Good for: everybody, exhibits, history, History Lovers
Not good for: big groups
Lonely Planet review for British Museum
The country's largest museum and one of the oldest and finest in the world, this famous museum boasts vast Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, Roman, European and Middle Eastern galleries, among many others.
Begun in 1753 with a 'cabinet of curiosities' bequeathed by Sir Hans Sloane to the nation on his death, the collection mushroomed over the ensuing years partly through plundering the empire. The grand Enlightenment Gallery was the first section of the redesigned museum to be built (in 1820).
Among the must-sees are the Rosetta Stone, the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics, discovered in 1799; the controversial Parthenon Sculptures, stripped from the walls of the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin (the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire), and which Greece wants returned; the stunning Oxus Treasure of 7th- to 4th-century-BC Persian gold; and the Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo burial relics.
The Great Court was restored and augmented by Norman Foster in 2000 and now has a spectacular glass-and-steel roof, making it one of the most impressive architectural spaces in the capital. In the centre is the Reading Room, with its stunning blue-and-gold domed ceiling, where Karl Marx wrote the Manifesto of the Communist Party.
You'll need multiple visits to savour even the highlights here; happily there are 15 half-hour free 'Eye Opener' tours between 11am and 3.45pm daily, focussing on different parts of the collection. Other tours include the 90-minute highlights tour at 10.30am, 1pm and 3pm daily (adult/child £8/5), and audioguides are available (£4.50).