If you dig the head-spinning Museum of London, here’s a similarly lush, ultimately redeeming treatment to life in London’s East End. Many of the city’s other museums would have you believe that London was always a genteel bastion of graceful gentlemen. This place tells the real story of the working men who sweat to put the teacups into more privileged, manicured hands, and the labor that circulated profits from the slave trade into City banks. Housed in a brick rum-and-coffee warehouse from 1804, the three-floor museum, strong on plain-speaking explanations, traces the history of working on the Thames, starting with Anglo-Saxon times and ending now. You can inspect an intricate model of the medieval London Bridge, which like the Florentine Ponte Vecchio was stacked with homes and businesses but clogged the river’s flow so drastically that it was a threat to life. You’ll also roam “Sailortown,” a creepy warren of quayside alleys, all shanties and low doorways, meant to evoke the area’s early 19th-century underworld. Finally, the spotlight shifts to the harrowing Blitz, when the whole area was obliterated by fire from the sky and forced to reinvent itself as a corporate citadel. The whole circuit takes several hours. There’s also an interactive, river-themed play area for kids, Mudlarks.
Museum of London Docklands
No. 1 Warehouse, West India Quay, E14
Our Rating Hours Daily 10am–6pm; galleries close 5:40pm Transportation Tube: West India Quay DLR or Canary Wharf. Phone 020/7001-9844 Prices Free admission Web site Museum of London Docklands