The British Museum in London - The Complete Guide

History, Culture and Art in the Welcoming and Free British Museum in London

utton Hoo Treasure Displayed At The British Museum LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 25: A woman views the Sutton Hoo Helmet on display in the new gallery 'Sutton Hoo and Europe AD 300-1100' in the British Museum on March 25, 2014 in London, England. The exhibition in the museum's early medieval collections marks 75 years since the discovery of the Sutton Hoo treasure. The gallery's centrepiece are the archelogical finds from the Sutton Hoo ship burial in Suffolk; one of Britain's most spectacular and important discoveries. The exhibition opens to the general public on March 27, 2014.

 Oli Scarff/Getty Images

The British Museum in London is the world's largest museum of human history, culture and art and one of the most popular museums in the world.

Only the Louvre surpasses it in annual visitor numbers and that's just an art museum. The British Museum's treasures include Egyptian mummies, objects from the Mesopotamian Kingdom of Ur, an Easter Island statue given to the museum by Queen Victoria, objects from the Sutton Hoo burial and (at least for now) the Elgin Marbles that once graced the Parthenon in Greece. And the good news, like all of the UK's national museums, The British Museum is free.

The Key to Ancient Secrets at the British Museum

Arguably, the best object of all at the British Museum is the Rosetta Stone - the object that led to the unlocking of Egyptian hieroglyphics. The polished black stone carries a decree of Ptolemy, one of the last pharaohs, carved in three languages. The carving is in hieroglyphics, demotic Egyptian script and Greek. It was the Greek inscription that was used to unlock the mystery of the other writing, including the hieroglyphics, and, therefore just about everything now known about ancient Egypt. A wonder indeed!

More Highlights of the British Museum in London

You could easily spend a week visiting the British Museum and still not see everything. Don't miss these:

  • Roman Britain, including the Snettisham Hoard - a collection of 2,000 year old gold jewelry, considered the "crown jewels" of their era.
  • The African Galleries - stunning newer galleries with ancient treasures as well as exciting examples of contemporary African art.
  • Galleries of the Americas, including Aztec, Mayan, Arctic and Native American exhibitions
  • Holy Land rooms with artifacts of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, Sumerians, Israelites, Phoenicians, Canaanites and ancient Islamic societies.
  • The Lewis Chessmen - a hoard of walrus ivory chessmen found on the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides. They were featured in the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
  • Check out more in Ten Treasures of the British Museum.

Facilities at the British Museum

Museum facilities include:

  • At least six shops selling books, items inspired by the collections, family gifts and souvenirs as well as luxury items such as replica sculptures, jewelry and silk textiles. Many of the books in the shops were written by the museum's own curators, each a world renowned expert in his or her field. 
  • A variety of restaurants, cafes and coffee shops including the Court Restaurant - an elegant and somewhat more expensive menu under the spectacular glass roof of the Great Court; the Pizzeria - turn left at the main entrance and just keep going; the Court Cafes - two casual cafes on the floor of the Great Court for sandwiches, cakes and light meals and several coffee bars on both the main and top floors.
  • Family facilities including restrooms on every floor, cloak rooms and lockers in the young people's areas and five baby changing areas. Although breast or bottle feeding are allowed anywhere in the museum, there are two baby feeding rooms for families who want more privacy.
  • Access facilities include lifts at entrances and to the galleries and wheelchair availability at the entrances (email the museum in advance or telephone +44 (0)20 7323 8181 ).
  • Guide and assistance dogs are welcome and museum even has doggy bowls for them (ask at the Information Desks).

Visitor Essentials

  • Address: British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG
  • For more detailed information about hours, special exhibitions, directions and disabled parking, visit their website
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