Seen one museum, seen them all? Hardly the case with the iconic British Museum!
Tested Travel had a free morning on a recent trip to London and decided to stop by the British Museum. It was a morning well spent! Best of all, the main galleries are free!
First opened to the public in 1759, the museum buildings have been built, expanded, and rebuilt several times over 250 years. The architecture of this amazing building never ceases to inspire. The main entrance opens into the Great Court and you find yourself beneath a high domed ceiling with a grand central, circular staircase. Most of the rooms have high ceilings, flooded with light, and full of grandeur.
Best of the Sites
Largely developed as a result of the expansion of the British Empire, the British Museum has a permanent collection of some eight million works. Wow! That is a lot of items! Because our time was limited, we visited a few of the Museum’s top sites:
- Rosetta Stone — we were really excited to see this up close. The Rosetta Stone carries an incrscritpion in different langauges which helped decipher the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic script. A really amazing stone. As it is a top stie in teh museum, we encourtered large crowds which made seeing the Rosetta Stone a challenge.
- Ashurnasirpal II Lions — these very famous human-headed winged lions once flanked a doorway in the throneroom of Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC). These impressive guardians, interestingly, the statue has five legs. Experts beleive that it becuase it was meanto to be viewed from the front or the side.
- The Lewis Chessmen — chess players and Harry Potter fans alike flock to see the Lewis Chessmen. The carved walrus ivory chess pieecs were discoved in 1831 in Western Isles, Scotland. Originally they were painted red and white as opposed to the black and white chess pieces of today.
- Clocks — the British Museum has a really wonderful collection of clocks. The rooms trace the evolution of the clock from the earliest examples to complex and highly decorative domestic clocks, marine chronometers, and mass-market clocks.
- Moai Ancestral Figure — made of basalt between 1000-1200, this is a surprisingly touching figure. Titled “lost or stolen friend” there is something about the sunken, far-off eyes or stoic face that elicits sadness.
Visiting the museum gift shop is part of the experience! And, the British Museum gift shops did not disappoint. We purchased some fun UK knick knacs, books, and super-cute socks. Something for everyone!
As will be no surprise, the British Museum gets very crowded. Tested Travel recommends visiting early in the day to avoid the crowds!
To read more about the British Musem, visit their website.