British Museum
Trip inspirationHistory, art and culture
Dom Bewley

The British Museum- What to See

Even if you spend an entire day wandering the halls of The British Museum, you'll find that there are still thousands of artifacts left to explore. Established in 1753, this iconic landmark isn't just a museum; it's a time capsule that makes it one of London's top attractions. Known officially as the British National Museum, it's a hub where history, art, and culture converge, offering a rich tapestry of human endeavor and imagination.

Got a love for stunning architecture? The British Museum has it in spades. Interested in exhibitions that make you question everything you know? Look no further. What about a mind-boggling collection of over 8 million artifacts that represent 2 million years of human history? Absolutely, it's all here.

The British Museum exhibitions are not just displays; they are narratives that guide you through the annals of time. From relics of ancient civilizations to British Museum highlights that are renowned globally, there's no shortage of items that will leave you mesmerized.

So, get your camera ready and your curiosity piqued. Here's our curated list of what to see in The British Museum that will not only captivate your senses but will also offer a profound understanding of human civilization

Popular British Museum Exhibitions

The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum

The Rosetta Stone is a stone tablet. You may have heard of it. Thanks to it, modern humans were able to unlock ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Pretty important, then. So, it's no surprise that it's the most visited exhibit in the museum. The stone is carved with ancient Greek, hieroglyphics and demotic Egyptian. Originally discovered by French soldiers in 1799, it later passed into the hands of the British. And now it's in our museum. Yeah.

Mummy of Katebet

The British Museum is home to many amazingly preserved mummies. But, perhaps the most impressive is of Katebet, Chantress of Amun. Wrapped in linen and bearing a striking golden mask, the exhibit dates all the way back to 1300BC. And if that isn't a testament to the longstanding power of mummification, then she's sure to curse us all. Not really! Don't worry, mummy curses aren't real. Or are they? No, they're not.

Assyrian Lion Hunt Reliefs

In Assyria, lion hunting was a mark of kingly prowess. And many Assyrian alabaster panels in the museum tell the tale of King Ashurbanipal's exploits. Discovered in 1853 by Assyrian archaeologist Homuzd Rassam, the stunning depictions are eerily realistic. And, while they may be an animal activist's nightmare, there's no denying the superb craftsmanship.

The Elgin Marbles

These gorgeous sculptures have long been at the centre of controversy. Originally built to honour the goddess Athena, Lord Elgin...acquired...them from the Greek Parthenon in the 19th Century. Still, the collection of intricate marbles catalysed a fascination with classical Greece in Europe. So much so that the British Museum purchased them in 1816. Much to the Greek government's understandable dismay.

Lewis Chessmen

This collection of chess pieces, unearthed in 1831, are carved from mainly walrus ivory and whale teeth. Depicting real kings, queens, and bishops, they date way back to around AD 1200. They were discovered in Scotland, off the Isle of Lewis, formerly part of the Kingdom of Norway. They are thought to belong to a merchant travelling between Dublin and Norway. Chess - clearly a success worldwide.

More Amazing Artifacts To See at The British Museum

Samurai Armour

Steering away from Britain altogether, this Japanese warrior armour still cuts an imposing figure today. Harkening back to the Edo period, this armour forged by Unkai Mitsunao is unique. A number of its pieces come from different times. That includes a 16th-century bulletproof breastplate, and elaborate neck and leg pieces from the 18th century.

Easter Island Head

A legacy of a lost tradition, this massive statue named Hoa Hakananai'a (lost or hidden friend) is one of the moai of Easter Island. These huge sculptures are built to honour sacred ancestors. Brought to Britain by Commodore Richard Ashmore Powell in 1868, the basalt statue also features carvings of birds and rings on its back. Definitely one of the best things to see at the British Museum.

Colossal Granite Head of Amenhotep III

This red granite statue was one of many commissions by King Amenhotep III. The head alone weighs an incredible 3600 kilograms. Who knows how much the entire statue once weighed. Discovered in the Temple of Mut, it was acquired by British archaeologist Henry Salt in a Cairo warehouse. It's believed that the face, originally of Amenhotep III, was recarved to resemble proceeding king Rameses II. Now that's what we call a retcon.

Oxus Treasure

These delicate Persian relics were crafted between 500 - 400 BC. yet, they're still impressive thousands of years later. The British Museum holds one of the most important collections of Achaemenid gold on the planet. Here, you'll see a stunning Oxus horse and chariot sculpture.

Sutton Hoo Ship Burial Helmet

This helmet is only one of four intact helmets from Anglo-Saxon England. It was discovered at the Sutton Hoo ship burial, one of the most important archaeological sites in Britain. It's believed to have been part of a king or rich noble's collection. And, unfortunately, restoring the helmet to its current glory was difficult as it had shattered. However, it was later reconstructed to reveal its imposing mask and distinctive shape. Marvellous!

5 interesting facts about the British Museum in London:

1. The British Museum is the oldest national public museum in the world, having been founded in 1753 and opening its doors to the public in 1759.
2. The museum's collection includes over 8 million works, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive collections in the world.
3. Among the museum's most famous holdings are the Elgin Marbles, which were removed from the Parthenon in Athens in the early 19th century and shipped to England by Thomas Bruce, 7th Lord Elgin.
4. The museum's iconic Reading Room, which opened in 1857, was used by famous figures such as Karl Marx, Virginia Woolf, and Mahatma Gandhi.
5. The British Museum is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world, welcoming over 6 million visitors every year.

What to See in The British Museum

The vast halls of the British Museum contain a treasure trove of over 8 million historical artifacts and works of art. Within its iconic neoclassical facade, visitors can get lost wandering through galleries filled with ancient wonders. See Greek and Roman sculptures that transport you back to antiquity.

Gaze upon the intricately painted sarcophagi of Egyptian mummies and marvel at the mysteries of ancient civilizations. Don't miss viewing the museum's most famous objects - the mystical Rosetta Stone, the elegant Parthenon Marbles from Athens, and masterpieces by Rembrandt and Michelangelo. For any lover of art, archeology and the thrilling stories of the past, an exploration of the British Museum's collections is a profoundly enriching experience.

So, there you have it. That's our list of the best things to see at the British National Museum in the UK. Now, you should have no trouble getting all of it in during a single visit.

Looking for more culture in London? Go see the history of astronomy unfold at the Royal Observatory or take a walk around St. Paul's Cathedral.

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