London

The Ultimate Guide to visiting the british museum

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Open: Everyday: 10:00AM to 5:30PM
Fridays: 10:00AM to 8:30PM

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Price: Free

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Time Needed: 4 hours

If you only have time to visit one museum in London, then make it the British Museum. Not only is it one of the oldest museums in the world, it’s also one of the largest museums in England, and attracts more than 6 million visitors each year,

The museum was officially opened to the public on January 15th, 1759, (although it was first housed in the 17th century Montagu House before moving to its present location in Bloomsbury). The museum was founded thanks to the personal collections of Sir Hans Sloane, (a famous physician, naturalist and collector), who collected more than 71,000 different objects during his lifetime.

Originally the British Museum’s collection consisted of manuscripts, books, ethnographic material and various natural specimens and antiques (like coins, medals, prints and drawings); but over time the museum expanded, and today it contains more than seven million objects which cover over two million years of history and culture.

Its departmental library has been around since 1860 and consists of 24,000 different items (with the oldest item dating all the way back to 1636); and its Assyrian collections even helped researchers decipher the Cuneiform script (an ancient script from the Middle East).

 

British Museum, Egypt Mummies. By Mario Sanchez Prada
Lewis chess piedes
Brititsh Msueum Courtyard
The British Museum Exterior
The Birtish Museum Interior
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British Museum Highlights

The museum is separated into different galleries which are organized by periods of time in history or specific locations or countries in the world (such as Roman Britain, Ancient Iran and Greece, just to name a few).

Some of the many must-see items that shouldn’t be missed by any first-time visitor to the British Museum include:

Some of the many must-see items that shouldn’t be missed by any first-time visitor to the British Museum include:

  • The Rosetta Stone (an item which helped decipher various Egyptian hieroglyphics after they were discovered in 1799).
  • The Parthenon Sculptures (taken from the Parthenon in Athens).
  • Egyptian mummies and coffins (which are said to be one of the most comprehensive collections of Egyptian antiquities in the world).
  • The Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo ship burial relics (which date back to the 6th and early 7th centuries, and are considered to be some of the most important discoveries in British archaeology).
  • A human-headed winged bull monument (which was taken from a gateway in the citadel wall at Khorsabad).
  • Lindow Man (the preserved body of a man from the Iron Age or Romano-British period which was discovered in a bog near Cheshire in 1984).
  • The Lewis chessmen (a group of 12th century chess pieces which were made from walrus ivory).
  • Figures from The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.

Special Tips

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The museum can get incredibly busy during the afternoon, so try to arrive as early as possible.

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If you want to enjoy exclusive benefits at the museum, you can become a British Museum member for £60 (or £42 if you're under 26) and get entry into special events as well as unlimited free entry into exhibitions.

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To get a picture of the magnificent staircase, walk up to the second level of the European section for the best view.

Getting There

getting there

Address

Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom (See map).

getting there

By Tube

The nearest stations are Tottenham Court Road (a six-minute walk away) and Holborn (a seven-minute walk away).

getting there

By Train

The nearest station is Euston which is a 16-minute walk away.

getting there

By Bus

You can reach the British Museum via routes 1, 8, 19, 25, 38, 55, 98, 242, 10, 14, 24, 29, 73, 134, 390, 59, 68, X68, 91, 168, and 188.

Visiting British Museum

Recommended visiting time is at least three to four hours, but if you’re interested in joining some of the many different talks and tours at the museum, then be prepared to spend the entire day wandering around. However, if you’re short on time, you can pick up an audio guide at the Audio Guide Desk in the Great Court, and go on your own self-guided tour within two hours.

If you’re visiting with children, you can take part in the “Free Open Future Family Trails” exhibition, which leads families on a “journey of discovery” to find some of the many treasures scattered all throughout the museum. (The activity takes around 30 to 40 minutes to complete).

Photography with flash and video recording is allowed in the majority of the galleries, but must be for private purposes only.

There is a main cloakroom located to the west of the main entrance, where you can leave some of your personal belongings so you don’t have to carry them around with you during your visit. Items over a certain weight and size will not be allowed into the museum, and will have to be kept at the luggage facilities at major rail stations like King’s Cross, Charing Cross and Euston.

There are toilet facilities on every floor of the museum, as well as in The Gallery Cafe and Court Cafes on the ground floor, and The Court Restaurant on the upper floor.

For those with mobility issues, there are benches and stools located in the Great Court, and there is some seating available in selected galleries as well.

Ticket Costs

The British Museum is free to enter, and is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m every day (but closes at 8:30 p.m. on Fridays).

If you’re interested in touching or holding some of the artefacts in the museum, there are object handling sessions which take place at the Hands-On Desks between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

There are a variety of 30 to 40 minute tours which take place throughout the day, and meet at the relevant gallery. The tours range in topic from Ancient Greece, South Asia and the Art of the Middle East, and usually take place between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. (For more information be sure to check out the British Museum’s official website before you visit, as the dates, subjects and times fluctuate throughout the year.

There are also different spotlight tours and lunchtime gallery talks with guest speakers which take place throughout the week, and tend to focus on specific themes such as The Rosetta Stone or The Enlightenment. For more information or to get more details about any tour or talk, check the official website before you visit.

If you want to go on your own self-guided tour, there are also multimedia iPad tours available (£5 for adults and £3.50 for children).

If you want to take part in the Free Open Future Family Trails, you can collect your free trail guide from the Families Desk in the Great Court, but only on the weekends or any day during Camden school holidays between 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

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