The tale of London is the tale of the Western world, so this repository’s miraculous cache of rarities from everyday life wouldn’t be out of place in the greatest national museums of any land. But here, they’re cataloged in a place that most tourists, judging by the name, might assume will be lame. Well, it’s not. This huge storehouse, smartly presented, contains so many forehead-smackingly rare items that by the time you’re two-thirds through it, you’ll start to lose track of all the goodies you’ve seen. When it comes to the history of this patch we call London, no stone has been left unturned—literally—because exhibits start with local archaeological finds (including elephant vertebrae and a lion skull) before continuing to 3,500-year-old spearheads and swords found in the muck of the Thames. Voices from the past come alive again in chronological order: There’s a 1st-century oak ladder that was discovered preserved in a well, Norman chain mail, loaded gambling dice made of bone in the 1400s, a leather bucket used in vain to fight the Great Fire of 1666, a walk-in wooden prison cell from 1750, Selfridge’s original bronze Art Deco elevators, and far, far more. The biggest drawback is that you need to budget a few hours, otherwise you’ll end up in a mad rush through the entire lower floor covering the Great Fire to now—and it’d be such a shame to miss Tom Daley’s tiny Stella McCartney swim trunks from the Olympics. You also don’t want to miss the Victorian Walk, a kid-friendly re-creation of city streets, shops and all from the 1800s (grab a card at its entrance to know what you’re seeing). You also can’t miss the Lord Mayor’s state coach, carved in 1757, which garages here all year awaiting its annual airing at the Lord Mayor’s Show in November. The museum, which overlooks a Roman wall fragment outside, is easy to combine with a visit to St Paul’s, and sells one of the best selections of books on city history. It also runs an excellent second museum in East London about Docklands. Download its absorbing (and free) Streetmuseum apps, which serve you archival images and historic facts based on wherever you’re standing in London.