But for most of its citizens the crowded 18th century city was a dirty, violent place, where its rotten gin-soaked alleyways teemed with vermin, thieves and prostitutes.
To escape the squalor special open public places were built offering welcome respite from the noise and wretchedness of the narrow offal-strewn streets.
The elaborate recreation of a Georgian “Pleasure Garden” is one of the star attractions of five new galleries opened by the Museum of London on Friday.
The galleries, revamped over three years at a cost of 20 million pounds ($29 million), tell the story of the capital from the Great Fire in 1666, which destroyed four fifths of the city, to the modern day.
Some 7,000 treasures have been cherry-picked from its collection of more than 2 million artifacts to illustrate the city’s rapid development.
Trade, crime, poverty, population growth, fashion and the heavy toll of war are all explored in the many interactive and high-tech displays.
In the gardens exhibit, visitors walk through a darkened room featuring real trees under star-lit skies. Mannequins adorned with original costumes, wigs, masks and hats of the period, glimmer under colored lighting.
A film backdrop recreates the drama of the gardens where the mingling social classes were served light refreshments and watched acrobats and exotic street entertainers. The evening would often climax with a firework display.