London’s busy home for ancient finds and cultural treasures from across the centuries, discovered across the world
When the British Museum was opened in 1759 it was the first national museum to be open to the public anywhere in the world. It was free to visit (and still is) so that any ‘studious and curious persons’ could pass through its doors and look upon the strange objects collected from all over the globe.
Centuries before television, this was a chance for anyone to stand in front of specimens and antiquities and connect with other cultures, ancient and contemporary. The first exhibits consisted of the collection of physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane – ancient coins and medals, books and natural remains – and through the centuries since, it has become home to the most significant finds made by British explorers at home and abroad, like the Rosetta Stone from Ancient Egypt and the Parthenon sculpture from the Acropolis in Athens.
In recent years there have been campaigns by other nations who want some of their historic treasures returned. (The issue over who has a legal right to the Elgin Marbles was most recently taken up on behalf of Greece by Amal Clooney.) However, the British Museum remains one of the world’s most popular attractions, with six million visitors a year. And although many of its priceless artefacts are protected by glass cases, the museum is anything but a hushed old resting place.
As soon as you walk into the magnificent glass-roofed Great Court you can hear the buzz of students, tourists and Londoners who have just popped in for lunch among the treasures. The British Museum is a working organisation carrying out research and conservation and that’s reflected in the breadth of the collection and the way in which it’s displayed.
The galleries are divided by location and periods in history – Ancient Iran, Greece, China from 5000BC onwards, Roman Britain and so on – and if you’re overwhelmed by the choice, follow one of the free 20-minute spotlight tours led by the guides every Friday, or check one of the free exhibitions dedicated to a specific theme or works of art. There are daily free activities for kids, too, including crafts, activity trails and digital workshops – perfect when there’s a homework project that needs to be fired by inspiration.
|Venue name:||British Museum||Contact:|
44 Great Russell St
|Opening hours:||Open daily 10am–5.30pm, Friday until 8.30pm. Closed Jan 1, Dec 24–26|
|Transport:||Tube: Tottenham Court Rd/Holborn/Russell Square|
|Price:||Free (permanent collection); admission charge applies for some temporary exhibitions|
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Maggi Hambling – Touch: Works on Paper
Dead parents, a stuffed rhinoceros and Stephen Fry have all been immortalised by Maggi Hambling, and you can see all three in ‘Touch’, an exhibition of 40 of her drawings spanning five decades. She’s been a pivotal figure in recent British art history,...Drawing and illustration Until Sunday January 29 2017 Free
South Africa: The Art Of A Nation
History is usually written by the victors, but art history is written by white Western men in turtlenecks. That’s not totally true, some of it was written before turtlenecks were a thing, but the point remains: most of our museums, galleries and art history...Until Sunday February 26 2017
The American Dream: Pop to The Present
This show takes a look the Land of Opportunity through the prism of its artists and their printed works. There'll be many familiar pop faces here. Ed Ruscha's slick images both chronicle and celebrate everyday Americana; Andy Warhol peeks into the darker...Thursday March 9 2017 - Sunday June 18 2017
Beyond the Great Wave
Four years on from displaying his iconic work 'The Great Wave', the BM are once again turning their attention to master ukiyo-e painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). This time, the focus will be on the last three decades of his life and...Thursday May 25 2017 - Sunday August 13 2017
Things to do
Treasures of the Scythians
Please note the title of this exhibition is TBC. Quick history lesson: Scythia was a region in antiquity that covered parts of present-day Ukraine, southern Russia and Kazakhstan. It was also home to a great nomadic civilisation that produced a great...Exhibitions Thursday September 14 2017 - Sunday January 14 2018
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me and my 5 year old love the British museum, because it is for all ages, also it's free. which is great for us. I am a single mum, so I am always trying to find places to visit, because I don't have the money to go to some of the places that charge. I have love going to the museum ever since my primary school took me. the British museum Is great to look round and also fun and educated my daughter, a great place to learn. keep up the great work British museum.
The British Museum is a fantastic place to lose yourself for an afternoon -- it's like going on a trip around the world… and its wonderful that it is free and accessible to all. They also put on great events related to their special exhibits. My favorite so far was the Day of the Dead event they had with dancers on stilts performing.
Great place to visit, could easily spend half a day looking around. And FREE entry!! Also food inside reasonably priced.
So many things to see and do, the egyptian mummy, the japanese and old empire exhibits - i need more comfortable shoes next time.
I had always wanted to go to this museum so planned this day during a short stopover in London. I spent the better part of the day there and would go back given a chance. I Egyptian time and did not have time to savor the collection. It was wonderful. I lunched there to save time and would definitely recommend doing that. Very good and a quiet stop for rest without leaving.
Wonderful museum! I have been many times now and always manage to see something new each time. A lot of amazing things to see for free, the paid exhibitions are always well worth it too. The building itself is also well worth a visit.
When I was at school I studied Classics. On more than one occasion I was "dragged" to The British Museum. This
morning (some 30 years later) I almost skipped in glorious autumn sunshine into that same building. I was headed for Egypt: Faith after the Pharaohs.
It's a pretty small but totally satisfying exhibition. Beautifully laid out , it makes the subject matter accessible. Fascinating exhibits are accompanied by an excellent short video that puts the whole thing into context and in some ways summarises what you are about to see. Before leaving I also took in the Silver and Goldpoint exhibition in the drawings gallery , which involved a walk through the amazing collection of Egyptian mummies.
As I stepped bak out into Bloomsbury I thought how lucky I am to be a Londoner and have this treasure trove on my doorstep.
Love the space of British Museum - absolutely stunning as you walk in and also in a lovely area tucked away from the main roads.
I absolutely LOVE the British Museum, definitely one of the best museums I have ever been to. I have been dozens of times and I honestly enjoy every visit.
My most recent visit was with my dad, sisters and my Nan. We even made packed lunch which we ate in the breathtakingly beautiful main Hall. The museum is suitable for all ages and there really is something for everyone.
I have traveled down in my 1 hour lunch to explore Ancient Egypt, because I cannot get enough of this magical place! But, you really need to spend all day to see everything. An easy day out, fun fueled, free, educational and truly magnificent.
Ever since my first visit back when I was in Primary school the British Museum has always been a leader on my 'Things to Do in London' list and I genuinely do not think that will change.
Many of the most amazing objects in the history of the world are to be found hear. Its impossible to see the hole thing in one day. Its defiantly worth getting away from some of the most famous parts so you can experience the huge breadth of this museum in a bit of peace.
I have been to the British Museum several times, at least twenty visits, but there is always more to discover. My first trip was to the Egyptian gallery. I never forgot the wall hangings, the papyrus, the mummies and the jewellery. The other beautiful exhibit that I remember, even now, many years later, was a Sumerian headdress with exquisite gold leaves. Then there were the Native American exhibits, the massive Assyrian sculptures, the illuminated manuscripts, the French coins and miniatures, the Greek statues - and these were but a few of the most striking exhibits. Later I discovered the African masks and the Asian gallery. Recently, I came to the museum in December, and did not go into the Ming exhibition, but found some Ming pieces to see for free in the Asian collection. That collection is not to be missed. There are Hindu, Jain and Buddhist statues and some Ming jewellery and pottery. It was interesting to note that the Ming ladies headdress was an intricate one, made of gold leaves, like the Sumerian headdress I spoke of. I feel as if I have only scratched the surface of this fantastic place, and my ambition is to see more of the collection. I want to spend several days in the museum and really see everything there is to see. It gives an idea of the scope of the collection if I say that, as a reasonably fit person, I am obliged to sit down on one of the may seats available and take three or four rests during the course of each of my visits. It really is so vast. I have never been to the Reading room, that housed so many famous philosophers and writers, during the day. I would certainly love to.
There are many impressive places in London, but this is truly incredible. And it is free.