London’s very own museum looks unassuming tucked away among the grey concrete buildings at the Barbican complex. Once inside the Museum of London, you’ll soon forget this, as you start to wander through the stages of London’s fascinating history from its first settlers to modern times. For anyone interested in London’s history this museum should be on top of the list, but how family-friendly is it really?
The Victoria walk at the Museum of London
A highlight for us is the Victorian Walk, which is a series of streets with old London shopfronts. It really feels like stepping back in time, experiencing 19th-century life in the city with all the choices the capital of an empire could offer. Kids are fine to run around and explore on their own in this section which is always a great relief for parents.
As part of the permanent “People’s City Gallery” you can also find the original and incredibly ornamented Selfridges lift. In this section, you’ll also find Booth’s poverty map showing the extremes of affluence, where you can zoom in your own area of London. Opposite J. Lyons Restaurant front from 1922, you can find the biggest highlight for our 2 years old: An interactive model railway! This was really towards the end of the day, and it was a great discovery and a fun surprise for him.
We also really like the Roman and Medieval exhibition (especially the Vikings sections) where you can step inside historical houses and touch replicas of everyday artefacts. As with all museums of history, the best way to engage kids is for parents to explain and come up with stories to spark their imagination. This is easier said than done though, especially if you have children of different ages to handle at the same time. A piece of good advice can be to read a book or two about a specific period of history before going.
As a Norwegian family in London, we really enjoyed the Viking exhibition. This tombstone found outside St Paul’s Cathedral is showing a Norse pattern typical for the Ringerike in Norway. Check our post about the medieval Viking sites in London.
Activities for children
In addition to the permanent exhibitions, Museum of London is organising several activities for children as well as temporary exhibitions. Check their website before going, especially if you’re taking smaller kids to take advantage of this. There are also special backpacks for under-fives to help them explore the different areas.
Our overall impression of the Museum of London
So is it child-friendly? The answer is that it all depends. For toddlers that are used to being very active running around, there is probably more value in going to the nearest playground. At the same time, there are plenty of things to do for young kids especially on the ground floor where you’ll find the most interactive exhibitions. Museum of London is also a lot more functional and easy to navigate, compared to other museums such as the labyrinths of the British Museum and the V&A. It also feels a lot less crowded than many of the big national museums.
For children starting to learn about history, this is a treasure trove. As a Londoner, learning about what the Romans and Vikings did in your own neighbourhood makes history feel a lot more real and tangible. Sometimes we forget what a privilege it is to live in a historic city like London. Walking through the Museum of London reminds you what made London one of the greatest cities on the planet.
Address: 150 London Wall, Barbican, London EC2Y 5HN