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British Museum

The first national museum of England, full of some of the world's most important archaeological finds.

TravelCurious Tip

Check out the King’s Library, in the oldest part of the building, with a collection of over 60,000 rare books which once belonged to the Kings of England.

A vast legacy

The British Museum contains over 8 million artefacts from all over the world, exploring history, art and culture from man’s beginnings up to the modern age. The Museum is located in the beautiful and historic Bloomsbury district, an area famous for creativity and learning, which is also home to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and many other museums and universities.

The Museum was established in 1753 when Sir Hans Sloane, a physician and naturalist, gave his large collection of over 71,000 artefacts to King George II for the nation in exchange for a payment of £20,000 to his heirs. The artefacts were put on public display in 1759 with free admission in Montagu House, on the same site as the museum today, creating the first national public museum in the world.

From Egypt to Bloomsbury

At first the Museum’s collection was made up mostly of books, coins and drawings. From the early 19th century, however, it began rapidly acquiring important ancient artefacts such as the Rosetta Stone, which decoded the mysteries of Egyptian hieroglyphs for the first time, and classical sculpture from Greece - including the controversial Elgin Marbles. Other antiquities include Greek vases, Egyptian statues and mummies, a stunning Assyrian colossal winged bull and other sculptures from the Middle East.

During the latter half of the 19th century the focus shifted from foreign antiquities to homegrown British treasures. The four most recent galleries added to the Museum are Chinese ceramics, Europe 1050–1540, clocks and watches, and the painted tomb-chapel of a wealthy ancient Egyptian named Nebamun.

The British Museum is a spectacular attraction with an abundance of treasures from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas to offer its visitors – and it’s entirely free. You could easily spend a full day (or two) wandering its vast galleries, so when you visit be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore.

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Related Tours

Highlights of the British Museum Private Tour
  • Enter a fascinating world of mystery: from Vikings, samurai to Egyptian mummies
  • Marvel at the Parthenon sculptures: sublime marbles from the Acropolis in Athens.
  • See the Rosetta Stone: the key which unlocked modern understanding of ancient Egypt. 
  • View the Lewis Chessmen: 12th century, walrus ivory chess pieces from Scandinavia. 
  • Pierce the heart of the Museum’s collection, easily navigating between the dozens of exhibitions. 
  • Take centre stage with your guide. 
Navigate the vast exhibitions of The British Museum with an expert private guide. One of the oldest museums in the world, it houses millions of items in over 70 galleries. Comb some of humankind's greatest archaeological artifacts, and learn of their significance. Relics and artistic curiosities from lost times and civilizations. Mummies, priceless armour, ancient coins to architectural marvels. Hear of their discovery, from the adventures of old British explorers, medieval tomb raiders to spoils of war. 

See the Rosetta Stone, the Easter Island Moai, the Sutton Hoo, the Lewis Chessmen and the Parthenon marbles, as well as many other remarkable objects. Enjoy an unmissable day of discovery and mystery. 
Past Civilisations: the British Museum and National Gallery - Private Tour
  • Take centre stage with your guide and enter a fascinating world of mystery: from Vikings to Egyptian mummies
  • Marvel at the Parthenon sculptures: sublime marbles from the Acropolis in Athens.
  • See the Rosetta Stone: the key which unlocked modern understanding of ancient Egypt. 
  • Learn of Jan Van Eyck’s seminal use of light to show depth in the ‘Arnolfini portrait’. 
  • Decipher the anamorphic skull in Hans Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’.
  • Contemplate the famous ‘Sunflowers’ by Van Gogh and his leading use of yellow.
Navigate the vast exhibitions of The British Museum with an expert in the field. One of the oldest museums in the world, it houses millions of items in over 70 galleries. Comb some of humankind's greatest archaeological artefacts, and learn of their significance. Relics and artistic curiosities from lost times and civilisations. Mummies, priceless armour, ancient coins to architectural marvels. Hear of their discovery, from the adventures of old British explorers, medieval tomb raiders to spoils of war. 

See the Rosetta Stone, the Easter Island Moai, the Sutton Hoo, the Lewis Chessmen and the Parthenon marbles, as well as many other remarkable objects as part of an unmissable day of discovery and mystery.

Go across to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square and wonder at the myriad of masterpieces on display. With the help of your guide, you will delve beyond the superficial and gain a deeper understanding of the hidden meaning and mystique in some of the world’s most significant pieces of art. With over 2300 paintings ranging over 7 centuries and works from some of the most prolific artists, including Da Vinci, Van Gogh and Holbein, the National Gallery will not fail to ignite your imagination. 
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