The area currently known as London has been inhabited by humans since prehistoric times. It was officially founded until 43 AD, when Romans settled down and began building bridges over the Thames River. They thrived until sometime during the 5th century. The Roman city collapsed and the medieval era, for which London is famous for, began until Queen Elizabeth’s accession in 1558. Does all of this history intrigue you? In this guide for tourists, I’ll show you have to relive history during your trip to London.
Watch a show at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Watch a stunning re-enactment of Shakespeare’s plays at his very own theatre. These plays are acted out authentically. There’s no electronic audio system. Instead, actors use the theatre’s architecture to naturally amplify their voices. There’s no lights. Instead, actors use the natural lighting available because of the huge sun roof. Original plays still done here are the Tempest, Macbeth, Henry VI, Taming of the Shrew, and Midsummer Night’s Dream. Check their calendar for details. Also be sure to reserve tickets online to guarantee a seat.
Shakespeare’s original theatre was constructed in 1597 but was soon destroyed in the fire of 1613. His company rebuilt it, but it was later demolished in 1644. This current theatre stands just a few feet away from the original foundation. It’s also an almost exact replica, there were a few safety upgrades to prevent it from easily burning down in a fire.
While the theatre is not being used for performances, it acts as a Shakespeare museum. Come during the day to walk through its exhibits and learn more about the playwright. At the end of the tour, you’ll get to see the actual theatre where performances are done. You’ll also learn about how theatre was shunned upon during Shakespeare’s time. In fact, London’s parliament actually enforced closing the bridge at night to deter residents from attending the Globe Theatre.
Learn about World War II and Winston Churchill at the Churchill War Rooms
The Churchill War Rooms is split into two sections covering World War III and Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill. Churchill was born in 1874 and lived until 1965. Churchill was the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945. He also held that title from 1951 to 1955.
The entire museum is located underground at a former secret military base. Back in World War II, this was the headquarters for the United Kingdom where officers made strategic military decisions. The Cabinet War Rooms displays historic artifacts from the war including documents, weapons, and audio recordings. There are plenty of interactive exhibits so feel free to bring your children.
During World War II, there were 115 Cabinet meetings that took place in the Cabinet War Rooms. Imagine military officers discussing intelligence about the war. A visit to the Churchill War Rooms will be like taking a step back in time.
Visit the Charles Dickens Museum
Charles John Huffam Dickens was born 1812 and passed away in 1870. During his lifetime, he wrote notable works of literature such as A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist.
The Charles Dickens Museum teaches visitors all about his life, work, friends, and family members. The museum is actually located in the author’s former house. He lived here from 1837 to 1839 with his wife. You’ll see Charles Dickens’ former living quarters. Visitors will get to see where the author did some of his best work.
Perhaps some of the most interesting aspects of this museum are the actors. Museum workers are dressed up in their pre-Victorian era clothes. They’ll also be careful to role-play correctly, using the actual language from Charles Dickens’ time. Visitors will feel completely re-immersed into the 1800s.
Walk the routes of Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper was an unidentified serial killer in London. He roamed the Whitechapel neighborhood where he captured and killed his victims. Jack the Ripper was active during 1888. His infamy has lived on to this day. The cases still remain unsolved, though many historians have their conflicting theories.
Many tour companies offer Jack the Ripper walking tours. You’ll walk along the same streets that the serial killer walked back in 1888. Tour guides will show you the same spots where his victims were discovered in the Whitechapel area of London. Your professional guides will also explain to you all the different theories that historians have come up with regarding the serial killer.
Walking tours generally last about 1.5 hours. They’re also available during different parts of the day. If you want the full experience, try picking one of the night tours.
Visit the Museum of London
Founded in 1976, the Museum of London documents London’s fascinating and long history. The exhibits cover everything from prehistoric time to the modern era. Prehistory is the span of time before recorded history, meaning before the invention of writing systems existed. Prehistoric time includes the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. The Museum of London has several permanent galleries including London Before London, Roman London, Medieval London, and War Plague Fire.
The London Before London gallery tells the prehistoric story of Thames Valley. This period of time occurred from 450,000 BC to 50 AD, when the Romans arrived and began their settlement. In this gallery, you’ll find several ancient relics including a skull that belonged to a wild ox living in Thames Valley sometime in 245,000 to 186,000 BC. You’ll also see the remains of a Shepperton woman that’s over 5,000 years old.
The Roman London gallery covers what life was like during the peak of the Roman civilization. Romans settled in this area around 50 AD and began constructing bridges over the Thames River. This marked the official founding of London. Their city thrived for centuries, until their collapse in 410 AD. Historic artifacts in this gallery includes a Roman leather bikini and several Roman marble sculptures.
The Medieval London gallery covers London’s famous medieval period, which lasted from 410 AD until Queen Elizabeth I’s accession to the throne in 1558. There are over 1,300 exhibits in this gallery. Expect to see medieval technology and weapons.
The War, Plague, and Fire gallery ranges from the 1550s to the 1660s. This was time when Shakespeare lived, wrote, and performed in London. You’ll learn about London’s incredibly bad luck within a century. The city had to live through several plagues and devastating fires. In this gallery, you’ll find a model of Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre and Oliver Cromwell’s death mask.