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One of the world's oldest museums, the British Museum is vast and its collections, only a fraction of which can be on public display at any one time, comprise millions of objects. First-time visitors generally head for the mummies, the Rosetta Stone, Lindow Man, the Lewis Chessmen and the Sutton Hoo ship burial. Indeed, the Sutton Hoo finds provide the centrepiece for the new Sir Paul and Lady Jill Ruddock Gallery (Room 41), designed to display the museum's exceptional early medieval collection. Covering finds from across Europe from AD 300 to 1100, the Ruddock Gallery shows off not only the Anglo-Saxons' iconic Sutton Hoo masked helmet, but also late Roman mosaics and such extraordinary objects as the fourth-century Lycurgus Cup, made to change colour in different lights, and the Kells Crozier, a holy yew wood staff decorated and adapted many times from the ninth century onwards.
The V&A houses one of the world's greatest collections of decorative arts, in such varied fields as ceramics, sculpture, portrait miniatures and photography. Among the highlights are the British Galleries 1500-1900, which are arranged chronologically to trace the history of British design from the reign of Henry VIII to that of Queen Victoria. The major names of each era are highlighted, from Chippendale to Morris, Adam to Mackintosh, and alongside the displays of furniture, textiles, dress, ceramics, glass, jewellery, prints, paintings and sculpture there are computer interactives, objects to handle, video screens and audio programmes. The Whiteley Silver Galleries house collections of European Silver (1400 to 1800), containing more than 500 outstanding silver and gold objects dating from medieval times to the Napoleonic era. The other major displays are English Silver (pre-1800) and International Silver (1800 to the present). Opened in 2006, the Dorothy and Michael Hintz galleries, which are part of the museum's ten-year refurbishment plan, house sculptures from the V&A's existing collections. Located by the Madejski garden, they allow in natural light to show the mix of contemporary and Victorian architecture used in their construction, including the nineteenth-century monochrome mosaic flooring revealed when the 1960s lino was stripped. The Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art covers a period that begins with the birth of Islam in the seventh century and ends with the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the last century. Much of the work on display is from mosques and can broadly be defined as devotional. The most striking exhibit is the world's oldest dated carpet, the remarkably unfaded Ardabil carpet, made in Iran in 1539. It is viewed through a high tech glass case and light box suspended from the ceiling that is worth going to see itself. The Buddhist Sculpture Gallery displays highlights from the collection, ranging from portable gilded Buddhas to monumental temple sculptures. The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries show highlights from the Gilbert Collection of gold and silverware and micromosaics. The Ceramics Galleries tells the story of world ceramics from the earliest Chinese pottery to contemporary craft, with galleries dedicated to architectural ceramics and twentieth-century collections. The Medieval and Renaissance Galleries present the collections in continuous displays that tell the story of European art and design from the fall of the Roman Empire to the end of the Renaissance.
Museum of London
The history of London, from prehistoric times to the present is told in the Museum of London through reconstructed interiors and street scenes, alongside displays of original artefacts found during the museum's archaeological digs. Check the website before your visit as a packed programme of temporary exhibitions, talks, walks and children's events is central to the life of the Museum of London.
Since The O2 opened in 2007, transforming the endlessly floundering Millennium Dome in Greenwich into a multi-entertainment centre, it's relied on the pulling power of one giant superstar after the next. Barbara Streisand, Prince, Tina Turner and Bon Jovi have all pitched up to wring whopping sums of money out of their equally ageing fans, while guaranteed crowd-pullers such as Kings Of Leon and Kanye West are enlisted to pack the house with those too late on the bandwagon to have caught them in the far more appealing Brixton Academy. Still, The O2's sprawling 20,000 seat arena isn't the only thing to recommend it. The smaller, less attention-grabbing Indigo2 is a good place to catch soulful crooners such as Estelle and Akon, while the centre also houses an 11-screen Vue cinema, the British Music Experience and space for temporary exhibitions such as Dr Gunther von Hagens's 'Body Worlds'. As the North Greenwich Arena, it will play a major role in London 2012 hosting Artistic Gymnastics, Trampoline, Basketball and Wheelchair Basketball. A cable car – a section of which will link The O2 with ExCeL – is on target for a summer 2012 opening.
This riverside titan of arts and entertainment has morphed and expanded in the past few years securing its position as one of the most attractive cultural hotspots in London, helped by its accessible location and proximity to the National Theatre and Tate Modern. The Southbank Centre caters for the widest spectrum of people and interests, peddling visual art, music, literature events and performance in its several venues – the Royal Festival Hall, The Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall (including the Purcell Room) and the Saison Poetry Library. Recently it has become a go-to destination for foodies too. Skylon, a swanky British-themed restaurant within RFH, caters for those with a bit of cash, while a range of spanking new chain restaurants (Wagamama, Strada, Ping Pong) jostle for attention alongside the pie-touting Canteen.
The John Ritblat Gallery houses some of the most famous written and printed items in the world: the Lindisfarne Gospels, Shakespeare’s first Folio, Handel’s Messiah, the Gutenberg Bible, drafts of the Magna Carta and the Beatles’ manuscripts. The Workshop of Words, Sound and Images is a hands-on gallery that traces the story of book production from the earliest written documents through medieval manuscripts and printing to modern industrial processing and the digital revolution. Two CD jukeboxes in the entrance hall enable visitors to listen on headphones to a selection of items from the library’s sound archive, including extracts from Nelson Mandela’s ‘Rivonia’ trial speech in 1964, which led to his imprisonment for 27 years.