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The British Museum

  - 2 opinions

A huge museum

Published by Stefano Pirini — 4 years ago

I went few times to the British Museum. It is very big and the building is great!

The entrance is free (as all museums in London).

Even if I went there more than once I havent't had the time to visit all of it. But I think you should go even if you have just an hour. It is one of the most famous museums in the city.




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The marvellous museum that captures the history of humanity: Welcome to the British Museum

Translated by Ross Smith — 3 years ago

Original text by Paola Villegas

When we went to London, we visited more museums than churches. Why? London isn't a cheap city to live in, nor to visit. A lot of the tourist attractions cost a lot and a lot of the churches charge an entry fee, however, all the museums in the United Kingdom are free. This was something that made us pretty happy because we knew that we could admire the collections of one of the best museums in the world for free.

The marvellous museum that captures the history of humanity: Welcome to the British Museum

As I mentioned before, the British Museum is enormous - it's the size of a whole city block, so there are a lot of entrances. We went in via this entrance, which is not one of the main ones and if you look carefully, this entrance makes the museum not look as big as it is. It's one of the oldest entrances. Nevertheless, when they close the museum, they make you leave through the entrance in the main atrium, where you can really appreciate the grandeur and splendour of the museum.

As this is one of the most important museums in the world, it's going to be one of the most touristy places that you're going to see, especially in summer. That's why I appreciate that we went in January because the city was cold and empty (I sound like the Grinch! ), but it's certain that in such important cities like London, there is a clear difference in visiting during winter... You'll be grateful for it! During summer there are enormous lines, crowds, a lot of noise and pushing.

The museum is quite big, although not as big as the Louvre. Its enormous structure is capable of captivating any art lover. Its front atrium is so tall that it takes influence from the Greek culture and that's not surprising when the museum owns almost all the pieces of the Parthenon. If you want to see the whole thing, I think that it would take you literally all day. We only had a couple of hours, so we decided to go to the rooms that meant the most to us and the ones that gave us more time.

Another one of the exhibitions that I liked the most was the one about Egyptian art, and in fact it's one of the most visited by tourists because after the one in Egypt, it's the biggest collection on a global scale and... it's free!

So, what is the entrance fee?

To go in you will have to pay £0. Yes, I mean to say that it's free! So yeah, there really is no excuse for not going. Now, if you feel a little bad about not contributing any money, stay calm because voluntary donations are accepted and they indicate the suggested sum, and that's not for nothing because more than 6 million visitors pass through its doors every year!

There are some temporary exhibitions brought in from other countries so they usually cost some money, but nothing too expensive.

What are the British Museum's opening hours?

The museum is open every day except for Sundays. The opening hours are from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm however, on Friday, the museum stays open until 8:30 pm. We were partly very lucky because we arrived in the evening and the museum was still open. I suppose by pure luck, our arrival had coincided with a Friday.

The latest arrival that we could have imagined

I think that in general, navigation apps such as Google Maps or Waze, get us out of predicaments when we go travelling. One of the things that I did was note down in Google Maps, all of the addresses which we were going to so that I could check them when I had no internet and thanks to that, we managed to get to places without any problems. Afterwards, we found out that apparently you can save the map of a whole city on Google (that's a good tip right there). How I would have loved to have known that beforehand, haha. The point was that sometimes, navigation apps can save us, especially when we're visiting a country which we don't know, but there are times when it's hard to visualise the size of the streets that you have to take to get to a specific place and this was what happened to us when we got to the British Museum.

I had saved the address in my mobile, but I didn't have internet to be able to find out how long it would take us to get there by walking from King's Cross (close to where we had dinner) to the museum, but "apparently" we only had to walk through 5 or 6 streets. Buuuuuuut, the size of each street was more like a couple of streets, so really we walked through 10 or 12 streets. That was quite useful for us though because we got to know the area a little more and see the lifestyle of Londoners, but what was bad was the fact that we took more that 40 minutes to get to the British Museum when we thought it would have only taken like 10 or 15 minutes at the most. I don't know if because it gets dark in London fairly early, we thought that we had arrived too late at the museum, but when we got there, the sun was already starting to go in and we only had about an hour and a half to be there when you'd actually have to dedicate a whole day to seeing the whole museum, or at least 4 hours. This museum is the Louvre of London, I say that more or less to be able to make comparisons about the true importance of the museum.

Why is it so important to get to know the museum?

Being in the British Museum is like travelling through time just by going from one exposition to another, and it's not only a journey through time, but space too, as you are able to find complete collections from antiquity which come from the 5 continents. You will be able to see artisanal works from the African continent, Egyptian art and the splendour from the most powerful empires of all time. You can find the story of mankind by means of the Multiple Civilisations exposition which is very important.

The controversy behind the British Museum

This museum is more than 260 years old and has more than 26, 000 squared metres of galleries, so it's not as old as you would imagine. However, it's important to take something into account. Let's go back to remind ourselves a little of what I said before: "it's a museum which has expositions of civilisations from all over the 5 continents and from almost the beginning of time. " How can that be? Well, behind this question lies one of the biggest dilemmas which comes with this museum, since it's one of the museums that has "stolen from other countries" the most.

A lot of the exhibitions are quite controversial, this is due to being able to find key pieces belonging to a variety of countries all over the world. For example, from Greece the museum has a whole, complete collection belonging to the Parthenon; its historical wealth is so large that Greece is fighting so they can have it back, but I don't think that England will let that happen seeing as they confirm that they bought it many years ago and the pieces would not be as well looked after if they were returned to Greece. According to the museum, their main concern is to preserve history. Do we believe them or is it just an alibi? For me personally, I'm Mexican and a lot of vitally important pieces from our history are also now in the British Museum, a clear example is that of the mask of Tezcaltipoca, the mask of Quetzalcoatl and the Aubin Codex; these are incredibly important remains - hugely valuable relics which will never go back to our country. This is simply because the British Museum is now officially considered as the "owner" of a lot of them and furthermore the move from England to the country of origin would probably cause damage/destruction to a lot of the pieces thanks to their fragility and antiquity.

Was Charles Darwin working in its library?

This museum is fairly old; its library opened its doors in 1759, although afterwards, it was moved to another building which had enough room for the millions of books. This new library is located close to King's Cross and for each book published in London, a copy is sent to said library. Imagine its importance!

This place was a refuge for researchers from all over the world. A lot of them were very globally influential people who worked as researchers in the library. Do the names Gandhi, Darwin and Marx ring any bells for you? Incredible, no?

The favourite exposition: Egyptian sculpture gallery

The marvellous museum that captures the history of humanity: Welcome to the British Museum

It might not look it, but this piece was huge! It measured more than 10 metres and it was transported with complete care inside the installations of the museum.

This rooms is one of the most important in the whole museum because after Egypt, it's the second biggest collection of Egyptian art that exists. All of the sculptures are huge and carry a lot of importance in regards to the history of Egypt, however, the star of the show which grabs the attention of all the visitors is the famous Rosetta Stone, which has been on exhibition since 1802 and it a symbol of one of the biggest archaeological discoveries in the history of mankind.

The marvellous museum that captures the history of humanity: Welcome to the British Museum

A photo of the very important and famous Rosetta Stone. You can see that it's broken on its three upper extremities from the transfer to the museum. You can also see the scriptures on the stone. Clearly more than one language can be seen etched into the stone; they look like hieroglyphs. Having such a clear photo of this stone is an achievement seeing as it's the Mona Lisa of the museum, there will always be people wanting to take a photo of it.

This stone has a bilingual description on it in Greek and Egyptian of a decree made by the Pharaoh Tolomeo V. Language and Transcription scholars consider it a jewel because they were able to understand the hieroglyphs which made up part of the Ancient Egyptian language thanks to the Greek lettering.

Another one of the rooms that we enjoyed the most was the one where the old mummies are found. This room was one of the best and most impressive because they explained the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians and the whole mummification process from death to the moment they would be mummified. During the embalming process, a iron hook was used and put up the nose in order to remove part of the brain and the rest was destroyed by using drugs. They then took out some organs which they would wipe down with palm wine and spices, then they would soak the body in a sodium carbonate to dehydrate it. After that, they would wrap the body in bandages. I'm still impressed by the mummy of a 6 year old boy and another that was one of the best preserved mummies; it was so well preserved when it was found that its hair was still shiny and silky, as if it were a normal person and as if time hadn't taken its toll on its hair.

The marvellous museum that captures the history of humanity: Welcome to the British Museum

Have you ever seen such a well preserved mummy? If you look carefully, you can almost see the facial features perfectly. Its bone structure is almost untouched. Those who were in charge of the mummification process were the most prestigious doctors and chemists of the time, which considering being thousands of years ago, you can still see that they did an excellent job.

The best gift you can give to someone from London

I forgot to take photos of the souvenirs that they sold in the gift shop, but everyone should go to buy something from the souvenir shop in the British Museum, just because it is good to take something home as a memory from such a culturally and historically rich place. I bought myself a Rosetta Stone eraser, so yeah, it's the most expensive eraser that I have bought in my whole life, but I had to get myself something! If you're wondering, no, I haven't used the eraser, I can't accept the fact that it will wear down if I do use it.

We wanted to have more time

Each piece is so beautiful, unique and detailled that it requires around 5 minutes of true attention. But, as I have said many times, I am going to come back to see the rest of the rooms since I could only really see the Egyptian art wing, Mesopotamian wing, the remains from the Parthenon and the Hindu art in detail. I think that the Hindu art was my second favourite, especially when I found myself in front of a Buddha from the 5th century and a sculpture of the God, Shiva. In general, the room with the oriental antiques was another one that I loved, it's really interesting to read the descriptions of each one of the pieces. If you want, you can ask for an audio guide so you can enjoy and understand the museum more, although of course that costs money.

The marvellous museum that captures the history of humanity: Welcome to the British Museum

I really like Buddhism, it makes me feel good even though I don't practice it. This was my favourite piece in the whole museum. The Buddhist pieces are older than you can imagine and the material that they're made from is unique.

The marvellous museum that captures the history of humanity: Welcome to the British Museum

Here you can see another piece from the Oriental art room. It's another kind of Buddha in a meditation stance. Aren't the colours fascinating?

So, as you already know, when you come to the British Museum, dedicate a minimum of 3 or 4 hours so you can see the most important things.

The Great Atrium

The museum has undergone a lot of changes and expansions from the moment it opened, right up until today. One of its most recent expansions was in the Great Queen Isabel II Atrium, simply known as the "Great Atrium". This part of the museum was inaugurated in 2000 and it is where the old library used to be found before it was moved. The ceiling of the atrium is breathtaking - it has a unique and incredible design through which, at night, you can see the beauty of the moon since the roof is made of glass and steel.

The marvellous museum that captures the history of humanity: Welcome to the British Museum

This photo was one of my favourites because if you look carefully, you can see what I described a little further back - the moon. Have you found it yet? The roof of the Great Queen Isabel II Atrium is quite intimidating, its architecture is not plain, it has some inclinations that give a modern touch to such an old museum.


  • Don't make the same mistake that we did and only dedicate a couple of hours to seeing the British Museum, at least dedicate around 5 hours so you can appreciate the cultural wealth of its most important exhibitions.
  • In a lot of the vitally important museums, they don't allow you to take photos, an obvious example is the Prado Museum in Madrid, but here - bring your best camera because you will be able to take as many photos as your heart desires.
  • If you can, go in the low season for tourists - do that, because in high season there are so many people that it's sometimes impossible to really enjoy the museum.
  • Wear comfortable clothing, especially comfortable footwear as you will be standing for long periods of time. There are benches in the museum but there's not a lot of them.

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