Ask any Londoner or visitor to the city to name the museums they've been to or would like to see and they are likely to reel off the Natural History, Science and British museums in quick succession. One museum most won't know as readily but that is perhaps more relevant to them than the others is the Museum of London. This hidden gem in the heart of the City is set along the historic London Wall. The wall used to set the boundaries of Roman Londinium and is a clever feature of the museum itself.
Getting to the museum is simple enough with it being a short walk from stations at Moorgate, St Pauls and the Barbican. For those looking to plan a long day out the latter two stops provide attractive options to include in a full tour schedule.
Once you've discovered the picturesque raised walkways and made your way into the museum your journey through time begins. Starting in prehistoric times and working through the ages up until the present day, there are a multitude of exhibits to marvel and wonder at. From fascinating discoveries made over the years, showing how life in the area now known as our capital has changed, to a haunting short film depicting the spread of the plague, you can easily lose yourself for hours.
There are enough interactive exhibits to keep the kids - and big kids among you - amused and interested too. Interacting with most of the exhibits is clever, a number of them require you to swipe pages or information to one side, much like an iPad – or as was pointed out by the big kid I was with, just like in Minority Report. These range from puzzles showing how our language has evolved, to clever interviews to see if you could cut it as a gun maker among other occupations. Be sure to look out for exhibits which urge you to touch them, some of them contain bonuses that are missed by many; at this point it was clearly an advantage to have one of those big kids with me!
Always on hand are the friendly and knowledgeable staff to answer questions and they are often likely to spark up impromptu talks on certain parts of the museum – on our visit one of them launched into a vivid talk on the outlandish times of Henry VIII. You can happily wander the museum on your own as we chose to do or if you prefer you can join in with one of the regularly scheduled guided tours - available in several languages if needed. There are always extra features and attractions on offer, on our visit it was an exhibition of London Street Photography, which was the main reason for our visit incidentally. Despite the weird queuing system adopted by the other patrons – evoking memories of a school dinner queue!? – this was fascinating and showed the changing face of the city since the 1880’s.
One of my personal highlights of our visit was sitting in the recreated Victorian Pleasure gardens as a play was acted out on the wall display, with some stunning audio and light effects it was easy to imagine myself actually in the gardens of the day, although some of the dresses worn by the ladies looked hideously uncomfortable! No wonder they needed help getting dressed for big occasions! Another highlight was walking through to the modern era where we began to recognise memorabilia from our own childhoods and teenage years. It was fascinating to see items that have quickly come into fashion and then sunk just as rapidly into obscurity.
I’d urge anyone to take the time to visit this wonderful museum when looking for a relaxed day out in London and take home your own memories of how this wonderful city has evolved through the ages. Better still. Its FREE!