If you only have time for one stop, make it this one. I use it as a kind of club to meet overseas visitors. I go there at least once a month and take fans to the Roman Life Room (69) and also room 70. If you have time, check out the Roman Britain room (49) & the Enlightenment Gallery, where you can touch an exact replica of the Rosetta Stone.
Tip: Go in the back way, via Montague Place; they are now doing bag searches and you will avoid the worst queues.
Related blog: The Riddle of the Roman Vase
London’s other great museum will soon be moving to Old Smithfields Market and might have a train passing through it. At the time of writing it is near St Paul’s tube station in the Barbican. There is a wonderful section devoted to Roman London.
Tip: Look out for bits of London’s Roman wall outside and indeed, all over the City of London. Related blog: Visualising Roman London
Did you know you can see Trajan’s column in London? It’s a plaster cast, but still gives you a good view and lovely detail. It was recently cleaned but reopened in December 2018 and looks better than ever. You can also see a life-sized plaster cast of Michelangelo’s David. Yes, it’s Renaissance not Roman, but still worth visiting.
Tip: Visit the tea rooms across the courtyard and marvel at their beauty.
Related blog: Trajan's Column at the V&A
4. Petrie Museum
Not far from the British Museum in the maze of UCL (University College London) is this delightful gem of a museum. Egypt was important in Roman times and you can see many Roman era artefacts on display. Look out for ancient fabric, palm leaf sandals, charms for turning away evil and portraits of some Romans who lived there. It is open from 1-5 on Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Tip: combine this with a visit to the British Museum nearby.
Related blog: Roman Egypt at the Petrie
5. The Thames Foreshore
If you are brave, descend steep steps on the north side of the Thames beside the Millennium Bridge. Wear Wellingtons or sturdy boots and gloves. Go at low tide and you will be amazed at the artefacts literally covering the foreshore, including lots of Roman brick. If you are very lucky you might find a Roman hairpin, votive figurine or coin. You can keep anything you see on the surface. This is called ‘Mudlarking’
Update: You now need a PLA permit to go on the foreshore.
Tip: Don’t touch anything you pick up with bare hands until you’ve washed it.
Related blog: Mudlarks on the Foreshore
Like most of Roman London, the amphitheatre is underground, below street level. Access is free via a lift in London’s Guildhall Gallery. If you look across the guildhall courtyard you can see the location of the amphitheatre marked out in different coloured paving stones, like an intentional urban crop mark. Down below, only a few fragments remain of the stone amphitheatre that replaced the wooden one, but there is a stylised indication of seating and competitors.
Tip: Plan your visit to coincide with the next re-enactment of Roman games.
Related blog: Gladiator Fun Facts
P.S. I have now added London's Mithraeum, a fab immersive experience. For more info, go HERE!
Caroline Lawrence’s book The Roman Quests: Escape from Rome, is partly set in Roman London, AKA Londinium.