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Climbing the grand steps to the 44 columns that front this neoclassical landmark, you know you are in for a cultural experience. With nearly 8 million artefacts, the British Museum houses a collection of astounding breadth and depth. This is more than anyone can take in in one day, but don’t let this deter you. A visit of just a couple of hours will introduce you some of the finest treasures from around the world. This is precisely why the British Museum has always been the most popular museum in the country with an average of 6 million visitors per year.
The British Museum traces its origins to the will of Sir Hans Sloane, a physician, naturalist and collector who died in 1753. His collection of over 71,000 items, including manuscripts, natural specimens and antiquities was displayed in Montagu House, where the British Museum was first opened to the public in January 1759. The original collection was continually expanded over the centuries, and the building that the museum occupies today was constructed by 1857, designed by Sir Robert Smirke.
Among the must-see exhibits is the Rosetta Stone dating back to 196 BC, the key to our understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Take in the beauty of the Elgin Marbles of the Parthenon, a 75 metre-long frieze of classical Greek sculptures. Nothing can quite prepare you for the thrill of standing directly in front of the colossal carving of the head of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II, a 7.25 ton granite statue from around 1250 BC.
The Queen Elizabeth II Great Court in the centre of the building is the best place from which to plan the route of your visit. Designed by Lord Foster and opened in 2000, this stunning glass-covered courtyard is the largest covered public square in Europe. At its centre is the original circular reading room, where Karl Marx composed the Communist Manifesto.
The museum is open daily except on 24-26 December and 1st January, and free tours are available throughout the day. There is no charge for admission to the main collections, but look out for the amazing temporary exhibitions. You can but tickets for these on the official website or at the entrance.
Situated near both Bloomsbury Gardens and Russell Square Gardens, the closest Underground stations are Tottenham Court Road, Holborn and Russell Square.
There are heaps of wonderful ways to get the most out of The British Museum. Here is a list of some of the most popular:
If you're chasing more activities, examine our London things to do page.
Located in London City Centre, this eco-friendly hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Covent Garden Market, Piccadilly Circus and London Dungeon. Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are also within 1 mi (2 km). Charing Cross Underground Station is 5 minutes by foot and Covent Garden Underground Station is 5 minutes.
Located in London City Centre, this spa hotel is steps away from Southbank Centre Book Market and Florence Nightingale Museum. St. Thomas' Hospital and Sea Life London Aquarium are also within 5 minutes. Waterloo Underground Station is only a 4-minute walk and Lambeth North Underground Station is 6 minutes.
Located in London City Centre, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of The British Museum, Coca-Cola London Eye and Big Ben. Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park are also within 1 mi (2 km). Leicester Square Underground Station is only a 2-minute walk and Charing Cross Underground Station is 4 minutes.
Located in London City Centre, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Oxford Street and The British Museum. Russell Square and Queens Theatre are also within 15 minutes. Tottenham Court Road Underground Station is only a 3-minute walk and Goodge Street Underground Station is 6 minutes.
Located in London City Centre, this luxury hotel is within a 15-minute walk of The British Museum, British Library and Oxford Street. Covent Garden Market and Somerset House are also within 1 mi (2 km). Russell Square Underground Station is only a 2-minute walk and Holborn Underground Station is 8 minutes.
Located in London City Centre, this boutique hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Oxford Street, The British Museum, and Russell Square. BT Tower and Queens Theatre are also within 15 minutes. Goodge Street Underground Station and Tottenham Court Road Underground Station are within a 5-minute walk.
Located in London City Centre, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of British Library and Russell Square. The British Museum and Old Bailey are also within 1 mile (2 km). Farringdon Underground Station is 12 minutes by foot and King's Cross St. Pancras Underground Station is 12 minutes.
Located in London City Centre, this apartment building is within a 10-minute walk of British Library and University of London. The British Museum and Oxford Street are also within 1 mi (2 km). King's Cross St. Pancras Underground Station is 6 minutes by foot and Russell Square Underground Station is 6 minutes.