Recently we visited the Museum of London, which is located in the City, close to the Barbican Centre and a short walk away from St. Paul’s Cathedral. The museum is free to visit and documents the history of London, from prehistoric to modern times, offering the largest urban history collection in the world with more than six million objects.
I visited with 3 1/2 year old Little T and we found the museum fascinating and very family-friendly. My son enjoyed the interactive displays and exhibits around the museum, from measuring weights in the Roman London gallery to moving London’s iconic transport vehicles around a track in the People’s City gallery.
While we were in the City, we took the opportunity meet up with my husband at the Sky Garden for lunch which was a fantastic experience – the 360 degree views of London are incredible and it was a great way to make the most of our visit to the Square Mile.
For a day out in the City of London, I’d recommend having a look at the free maps, event calendar and latest updates on the Visit the City tourism bureau‘s website. Download self-guided tour maps, including a family-friendly version, the Children’s trail map.
London Before London (450,000 BC – AD 50)
Our visit to the Museum of London started with a look into the lives of people in the Lower Thames Valley from prehistoric times until the creation of the Roman city of Londinium. It is incredible to imagine that rhinos, mammoths and wolves once roamed around London.
Interesting fact: 125,000 years ago, hippos lived in Trafalgar Square!
Roman London (AD 50 – 410)
Fragments of the Roman London Wall can be seen just outside the Museum of London. The museum’s Roman London gallery offers a fascinating look into what daily life was like in the city, called Londinium, 2000 years ago.
Interesting fact: Around AD 120, when Londonium was at its height, the city was home to about 45,000 people and it would not reach that size again until the 13th century.
The artifacts and displays of the growing city were very interesting, and I enjoyed the look into a typical home at the time.
Medieval London (410 – 1558)
This gallery takes you from the collapse of the Roman city to the accession of Queen Elizabeth I. During this period of time, London grew to become one of the wealthiest and most important cities in Europe.
Interesting fact: In the 1100s, Londoners would go ice skating by tying animal bones to their feet and using wooden poles to push themselves along the ice.
War, Plague and Fire (1550s – 1660s)
One of the most turbulent periods in London’s history, the city experienced the execution of King Charles I in 1649, the plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666. There are some amazing paintings this gallery depicting the Great Fire.
Expanding City (1670s – 1850s)
In this gallery, we enjoyed having a look at the many artifacts, dollhouses and stunning gowns, as well as everyday objects recovered in excavations. Here you’ll also find a recreation of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, with beautiful fashion displayed.
People’s City Gallery (1850s – 1940s)
My favorite part of the museum was the Victorian walk, where you can experience wandering along the winding streets of 19th century London. We spent most of our time having a look at the toy shop window – some things never change!
The Victorian Walk features a dozen street trades, including a barber, baker, tobacconist, tailor and pawnbroker.
Another highlight was seeing London’s first motor vehicles, such as this taxi from 1908, that would eventually replace the city’s horse-drawn taxis, buses and carts.
Also on display was this lift covered in intricate gold detailing that was installed at Selfridges in 1928 and operated by a female staff member.
A good place to take a break from exploring here is at this interactive table for children to move buses, cars and trams along the streets of London.
World City (1950s – today)
The final permanent gallery covered the postwar generation – with revolutions in technology, fashion and culture that would transform London.
The London 2012 Cauldron
This iconic sculpture created by Heatherwick Studio is on display here, with footage showing how the cauldron was made and its role in the opening and closing ceremonies. It’s amazing to see up close!
The Museum of London has been on my list of places of visit for quite some time and I’m glad we finally made it over there for a day out in the City. I highly recommend visiting for a fascinating look into London’s history, a huge, intriguing collection of artifacts, and several family-friendly displays and exhibits. The museum regularly runs special events, including family activities over the weekends, so it’s definitely worth having a look at their website to help plan your day in advance.
Museum of London
Address: 150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN
Opening Hours: Open daily 10am to 6pm (galleries close at 5:40pm)
Closest Tube Stations: Barbican [Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan lines]; St Paul’s [Central line]
Tickets: Free admission to museum
Family-Friendly Facilities: Two cafés that sell kid’s picnic boxes; one family-friendly restaurant with a Kids Eat Free offer; lunch hall area for bringing in your own packed lunch; baby changing facilities in toilets
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