London Travel Guide

London Sights

British Museum

  • Great Russell St. Map It
  • Bloomsbury
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 08/20/2030

Fodor's Review

One of the world's great repositories of human civilization, the scale and importance of the British Museum's treasures are impossible to overstate. Established in 1753 and initially based on the library and "cabinet of curiosities" of the Royal Physician Sir Hans Sloane, the collection grew exponentially over the following decades, partly due to bequests and acquisitions, but also as a result of plundering by the burgeoning British Empire.

The neoclassical grandeur of the museum's Great Russell Street entrance befits what lies in wait inside. Here you'll find the Rosetta Stone, whose inscriptions were key to deciphering hieroglyphics (Room 4); the controversial but exquisite Elgin Marbles (aka the Parthenon Sculptures) that once stood on the Acropolis in Athens (Room 18); and stunning fragments and friezes from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos (aka one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; Room 21).

Other perennial favorites include the Egyptian mummies

(Rooms 62–63); the colossal Statue of Ramesses II, dating to circa 1270 BC and weighing in at just over 7 tons (Room 4); and the glittering 4th-century Mildenhall Treasure and the equally splendid 8th-century Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo Treasure with magnificent helmets and jewelry aplenty (Room 41).

Leave time for exploring the glass-covered Great Court designed by celebrated architect Norman Foster at the turn of the present millennium—it has become a focal point of the museum. Likewise, don't miss the revered circular Reading Room where Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital under the room's beautiful blue-and-gold papier-mâché dome. If pushed for time, consider one of the excellent museum tours. Eye-opener Tours (free; 30–40 minutes) focus on 15 individual galleries each day, while the 90-minute Highlights Tour covers all the major exhibits plus a few lesser-known ones, and begins at 11:30 am and 2 pm on Friday and weekends (£14; book online or at the information desk in the Great Court). Alternatively, Audio Guides can be rented from the information desk for £7.

Read More
  • Great Court, British Museum, London, England

    © Ross Brinkerhoff / Fodors Travel

  • Inner Courtyard, British Museum, Bloomsbury, London, England, Europe

    Danbreckwoldt | Dreamstime.com

  • British Museum, Bloomsbury, London, England, Europe

    antb / Shutterstock

Sight Information

Address:

Great Russell St., London, Greater London, WC1B 3DG, England

Map It

Phone:

020-7323–8000

Sight Details:

  • Free; donations encouraged

Published 08/20/2030

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