Explore the history of humanity with this unparalleled collection of world artefacts and treasures from across the millennia.
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.