Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3DG
TfL Fare Zone 1
The enormous British Museum houses artefacts from over 2 million years of art and antiquities from all the continents of the world.
The iconic Greek Revival building holds over 3 million objects on 3 floors so it is almost impossible to see everything. Most visitors choose to visit either particular galleries or just look at the museum’s most famous artefacts.
Some of the best known exhibits are The Rosetta Stone, the gigantic bust of Ramesses II, the Parthenon Sculptures (the ‘Elgin Marbles’), Lindow Man, the Mildenhall Treasure, and Michelangelo’s Cartoon Epifania.
Free tours & Talks
- Eye-opener Gallery Tours
30-40 minute tours run throughout the day. Meet at the relevant gallery.
Gallery & time details on the museum website (Link below).
- Spotlight Tours
20 minute tours focussing on highlights. Every Friday evening.
Time and subject details on the museum website (link below).
- Lunchtime Gallery Talks
45 minute talks with guest speaker or curator.
Tuesday – Friday at 13:15 hours.
Talks Calendar on the museum website (link below).
History of the Museum
The British Museum started life in 1753 when Sir Hans Sloane left his personal collection of books, manuscripts, antiquities and ethnography to the nation. The collection expanded over the next 350 years with the addition of drawings and prints, Royal libraries and other personal collections.
World Famous Artefacts
As the museum became involved in overseas archaeological exploration more artefacts arrived from Egypt and the Middle East. The mid 19th century saw the acquisition of some of the Museum’s highest profile artefacts such as The Rosetta Stone, the gigantic statue of Ramases II, and The Parthenon sculptures known as the ‘Elgin Marbles’.
10 Departments + associated galleries
- Africa, Oceania & the Americas
Representations of the cultures of indigenous peoples throughout the world. Most of the collection was acquired during the 19th and 20th centuries from most of Africa, the Pacific, Australia and the Americas.
This collection is so varied that there are many highlights. From North America comes a Sled of bone, ivory and wood, early 19th century AD and a Feather bonnet of Yellow Calf, about 1927 AD. A beautiful Ivory mask probably 16th century AD from Africa and a Mosaic mask of Quetzalcoatl (15th-16th century AD) from Mexico.
- Ancient Egypt & Sudan
The displays hold objects which illustrate every aspect of the cultures of the Nile Valley, from the Neolithic period (c. 10 000 BC) until the 12th century AD. They range from poems written on papyrus to fragments of a colourful painting from the tomb of Kynebu Thebes, Egypt, 20th Dynasty, around 1145 BC.
A few of the many highlights are the Faience wedjat eye (EA 26300), The Rosetta Stone (196 BC), a colossal bust of Ramesses II, the 'Younger Memnon' (about 1250 BC), mummies and coffins including a mummy of a cat (1st century AD).
Collections of sculptures and art treasures from the whole continent of Asia covering the Neolithic period to the present day. These beautiful objects have been sourced from Japan, Korea, China, Central Asia, Afghanistan, South Asia and South-East Asia.
- Greek & Roman Antiquities
Antiquities from the beginning of the Greek Bronze Age (about 3200 BC) to the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine in the fourth century AD. The Cycladic, Minoan and Mycenaean cultures are represented and there are elements from two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos.
- The Middle East
Objects from the ancient and contemporary civilisations and cultures of the Middle East from the Neolithic period until the present.
Highlights of the Assyrian collections include The Nimrud Palace Bowls (9th-8th century BC), and a Brass geomantic instrument, made by Muhammad ibn Khutlukh al-Mawsili 1241-42 AD.
More highlights from these enormously varied collections include Pendants and Beads from the Royal Graves at Ur (2600-2400 BC), and a Cuneiform tablet with part of the Babylonian Chronicle (605-594 BC).
- Prehistory & Europe
Collections feature the earliest (2M years old) human tools from Africa and Asia; and art and archaeology of Europe from the earliest times to the present day.
Highlights include The Battersea Shield (Iron Age, 350-50 BC), Lindow Man (Iron Age, mid-1st century AD), The Great dish from the Mildenhall Treasure (4th century AD), The Medici Valencian vase (1465-92 AD), and The Lyte Jewel (1610-11 AD) to mention just a few.
- Prints & Drawings
National collection of drawings and prints dating from the beginning of the fifteenth century up to the present day.
There are over 500,000 drawings and 2 million prints by artists such as Dürer, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Goya, Hogarth, Toulouse-Lautrec and Beatrix Potter to name just a few.
- Coins & Medals
Collections of coinage from its origins in the 7th century BC to the present day, and related material such as coin weights, tokens and money boxes. The national collection of paper money includes one of the earliest 14th century Chinese banknotes.
Details of where Galleries and Rooms can be found are on the Museum’s ‘Floor Plans & Galleries’ page. Web: British Museum/ Floor plans & Galleries
Open all year except for 1 January 24, and 25, 26 December.
Museum galleries are open daily 10:00 – 17:30 hours.
Friday: Most are open until 20:30:hours (except Good Friday).
Closing starts from 17:20 hours (20:20 on Fridays).
Great Court opening times
The Great Court, including the Information Desk, is open daily 09:00 – 18:00 hours and until 20:30 hours on Friday.
Special or Touring Exhibitions attract a charge.
Multi-media Guides are available in ten languages from the Multi-media Desk in the Great Court. Obtainable every day, from 10:00 – 16:30 (until 19:30 on Fridays*). Please note that forms of identification required as a deposit include passport, national ID, drivers licence.
*Some galleries are closed on Friday evenings so not all objects on the guide will be available.
For current details of costs go to Web: Multimedia Guides
11:30 and 14:00 hours every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Tour lasts 90 minutes. About £12 per person
Encounter the Rosetta Stone, the Lewis Chessmen and the Parthenon Frieze, as well as some lesser-known but equally fascinating objects. That the tour visits a number of galleries on different floors of the Museum and involves a considerable amount of walking.
Book online (see British Museum main link below) or at the Information Desk in the Great Court.
The Great Russell Street entrance has self-operable lifts to cope with the 12 steps.
There is a level entrance to the Museum on Montague Place. For further information on access contact the Information Desk on Tel: +44 (0)2073 238 299 or go to Web: British Museum/ Access
- Gallery Café
On the Ground Floor through Room 22. Open every day 10:00 – 17:00 hours. Hot meals, sandwiches, soups and salads. Family friendly with a free under-12 child’s meal with each paying adult.
- Court Café
In the north-east corner of the Great Court. Open daily from 09:30 – 17:30. Late opening for dinner on Friday. Sandwiches, snacks, salads, cakes, hot drinks.
- Great Court Restaurant
On the Upper floor of the Great Court. Open every day from 11:30 – 17:30 for Lunche and Afternoon Tea. Late opening for dinner on Friday. Top quality world cuisine.
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)2073 238 299
TfL Fare Zone 1 Transport for London Journey Planner
To find the best way for getting to The British Museum, visit TfL Journey Planner.
- By Underground
The nearest stations to the Museum are:
Holborn Station Central and Piccadilly lines - 500 metres
Tottenham Court Road Central and Charing Cross branch of the Northern line
Russell Square Station Piccadilly line
Goodge Street station Northern line - 800 metres (Charing Cross branch)
- By Bus
The following buses stop near the Museum
Route Numbers 1, 7, 8, 19, 25, 38, 55, 98, 242 stop on New Oxford Street.
Route Numbers 10, 14, 24, 29, 73, 134, 390 stop northbound on Tottenham Court Road, and southbound on Gower Street. Gower Street runs along one side of the Museum.
Route Numbers 59, 68, X68, 91, 168, 188 stop on Southampton Row
- By Car
The Museum is within the Congestion Charging Zone Web:TfL Congestion Zone
Google Maps - The British Museum