Originally created as a “cabinet of curiosities", Britain’s oldest museum has grown into a treasure house of humanity’s greatest achievements.
With a collection of nearly 8 million artefacts gathered from every continent, it’s unlikely that even the most seasoned museum-goer can absorb the British Museum in a single day. But don’t let the museum’s size deter you, even if you only have a few hours. It’s well worth the visit.
The museum’s vast collection was originally built up from the donated and acquired collections of well-travelled, wealthy British adventurers during the heyday of the British Empire. Continually expanding to this day, the collections are now arranged along geographical lines. Marvel at monumental relics like the mysterious Easter Island statue and Elgin Marbles. And, join history lovers from around the world as you stand before the Rosetta Stone and the Head of Rameses.
Step beyond the must-see attractions and explore the quieter galleries that celebrate Oceanic, Middle Eastern and Babylonian beginnings. Hold history in in the palm of your hand during one of the many object handling sessions throughout the various galleries. There’s no need to make a reservation in advance, simply drop in to the “hands-on” rooms where staff are available to provide information and answer questions. For those interested in politics, don’t miss the Reading Room where Karl Marx penned The Communist Manifesto.
Merely walking up the broad steps and through the 44 neoclassical columns of the museum building is an experience in itself. Once inside, use the Great Court as a navigation point to the museum’s major galleries. Since its opening in the 1750s, the British Museum has consistently been the country’s most visited museum. It averages 6 million visitors annually and allows research access to its highly sought-after stock of relics.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed or pressed for time, take one of the free, 30 to 40-minute eyeOpener tours held throughout the day. The museum has cafés, picnic areas and offers fun, educational giveaways for children. The museum is open daily, excluding 24, 25 and 26 December, and 1 January.
The British Museum is located near the Bloomsbury Gardens and Russell Square Gardens. The nearest Underground stations are Tottenham Court Road, Holborn and Russell Square.