Roman London was a sizeable town for the province of Britannia with around 10,000 – 30,000 inhabitants at its peak. This is small compared to other major cities of the time like Rome or Alexandria. The Roman city centred on the oldest part of London now called “The City”. It started around the barbican in the North to the River Thames in the South and from the Tower of London in the east to Farringdon Road in the West.
Though much is taken, much abides and there are plenty of things to see in London dating from this period.
Museum of London
The Museum of London is a good place to start. It has a fine collection of Roman objects found in London and replicas of Roman living spaces on display. You get a sense of the heaving, cosmopolitan and exciting City that London has been from the beginning.
The remains of the old London Wall proceed from the Museum of London along London Wall. The bottom layer of this wall dates back to the Roman period although later additions were made in the medieval period. From here you get a sense of the size of the Roman City as it proceeds down to the river thames.
A new addition, in some ways, to London’s Roman scene, the remains of the London Mithraeum (re)opened in 2017. Moved back to its original site underneath the new Bloomberg Space and re-jigged in a sensory exhibition which evokes the sights and sounds of a Mithraeum. For the curators of the space a Mithraeum was a boozy boys club with pretensions of mysticism.
The remains of the old Roman amphitheatre can still be found beneath the Guildhall Gallery. An impressive site, this amphitheatre would have seated 7,000 spectators (a large number considering the total number of inhabitants). Back in the day it was the location of Roman London’s more gruesome entertainments. Today it is sometimes used as a venue for dramatic performances of ancient plays.
Tower of London
Bits of the Roman wall survive around the Tower of London. By Tower Hill tube station you can also found an inscription and a replica statue of Trajan. A short journey walk away you will find All Hallows-by-the-Tower Crypt Museum which has some interesting objects and a model of Roman London.
Outside London: Crofton Roman Villa
If you are brave enough to leave central London I should, of course, recommend Crofton Roman Villa. A short train journey from London Bridge station will take you to the cosy London suburb of Orpington. Here you will find a villa with tessellated floors and the remains of a hypocaust (heating system).
Extra: British Museum
The British Museum is of course a vital stop on any exploration of Roman London. The museum contains many fascinating items from early British history. The museum also holds items from around the world dating from this period.
They have also opened a pizzeria in 2018. If you go this summer and say that Rhakotis.com sent you, you won’t get money off but you could try.