The Museum of London has displays about the history and culture of London. The museum has the world’s largest urban history collection with artefacts that include the Lord Mayor’s state coach and an Art Deco lift from Selfridges.
The Museum of London doesn’t attract the same level of visitors as the city’s other more well-known attractions, which is a shame as it is an excellent museum and spending a few hours here at the beginning of your visit to London will give you a much greater understanding of the city allowing you to better appreciate the remainder of your time in London.
What to see at the Museum of London
The Museum of London features exhibits chronicling the history of London from prehistoric times to the present day.
The museum’s permanent galleries are arranged in chronological order and include:
London Before London (450,000 BC–AD 50)
Exhibits about London from prehistoric times until the arrival of the Romans in AD 50. This gallery includes displays about the animals that lived in London prior to settlement as well as life in London during the Bronze and Iron Ages.
Roman London (AD 50–410)
Exhibits about the Roman settlement of Londinium, which was the largest city in Britannia and an important international port.
Medieval London (410–1558)
Exhibits about London during Medieval times from the collapse of the Roman city until the accession of Queen Elizabeth I. This gallery includes displays about the period when London grew to become one of the leading cities of Europe and features exhibits about the original London Bridge.
War, Plague & Fire (1550s–1660s)
Exhibits about the turbulent period in London’s history that included the execution of Charles I, the plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666.
Expanding City (1670s–1850s)
London was greatly changed by the rapid population decline brought about by the plague and the Great Fire, and this resulted in a dramatic cultural change that impacted all sectors of society eventually leading to London becoming the world’s largest city and a major manufacturing centre.
People’s City (1850s–1940s)
By 1850 London was the wealthiest and most powerful city in the world and the city continued to grow and become more crowded during this period. This period also includes the Victorian era (when England led the world in invention and scientific discovery) as well as both World War I and II.
World City (1950s–today)
The final gallery has exhibits about postwar London including the Swinging Sixties, the punk subculture of the 1970s, the city’s development into a diverse multicultural city being transformed by new technologies.
The City Gallery (1757–today)
The City Gallery is focused on the City of London from 1757 to the present day. This gallery has displays that illustrate the juxtaposition of tradition and modern commerce in the City of London. The Lord Mayor’s State Coach is the highlight of this gallery.
The London 2012 Cauldron (2012)
There is also a gallery with exhibits about London’s Olympic history which includes the Olympic Cauldron used during the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The museum also has several temporary exhibitions that include:
Votes for Women
The Votes for Women display (running until 6 January 2019) shows the story behind the Suffragette movement in London. It is one of several temporary exhibitions running in museums around Britain to mark the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which extended the right to vote to more people including women.
Visiting the Museum of London
The Museum of London is located in the City of London around halfway between Barbican and St Paul’s tube stations, both of which are not much more than a five-minute walk from the museum.
The museum’s central location in the City of London means that there are plenty of other attractions to visit nearby with the Barbican Centre, Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey), the City of London Police Museum, Guildhall, Guildhall Art Gallery, Smithfield Market and St Paul’s Cathedral all within a 10-minute walk.
The museum has two cafes and a restaurant and there is also an area where you can eat your own picnic lunch, although this area is reserved for school groups during term time. Free Wi-Fi access is available in the museum.
The museum is fully wheelchair accessible.
Most visitors spend around 2–3 hours visiting the museum.