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British Museum

  • Museums
  • Bloomsbury
  • price 0 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Sarcophagus of Nubkheperre © Britta Jaschinski
    Sarcophagus of Nubkheperre © Britta Jaschinski
  2. Egyptian statues © Britta Jaschinski
    Egyptian statues © Britta Jaschinski

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

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. 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.

Written by
Laura Lee Davies


44 Great Russell St
Tube: Tottenham Court Rd/Holborn/Russell Square
Free (permanent collection); admission charge applies for some temporary exhibitions
Opening hours:
Open daily 10am–5pm, Friday until 8.30pm
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What’s on

‘Burma to Myanmar’

  • 3 out of 5 stars

It’s almost as if you can’t have beauty without destruction, or riches without exploitation. The story of Myanmar, told here at the British Museum, is one of abundance and plenty being met with dominance and greed over and over again. Squeezed in between China, Thailand, Laos, India, Bangladesh and a vast ocean, Myanmar is a nation of riches. It has oil, rare earth elements, teak, rice, silver and ports for trade. And before British colonial rule it wasn’t a nation but a loose collection of states, kingdoms and kinships that grew and shrank as they fought and expanded. In intricate manuscripts and wall hangings, you learn about how groups in central Myanmar attacked east into Thailand and west into India capturing whole populations as spoils of war. A silk cloth here is made by captured Manipuris, the gold Qu’ran box belonged to seized muslims. A illustrated text shows King Mindon bringing in people from neighbouring regions but all dressed in Burmese clothing, whole populations co-opted and integrated into Burmese society, their skills and labour as valuable as any resource. Sliks, textiles and gems were traded across the region. States and borders were fluid, Burmese society was a multifaceted thing. And then the British took over, bringing with them an all-encompassing form of violent administrative bureaucracy that would obliterate countless existing social structures and unite all these states into one nation. A huge gold Buddha here was looted by a British naval office

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