Visit the Museum of London

Photo: Mike Peel / Wikipedia
Museum of London map
Museum of London , 150 London Wall, Barbican EC2Y 5HN
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Opening times and price

Opening hours:
10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun); Last entry 20 mins before closing
Visiting hours are subject to change
Ticket cost:
Adults free entry
Time required:
A typical visit to Museum of London lasts 2 hours (approx)

Getting to Museum of London

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The nearest train station to Museum of London is Barbican
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Museum of London Easy to get to? Good for kids? Value for money? free Worth a visit? 2 0 3

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Craig recommends… Here’s my latest Museum of London review. You can learn more about the city’s history at the Museum of London in Docklands. You can see drawings and paintings of historical London in the Guildhall Art Gallery and Bank of England Museum.

The Museum of London is No.7 in our list of London’s best museums.

History of London

The exhibition begins with London Before London, which explores the geography and landscape of the area before London was even there.

It examines some of the earliest dwellings and archaeological finds that have been discovered along the Thames, including a collection of offerings, bronze tools and iron swords that were thrown into the water to please the gods.

Museum of London at the Barbican

Roman London

The second gallery covers the history of Roman Londinium, which originally grew up around 50 AD as a means to link Colchester with the rest of the country.

There are lots of Roman finds on display including some silver coins and tablets, lots of pottery and amphora, and a 4th-century coffin of a young Roman lady.

You can also see remnants of the Temple of Mithras, which was dug up in Walbrook and moved to the Museum of London.

Roman remains from Londinium

Saxon and Medieval London

This gallery spans the years 4-1500 AD – a stretch of time that covers the Viking raids, the Norman Conquest, the Black Death, and the medieval wars with Scotland.

London was a thriving city by this time, and boasted early versions of Westminster Abbey, Old St. Paul’s and an inhabited London Bridge.

The Great Fire of London

London during the Tudors and Stuarts

The Tudor and Stuart gallery covers a rich period of history from Henry VIII to the Great Fire of London in 1666.

You will see the devastation wrought by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the religious terror inflicted by Bloody Mary, and learn about Charles I’s titanic battle with Parliament during the English Civil War.

You will also see some early drawings of London’s skyline, early street maps, and a reconstruction of the Rose Theatre (a contemporary of William Shakespeare’s Globe).

The Great Fire of London exhibition includes some of the burnt and blackened remains that have been dug up around Pudding Lane. It shows how London then rose from the ashes with some of the original maps and documents of the damage, and Christopher Wren’s ambitious rebuilding plans.

Rose Theatre model at the Museum of London

Georgian London

The 17th and early 18th-century saw London blossom into a centre of scientific learning. You can read about the Guilds and Corporation in the City of London, and see the Lord Mayor’s coach from 1757. This gilded trap is covered in carvings and painted panels by the Florentine artist Cipriani, and is still used every year in the Lord Mayor’s Parade.

Lord Mayor’s Coach

History of Modern London

The World City gallery covers Queen Victoria and the era of the Suffragettes, right up to World Wars II and beyond. After walking down a Victorian street complete with full-size shop fronts you’ll see how The Blitz destroyed large parts of the city.

Craig’s review of the Museum of London

This review originally appeared in his London blog

Victorian shopping street

The Museum of London is probably my favourite museum in London, but of course I am a huge fan of London. The more you know about the city the better it gets, because you can see how much the city has changed over the centuries.

Pottery exhibits at the Museum of London

It begins with all the prehistoric finds (bones and stones). They’ve got a lot of arrow heads, axeheads, shields, swords and bits of flint. The most interesting display is probably the tusks and skulls of the hippos and elephants that used to roam around Trafalgar Square 200,000 years ago.

It gets better when you reach the Roman exhibits. When you look at the intricate little models of the basilica, forum and wharves it’s hard to believe it was real – it almost looks like Rome! I always curse Boudicca for burning these buildings down because imagine how fantastic it would be if they were still standing today.

They have a sizeable collection of statues, pots and blocks of concrete that have been dug up during building works, plus lots of coins, jewellery and big wooden timbers. Note: don’t forget to look out of the window at this point, because you can see the remains of London’s Roman wall downstairs in the street.

Part of the old Roman wall in London

Then you move through the Medieval era and into the Tudors and Stuarts, which includes a lot of beautiful treasures that survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries. They also have a rather gruesome movie about the Black Death.

Cell door from Newgate Prison

After that comes some interesting information about William Shakespeare, and a cutaway model of the Rose Theatre. They also have some interesting paintings of the London skyline and a plate from the famous Copperplate Map.

They have a rather tiny display about the Great Fire of London after that, where you can see some burnt timbers and bricks, and a couple of the most famous fire paintings.

Then comes the Georgian era. My favourite display in here is an original cell door from Newgate Prison. Have a close look at that wooden wall with all the prisoners’ scribblings scratched onto it… that’s a proper punishment, being locked inside there with only your fingernail as a pen.

Georgian pleasure garden party

Check out their spooky pleasure garden… it’s rather dark and gloomy inside inside and full of Georgian ladies and dandified fellas, dressed-up and having a chat over the top of birdsongs and Handel tunes. It’s all very pleasant and peaceful, but also rather strange!

Victorian street at the Museum of London

I love their Victorian street. They’ve built about fifteen full-size shopfronts that you can walk around, with the sounds of the street pumped in through the speakers. The windows are filled with Victorian goods: toys and cards, tobacco and snuff, biscuits and crackers, top hats and tails, and even a little post office, pub and public urinal!

Then you move onto the pre-war and post-war years. There’s a big display about the women’s vote, plus a few gas masks, ration cards and posters from the war years. They skip through the 60s, 70s and 80s with a red telephone box, miniskirts, psychedelic album covers, and some early home computers. It seems to be a lot more about Britain by this point, though, rather than the city of London itself, so it doesn’t interest me so much.

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  • JerrySmith – “As someone who loves London and devours every book on the subject, I have to say that I was slightly disappointed by the museum of London. I think it works well if you are a student, as there are plenty of items that have been found by archaelogist (coins, tools, spearheads, for example) but these are not the kind of items that will excite tourists. London's history is full of exciting periods -- the blitz, the great fire of London, the plagues, the civil war, riots.. But these things are just dealt with by a small movie or some other interesting, but hardly exciting items. Where is the excitement? When I go to the natural history museum I can see full size dinosuar skeletons and whales hanging from the ceiling. When I go to the imperial war museum I can see planes hanging from the ceiling. Where is the equivalent excitement in the museum of London? They could make so much more because this is a fantastic city with a rich history.”
  • pearlyqueen – “There are lots of things to enjoy here, and some things that you might want to skip. I am not a big fan of looking at bones and pots and little bits of flint, so I pretty much skipped the whole first section which deals with pre-history. But things are much more interesting in the next section which deals with roman London. There are lots of impressive remains and some reconstructions of what it looked like. I couldnt help but think of rome, and wonder what London would look like today if some of these impressive buildings remained standing. It seems that 99% of roman London was knocked down leaving only tantalising pieces dotted around the city, which is a shame. The exhibition on the great fire of London was, I am sorry to report, very disappointing. Maybe I missed a bit of the display, but the only thing I found was a video about it playing on a tv screen, with a few burnt ropes and post in front of it. Very dissapointed about that. But that was the only thing that left me unfulfi”

Talk about the Museum of London

If you enjoy this then try: Guildhall Art Gallery (you can walk it in 6 mins) and Museum of London Docklands (catch the tube from Barbican to Museum of London Docklands).

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