If there's one place to absorb the history of London, from 450,000 BC to the present day, it's here. There are 7,000 objects to wonder at in all, from Oliver Cromwell's death mask to Queen Victoria's crinoline gowns; Selfridges' art deco elevators to an original Newgate Prison Door. The collection devoted to Roman London contains some extraordinary gems, including an astonishingly well-preserved floor mosaic uncovered just a few streets away. (Appropriately enough the
museum itself shelters a section of the 2nd- to 4th-century London wall, which you can view through a window.) Permanent displays highlight prehistoric, Medieval, and Tudor London. The Galleries of Modern London are equally enthralling: experience the "Expanding City," "People's City," and "World City," each gallery dealing with a section of London's history from 1666 until the 21st century. Innovative interactive displays abound, and you can even wander around a 19th-century London street with impressively detailed shopfronts and interiors, including a pawnbrokers, a pub, a barber, and a bank manager's office. There's also a fine schedule of temporary exhibitions.