The British Museum
London really is the city of everything. Including, it seems, stolen historic artefacts from every corner of the planet. All collected in the name of history in the British Museum.
I visited with my friend Frankie on a cold December day. Frankie was spending the holiday season in London and had dedicated a lot of her time in the city to seeing everything the museum has to offer, through the power of an audioguide. I was much more time poor than Frankie as I was heading to Scotland in a few days time, so had to make the most of my brief visit to the spectacular museum – which meant almost sprinting from the mummies to the Japanese sexual art (to have a well-rounded historic experience of course).
The museum is the largest and one of the oldest in the country and without a doubt one of the finest in the world. You will enter through the Great Court, which has the most spectacular glass roof that is recognisable across the globe. In the centre you can admire (and relax in) the Reading Room, the very room in which Karl Marx researched and wrote Das Kapital. It showcases a stunning papier-mache gold and blue domed ceiling.
But most don’t visit the museum simply for the incredible architecture. Underneath these magnificent ceilings you can admire galleries of full of artefacts from every corner of the globe. Including Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, Roman, European and Middle Eastern historic wonders.
The museum is London’s most visited attraction and it is not hard to work out why. The museum really is overwhelmingly large but there are some exhibits that you really cannot miss. Including:
- The Rosetta Stone. Yep, the British Museum holds the discovery that was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics. Discovered in 1799, the stone was taken from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin, who was the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time. (There may be a small tourist mosh-pit surrounding the controversially stolen stone, but it is worth the fight to have a look).
- The large Egyptian Mummy collection
- The Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo burial relics
- The Winged bulls from Khorsabad
- The Danish Viking Warship from the 11th century that may have helped King Canute conquer the seas took centre stage.
While I was visiting the short-term exhibitions included ‘Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art’, which really was contrasting around the corner from the Vikings. There was also a modern exhibit on how much medication western women and men typically take in a lifetime, in the form of rows of tablets and pills. These exhibitions were extremely interesting, even if somewhat eccentric beside the mummies and vikings.
If you are only making a brief visit to London, a quick visit to the British Museum is worth the time inside (especially given London’s usual weather). If you have more time I would strongly advise picking up an audio guide or following a tour to really make the most out of your time.
Great Russell Street
Open daily 10.00–17.30
Fridays: open until 20.30
(except Good Friday)
Closed: 1 January and
24, 25, and 26 December
There are 15 free 30- to 40-minute eyeOpener tours of individual galleries per day. The museum also has free daily gallery talks, a highlights tour (adult/chilld £12/free, 11.30am and 2pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and excellent multimedia iPad tours (adult/child £5/3.50), offering six themed one-hour tours, and a choice of 35-minute children’s trails.