London has everything a culture vulture could ever want with hundreds of attractions across the city.
From Buckingham Palace to the London Eye to the markets of Camden Town, there is something for everyone in the English capital. Among these attractions are the various museums and art galleries celebrating all the things great about the city and Great Britain in general. We have already looked at the British Transport Museum, now its time for another famous landmark – the British Museum.
Set in the Bloomsbury area of London, this museum is a homage to human history, culture and everything to do with this magnificent country. Originally based on the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane, it has since blossomed into one of the most popular museums in London.
The great thing about the British Museum is you can spend hours wandering around at your own pace and simply take in all the amazing exhibits that have been painstakingly put together. So if you are planning to pay a visit to this London attraction you will need to have a good idea of how to get around.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered with our conclusive and in-depth guide of the British Museum.
The British Museum – The Basics
Situated on Great Russell Street in the Bloomsbury area of London, the British Museum has had a home in the capital since it was first opened in Montagu House in January 1759. Since launching it has been transformed into the magnificent attraction people flock to in their droves every year.
It was originally formed per the wishes of Sir Hans Sloane in his will following his death in 1753. He stated that he wanted to keep his life’s collection of around 71,000 objects to be preserved after he had passed on.
The museum, like most of London, has endured the hardships the city has passed including bombing campaigns in World War I and II. However, it was only these major conflicts that have forced the museum to close its door during the two and a half centuries that it has stood in Bloomsbury.
In the 19th century, the museum expanded and received a number of renowned pieces of art including the Rosetta Stone (1802), the Townley collection of classical sculpture (1805) and the Parthenon sculptures (1816). The era also saw the creation of the quadrangular building designed by Sir Robert Smirke and the Reading Room.
Moving into modern day, by the 1970s there was an active programme of gallery refurbishments and an education service has been established. It continued to expand and ready itself for the millennium, by 2003 the museum celebrated its 250th anniversary with the restoration of the King’s Library.
In recent years, the museum has opened four new permanent galleries including Chinese ceramics, Clocks and Watches, Europe AD 1050-1540 and The Tomb-chapel of Nebamun: Ancient Egyptian life and death. During this time it has been awarded the Carbon Trust Standard for its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint while it has also been planning the creation of the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre.
Opening Times and Ticket Prices
The British Museum is open throughout the year and is only closed on January 1st and December 24th, 25th and 26th. The majority of museum galleries are open daily between 10:00 and 17:30 BST, on Fridays these hours are extended to 20:30 BST. Closing begins from 17:20 and 20:20 on Fridays.
People wanting to visit The Great Court can do so between 09:00 and 18:00, again this opens until 20:30 on Fridays. The only exception to the rule is Good Friday when the museum closes at the regular time. Also, keep an eye out for temporary gallery closures which may be out of action due to short or long-term refurbishment.
The best thing about visiting the British Museum is that it is completely free of charge. This means you wander around until your heart is content. This is one of the great aspects about London, there is so much culture that can be experienced without having to spend a single penny.
How to get to the British Museum
Situated close to main transport terminals such as Euston and King’s Cross, the British Museum is hugely accessible for anyone visiting.
The Underground is the most efficient way of reaching the museum with Holborn and Tottenham Court Road being the closest. Both are served by the Central line with Holborn also being on the Piccadilly line. Tottenham Court Road is also served by the Northern line which comes in handy when travelling from either King’s Cross or Euston.
Be aware that the Central line does not stop at Tottenham Court Road between January 3rd and mid-December 2015. You can also alight at Russell Square (Piccadilly line) and Goodge Street (Northern line).
If you are travelling by bus there are a host of services that stop outside the museum. Buses for the museum regularly stop at New Oxford Street, northbound on Tottenham Court Road, southbound on Gower Street and Southampton Row.
While we wouldn’t recommend driving to the museum, if you must you need to be aware that the museum is within the Congestion Charge zone and you will have to pay to simply drive around this part of London. The nearest car park to the museum is at Bloomsbury Square, WC1A 2RJ.
Which Exhibitions to Visit
The British Museum has a variety of both permanent and temporary exhibitions all of which chart a different part of history from across the globe. As the site gears up for some, it is expecting a swell of people visiting and so has already out its summer line of exhibitions which celebrate both the UK’s heritage and other cultures.
For special exhibitions, the museum will charge a fee but there are a host of free installations you can browse at your own leisure. The latest exhibition is entitled ‘Defining beauty: the body in ancient Greek art’ which uses art and sculptures from Greek descent to focus on the human body.
This collection of artwork ranges from the simplicity of prehistoric figures to the realism of Alexander the Great which has gone on to inspire other artists for generations. Entry is £16.50 for adults while children go free.
A recent favourite ‘Ancient lives: new discoveries’ has now been extended to July 15th 2015 due to the soaring popularity. The exhibit is a dedication to ancient Egypt and features eight mummies and has become a major feature for the museum. Prices are £10 for adults and £8 for concessions, booking is recommended as the exhibition is restricted to a number of parties per day.
The free exhibitions and displays include:
Larrakitj: Aboriginal memorial poles by Wukun Wanambi – until May 25th
Connecting continents: Indian Ocean trade and exchange – until May 31st
The prince and the pir: dervishes and mysticism in Iran and India – until July 8th
Bonaparte and the British: prints and propaganda in the age of Napoleon – until August 16th
Shifting patterns: Pacific barkcloth clothing – until December 6th
Where to stay near the British Museum
Due to its location, anyone coming to the British Museum is blessed with an abundance of high-class hotels within its vicinity. One hotel we recommend is the The Montcalm London Marble Arch. Not only will you be able to relax in one of London’s most supreme five star hotels but you can be pampered in its very own spa.
Travelling around London can be an exhausting experience and what is better than having a spot of spa treatment at the end of a long day? Well the Montcalm has you covered with a range of packages available to take away the strains of a day pounding the streets as you take in the many sights the capital has to offer.
Alongside the standard swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room you can choose from packages such as the Chocolate Indulgence Offer or Detox Package. The former is a chocoholic’s dream and includes a full body exfoliation followed by a warm layer of chocolate applied all over the body which will leave your skin fully nourished.
The Detox Package is slightly different but includes a 30-minute body exfoliation ritual which aims to invigorate and revitalise the body. This is then followed by another half an hour of aromatherapy massage.
After that you can head to your room and simply chill out for the rest of the evening ready to attack the day in the morning. It can be hugely important when you have another full day of sightseeing ahead of you.
Getting to the British Museum from the Montcalm is relatively straightforward. Simply head to Marble Arch Underground station and jump on the Central line to Holborn where the museum is just 500 metres away.
Catch A Film In The Evening
After a day of wandering around the British Museum then maybe it is time for something a little different. How about catching a film in one of London’s many cinemas. The museum is only a couple of stops away from the popular Covent Garden. The world really is your oyster here with an abundance of shops, restaurants and bars which stay open long into the night.
You will also find an Odeon cinema here which showcases all the latest Hollywood blockbusters and provide the perfect venue from which to base a night around. You can start with a film and then move on to the restaurant and finish it all off with a few drinks around Covent Garden.