in the 21st-century metropolis. Interesting objects and interactive displays work together to bring each era to life, without ever getting too whiz-bang, making this one of the capital's best museums. Free themed tours take place throughout the day; check the signs by the entrance for times.
The first gallery, London Before London, sheds light on the ancient settlements that predated the capital and is followed by Roman London, which is full of engrossing displays, models and archaeological finds. After a glimpse of the real Roman wall from the window, head into Medieval London (don't miss the 1348 Black Death video) and then War, Plague & Fire, where a six-minute film covers the great 1666 conflagration that completely altered the city's face.
The story continues in the downstairs galleries, starting with Expanding City where you’ll find exquisite fashion and jewellery, the graffitied walls of a 1750 prison cell and the Rhinebeck Panorama, an incredibly detailed watercolour of London in 1806. After a quick spin through the re-created Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, you'll emerge into People's City and a suitably Dickensian mock-up of a Victorian street. Other exhibits include a 1908 taxi cab, a 1928 art-deco lift from Selfridges, an interactive water pump that makes clear the perils of the once-insanitary water system, and a fascinating multimedia display on the Suffragettes. This section ends with WWII, where the testimonies of ordinary people are particularly moving. World City brings things up to date with Beatles memorabilia, race riots and gay-rights marches. Last but by no means least is the City Gallery, showcasing the gilded and frescoed Lord Mayor’s coach dating from 1757.
The museum is slated to move from its current location to nearby Smithfield Market in 2022.