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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. (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.

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–5.30pm, Friday until 8.30pm. Closed Jan 1, Dec 24–
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What's On

Peru: A Journey in Time review

  • 4 out of 5 stars

Forget the panpipes, because the British Museum is here to show you the real history of Peru. Ok, there are some panpipes here, but there’s also a whole lot of human sacrifice, war, cats, dancing, music and more cats. It’s a wild ride, full of beautiful objects and fascinating history, tracing thousands of years of Peruvian culture. And if you totally ignore how impossible it is to sum up a whole nation’s ancient history in one go, it’s a great exhibition.  Humans settled in Peru 15,000 years ago, and gave birth to a whole bunch of cultures. The Chavin, Nasca, Moche and Inca people made the wild lands of Peru their own, and these objects are the proof they left behind.  A wide eyed copper funerary mask locks eyes with you as you walk in, intensely ushering you into a world of hypnotising ceramics and textiles. There are sharp-ridged vessels in honour of mountain spirits, pots in the shape of cats and snakes and deer, golden headdresses and carved human figures. You immediately notice how varied the aesthetics are: there are thick, abstract shapes and hyper-realistic male faces, exaggeration and realism, all vying for space.  The giant ceremonial drum covered in drawings of corpses is amazing, the 2000 year old tapestry of Nasca birds is staggeringly well preserved, the Moche human portrait vessels are shockingly realistic. There are so many gorgeous things here. Colonial rule is touched on but not massively, instead this is a celebration of art and culture long before the hom

Peru: A Journey in Time

To coincide with the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence, the British Museum is staging its first major exhibition dedicated to Peru. Featuring six chronologically sequenced sections, it explores the South American country’s ancient cultures and heritage with objects from the British Museum’s own collection and more than 40 on loan from Peru. Along the way, the exhibition will delve into the ways in which Peru’s geographically diverse landscapes – from the Andes mountains to the Amazon rainforest – have inspired unique and fascinating ways of living.

The World of Stonehenge

  • Exhibitions

There's few places in the UK that are more mysterious than Stonehenge. Through fascinating objects such as the 3,600-year-old Nebra Sky Disc, this new exhibition at The Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery looks to shed light on the secrets and stories of the iconic landmark – to show that prehistoric Britain was a place of big ideas, as well as big stones.

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