Museums reviewed by parents: Museum of London
Tim Joseph visited the Museum of London with Robert, 5.
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Best for Nursery and Reception kids
While this age group will enjoy looking at skulls and bones in the London Before London gallery and models spread thoughout the Roman and Medieval galleries, there isn't a great deal of interactive material, and most of the museum is aimed at reasonably confident readers.
Having said that, right at the end of the museum, there is a rest area with wooden tube trains and trams that little ones will enjoy playing with.
Best for KS1 kids
Standout features for my son were looking at the prehistoric skulls, flint axes/spears and bones in the London Before London Gallery, and the reconstructed rooms in the Roman gallery – including one with a mosaic floor. He also enjoyed video exhibits about the spread of the Black Death and the Great Fire of London, and a reconstructed 18th Century prison cell.
Best for KS2 kids
Children in KS2 will be learning about many of the events and eras that the museum covers, and, whichever of the galleries covers the things that they are learning will have exhibits to bring it to life.
Best feature for older children are the exhibits about the Great Fire of London, particularly various paintings and the video. The Victiorian Street at the end of the museum is also good, and includes a penny-farthing bicycle and street lamps.
You can walk around sections of the Roman city walls by leaving the museum and walking along London Wall and going down a short access road (this curves sharply and slopes down). You can also get to the edge of one of the ponds in the Barbican Centre by walking along the wall.
Half-term and holiday events for families
During the holidays there are often workshops that children can participate in, and family-friendly walking tours looking at the history of the city.
Food and drink options
There's a coffee shop at the end of the museum, before you go back up the stairs to the main entrance/hallway. The cookies and cakes looked good, but were a treat at £3-£4 per slice of cake.
The main cafe is located right beside the main entrance. It offers a reasonable selection of hot and cold light meals. Quiches and frittatas are around £10, sandwiches and salads from £5.
There's also a lunch hall where you can eat your own packed lunch, but this is only available out of school terms.
Getting there, prices and opening hours
The museum is located at the southern side of the Barbican Centre. If you don't want to walk through the Barbican Centre, your best public transport options are to take the Metropolitan, Circle or Hamersmith and City lines to Barbican station and walk south along Aldersgate Street to the Rotunda, or north from St Paul's station (Central line) along St-Martin's-le-Grand and Aldersgate Street. Moorgate (National Rail) is also nearby, along London Wall.
Admission is free, though there is a recommended donation. The museum is open 10am to 6pm, 7 days a week.
Pocket-money shop purchases
There's a large and well-stocked gift shop right beside the main entrance. They had lots of London-themed gifts at reasonable prices (for London!). Whatever your child's interest, from Romans to London buses, they can probably find something to suit them here. There are all the standard museum basics – pencil sharpeners, bookmarks and small knick-knacks, along with things like larger model buses / taxis / phoneboxes, Roman solider costumes, games and lots of books.
Online treasures if you're too far to visit
The museum produces insightful videos about the history of London and the lives of Londoners on its YouTube channel.
Links to the National Curriculum
- KS1: events beyond living memory that are significant (the Great Fire of London) and significant historical events, people and places in their own locality
- KS2: the Roman Empire and its impact on Britain
- KS2: life in the Victorian era
Photography: © Museum of London
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