Why Visit the British Museum
Discover the impressive art collection of the British Museum, where you’ll find pieces from all around the world, from the earliest civilizations to the present.
London is a huge city with many things to see. Renowned monuments such as the Big Ben or the Tower of London can be found in every corner. What’s more, its urban diversity, unique public transport and multicultural population make it one of the most cosmopolitan capitals in the world. How to choose what to visit first? We’ll tell you.
DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, suggests you choose the British Museum as your first stop in London. Definitely, it’s one of the main attractions for anyone who visits this great capital.
The British Museum Building History
The British Museum is one of the most famous museums in England, not only for its huge collection and great number of visitors, but also because it is the oldest national public museum in the world. Yes, it was founded in 1753 and inaugurated on January 15, 1759. The British Museum has been open to the public for 265 years. The project began after Sir Hans Sloane, a medic and botanic expert, left his country the legacy of his private collection. It included around 70,000 objects of different kinds, including manuscripts and even samples of some species.
Since its foundation, the museum has exhibited Sir Sloane’s collection and aqcuired several objects. As the number of pieces increased, so did the mansion that housed the museum, Montague House, which eventually had to be demolished. Then, the building we know today as the British Museum, was constructed on the same place. As a result of his expansion, they also created the Natural History Museum of London and the British Library, with which which the British Museum shares its biggest lecture hall despite having different locations. Nowadays, the museum houses a collection of 8 million pieces, although only 50,000 are in exhibition.
British Museum Collection
Although 50,000 exhibited works is a large number, the building’s amazing design and wonderful collection make the visit feel like a breeze. Even so, we recommend you wear tennis shoes or other comfortable footwear since even if you don’t notice it, you will have to walk a lot. Most of the galleries are in the main floor, but you won’t want to miss the works exhibited in other levels.
British Museum Galleries and Exhibitions
The collection is distributed through ten departments in which you’ll find objects of all kinds. No matter if you enter by the front or the back door, the heart of the British museum is the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, the largest covered public square in Europe. From there, you can walk to the galleries of Ancient Egypt, Middle East, Greece and Rome, which are the most visited. There are also other areas dedicated to all the continents (except Antarctica), the British islands, and even prehistoric times. Other interesting halls are those of Engravings and Sketches or Coins and Medals, located at the top floor.
5 Iconic Pieces You Must See in the British Museum
If you are in London and you don’t have enough time to visit all the galleries of the British Museum, it is best to organize your visit around the most iconic pieces. Consider that they are also the most crowded, so you might have to wait for a while before being able to see them.
#1 Mummies from Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt and Sudan, rooms 61 and 62-63, top floor. Here you’ll find an exhibition about the origin and decline of Ancient Egypt. The most popular pieces are the mummies, particularly the mummy of Katebet.
#2 The Asyrian King Ashurbanipal
Middle East, room 10, main floor. The engraved sculptures on alabaster panels you’ll find here tell the story of the Asiryan King Ashurbanipal, and of a monumental hunting event.
#3 David Vases
Asia, room 95, Sir David Percibal Collection, main floor. This room exhibits a collection of exquisite Chinese porcelain works that date back to over two thousand years. Look for Davis Vases from the Yuan dynasty.
#4 The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum
Ancient Egypt, room 4, main floor. One of the largest galleries at the museum is located near the main entrance and is usually crowded. It houses pieces that date back to over 3,000 years. Among them, you’ll find the Rosetta Stone, a key piece in the understanding of hieroglyphs.
#5 Greek Friezes of the Parthenon at the British Museum
Ancient Greece and Rome, room 18, main floor. Here you’ll find magnificent Greek sculptures and friezes taken from the Parthenon and that are subject to frequent debate.
British Museum Tours
The British Museum offers many services to visitors: research tables, brochures, and elevators (although the staircase is beautiful and you shouldn’t miss it).
One of the services you’ll find available is the audio guide rental. You may pick it up at the audio guide desk in the Great Court. It costs 7 pounds and it’s available in many languages. You can use it for as long as you wish, but you should return it an hour before closing time. What’s the advantage of renting it? You can choose which galleries to visit and which objects to learn about.
For those who prefer to learn more about the most important works but have limited time to do so, the museum offers guided tours of different kinds. Although they’re usually in English, most of them are free.
- Eye-opening Tour: It lasts 30-40 minutes. It’s available every hour. It’s ideal if you don’t have time and want to learn more about certain pieces.
- Lunchtime Gallery Talks: It lasts 45 minutes and takes place on Thursdays and Fridays at 13:15 h . They’re lectures given by some of the museum’s curators and special guests.
- Spotlight Tours: They are 20 minutes long. They take place on Fridays from 17:00 to 20:30 h. They’re about specific topics or dates and they vary from time to time.
- Around the World in 90 minutes. This tour offers highlights of the free galleries. It costs 14 pounds. Make your reservation at the museum’s official website.
Another fun activity is the tactile session in which they allow you to touch some the works under supervision. This activity is available from Monday to Sunday from 11:00 to 16:00 h.
General Information to Visit the Museum
- Opening days and hours at the British Museum: It is open from Saturday to Thursday from 10:00 to 17:30 h, and Fridays from 10:00 to 20:30 h. It’s better to visit the museum very early in the morning or near closing time.
- Location of the British Museum: It is located at Great Russell Street, London. One entrance is located in Great Russell Street and the other one is located in Montague Place.
- Design and amenities: The museum has three levels (main floor, underground floor and top floor). It has elevators and ramps for the walking impaired.
- British Museum nearby underground stations: Russell Square Station, Holborn Station, Goodge Street Station, and Tottenham Court Road Station.
Now that you know more about the British Museum, prepare your trip to the UK and visit this wonderful museum. We are sure you’ll love its collection, but the architecture will impress you too, so don’t forget your camera because you’ll want to take a lot of photos.