Romp through 450,000 years of London history at this entertaining and educational museum, one of the capital's finest. Exhibiting everything from a mammoth's jaw circa 200,000 BCE to Oliver Cromwell's death mask and the desperate scrawls of convicts on a cell from Wellclose Prison, interactive displays and reconstructed scenes transport visitors from Roman Londinium and Saxon Lundenwic right up to the 21st-century metropolis.
Galleries and exhibitions
The first gallery, London Before London, sheds light on the small settlements along the Thames and is followed by Roman London, which shows reconstructed rooms (seek out the incredibly intact Bucklersbury mosaic) and engrossing archaeological finds. After a glimpse of the real Roman city wall from the window, head into Medieval London to see artefacts from Saxon Lundenwic and then onto War, Plague & Fire, with depictions of the 1666 conflagration that forever altered the city.
Downstairs, Expanding City documents London's transformation into a centre of empire and industry, though the 1750s debtors' cell shows that not all benefitted. Take a spin through the suitably Dickensian mock-up of a Victorian street and recreated Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in People's City, where other highlights include a taxi from 1908, a 1928 art-deco lift from Selfridges and a fascinating multimedia display on the suffragettes. World City brings the timeline up to date with Beatles memorabilia, remnants of race riots and gay-rights marches, and kit from the 2012 Olympics.
Tickets and other information
General admission tickets are free but must be booked in advance. Check online for the availability of talks and events, including interactive trails for children, which also need to be pre-booked. The museum will be closing at this site and moving to a new space in Smithfield Market in 2024. There's a sister museum in the Docklands, which traces the city's history through its docks and waterways.