British Museum

British Museum information

London , England
Great Russell St
+44 20 7323 8299
Getting there
Tube: Russell Sq or Tottenham Court Rd
More information
Opening hours
10am-5.30pm Sat-Thu, to 8.30pm Fri
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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 others. It is frequently London’s most-visited attraction, drawing over six million visitors annually.

Don't miss the Rosetta Stone , the key to deciphering Egyptian hiero­glyphics, discovered in 1799; the controversial Parthenon Sculptures , taken from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin (the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire); and the large collection of Egyptian mummies .

Other must-sees include the Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo burial relics and the Winged Bulls from Khorsabad .

Begun in 1753 with a 'cabinet of curiosities' sold to the nation by royal physician Sir Hans Sloane, the collection mushroomed over the ensuing years partly through acquisitions, bequests and plundering the empire. The grand Enlightenment Gallery was the first section of the redesigned museum to be built in the 1820s.

The Great Court , restored and augmented by Norman Foster in 2000, 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 made of papier mâché, where Karl Marx researched and wrote Das Kapital .

The British Museum's new extension, the £135 million World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre in its northwestern corner, opened in 2014, in the same year as the new Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery which hosts high-profile exhibitions.

The museum is huge, so make a few focused visits if you have time, and consider taking one of the free tours. There are 15 free 30- to 40-minute eye-opener 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), free 45-minute lunchtime gallery talks (1.15pm Tuesday to Friday) and free 20-minute spotlight tours on Friday evenings. Audio guides (£5) can be found at the audio-guide desk in the Great Court.