British Museum

Address: Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom
Telephone: 020 7323 8000

- Free


A fabulous time capsule of world history housed under one roof.

If a visitor to London only had the time to go to see just one sight, this is where I would send them. Founded in 1753, the British Museum houses treasures from around the world, and dating back to two million years ago - yet it is not overwhelming, You can't do it all, of course, but then admission is free so you don't have to. And there are so many ways to get something from a visit here, including for families. One option is to take advantage of the free talks and guided tours conducted by museum staff. Another is to follow in the wake of last year's BBC Radio Four series 'A History of the World in 100 Objects', in which the museum's director highlighted key exhibits in the collection - and which are now marked on maps and backed up with an excellent companion book. Then there is the case for simply going in for an unstructured wander and wonder...

If you're a first-time visitor head for the old-school Room 1 which has exhibits from the museum's formative years ranging from Neolithic Age stone axe-blades to whalebone clubs brought back from the voyages of Captain Cook. If you're returning, don't miss the splendid Africa galleries (Room 25) on the lower floor. For me, one of the great pleasures of this magnificent museum is the way so many of its pieces have a fascinating story behind them - to hear one of the best, head to Room 41 to learn about the extraordinary hoard of Anglo-Saxon burial treasure that was found at Sutton Hoo, on the Suffolk coast, in 1939.

Value for money

Price advice

Admission is free but it's well worth investing in a map (£2), Visitor's Guide (£3.50) or multimedia guide (£4.50, £3.50 concessions, take ID). Charges apply to some special exhibitions.

Expert tips

The museum has an exceptionally good website, including a 'Planning Your Visit' section where you can print out floor plans and suggested itineraries.

For a treat, book lunch (or dinner on a Friday) at the Court Restaurant (020 7323 8990).

Recommended for

  • Culture vultures
  • Families with teenagers
  • Mature travellers
  • Education
  • Sightseeing
  • Art
  • History
  • Design and architecture