Although its many skyscrapers make it hard to believe, the City is actually London’s oldest hub. Dating from around 47 AD no less, it was this part of our capital which was used as a trading port during the Roman occupation. Fast forward circa 1700 years, by the late 16th Century the City slowly started to become the centre for banking that it still is today.

So why is its ancient history so hard to find? That’ll be because it was almost entirely destroyed not once, but twice: in the Great Fire in 1666 and during the Blitz from 1940 to 1941. That said, there are still some absolute gems that have stood the test of time. You just have to know where to look for them.

Billingsgate Bathhouse

1. Roman House at Billingsgate

Starting with one of the oldest remains, tucked away under an office block on Lower Thames St sits an ancient Roman bathhouse that is surprisingly well preserved. You can now explore this bit of history either by yourself or in a group with the official Museum of London tour. During this 45-minute window, the exposed ruins will be complemented with the tour guide’s interesting insights and details, including a model of what the bathhouse would have looked like in full: a must for fans of ancient Rome.

mice sculpture

2. Mice Sculpture at Philpot Lane

Even if you’ve walked up and down this street a million times, chances are you’ve never seen the tiny sculpture hidden on the front wall of house number 11. Often referred to as London’s smallest public statue, the two mice fighting for a piece of cheese are easy to miss. The statue dates back to 1862, the year of the building’s construction. Word has it that two workingmen were engaged in a fight over one’s stolen sandwich, during which one of them tragically fell to his death. All the while it was most likely a cheeky rodent who was to blame for this theft.

Newgate prison wall

3. Newgate Prison Wall

Newgate Prison opened in 1188 as requested by Henry II, and remained one of London’s most notorious prisons for over 700 years before it finally closed its gates in 1902. During all those years it was a place known for its horrible conditions, both in terms of hygiene and inmate treatment. Although the prison was destroyed shortly after it closed, around the back of Amen Court near St. Paul’s, one of its main walls is still standing strong.

Londons first drinking fountain

4. London’s first drinking fountain

Once upon a time, London’s drinking water was so filthy that beer was often used as a healthier alternative. Caused by the rapidly growing population and lack of management, these appalling water conditions ended up being the main cause of the numerous cholera outbreaks in the early 19th Century. Drinking fountains were the city’s first attempt to improving the bad water system, with the one integrated within the railings of St-Sepulchre-without-Newgate church being the very first one.