Highlights: The British Museum

March 29, 2014 9:15 am

If you’re a culture vulture and love wandering around an art and admiring centuries worth of art and culture then the British Museum is just the place for you.

Statistically, over the past seven years the British Museum has been London’s most popular visitor attraction and last year 6,701,036 people walked through its doors. That’s more people than the entire population of Scotland.

There’s a reason why it’s so popular, so why don’t you find out for yourself. Set aside just three hours from your busy sightseeing schedule to tour this fascinating gallery and make sure you follow our highlights, we’ve picked out the best!

Begin on the ground floor by visiting the Sloane astrolabe, a beautiful mechanical map of the heavens which dates back to AD 1300. Then head into Room 2 to see the oldest object in the museum – a stone chopper from Tanzania. You’ll find Saxon treasures from the famous Sutton Hoo ship burial in this room, too.

Take your tour into Room 4 and marvel at the one and only Rosetta Stone, one of the most famous artefacts in the museum. The Rosetta Stone was the key in helping archaeologists decipher the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt and was a major influence in understanding the ancient traditions of their time. To continue the Egyptian theme in room four, you can also see the bust of Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses the Great.

Skip to Room 10 when you’ve had your fill of Egyptians and admire the Assyrian Lion Hunt reliefs, depicting an ancient king’s triumph over nature. Then fast forward to Room 18 where you’ll find the iconic Parthenon sculptures of ancient Greece and in Room 24 you can see the legendary colossal and mysterious moai statue from Chile’s Easter Island. Pretty cool, huh?

Providing you’re not an Ophidiophobe (with a phobia of snakes) continue on to the exquisite double-headed turquoise serpent in Room 27, made from striking mosaics and was used by Aztec priests as an ornament like jewellery. Following on from the animal theme, Room 33 – the Asian room – houses the intricately decorated Cloisonné jar with dragons, which was made for the Ming Dynasty Emperor, and the Tang ceramic tomb figures which once guarded a Chinese general. But don’t move on without looking at the 5,000-year-old mystery object of the jade cong and the jade terrapin from Allahabad in Room 34, a majestic sculpture from India’s Mughal court.

Next, head up to the upper floor for the second half of your quick-fire visit. Less ancient, but by no means less important or impressive, is the Lewis Chessmen in Room 40, the most famous chess set in the world. So make sure you can tell your Kings from your Queens to truly appreciate it.

Jump ahead to Room 49, where you can gaze upon the Mosaic of Christ, the earliest image of Christ in Britain, and carry on to Room 50 to see the beautiful Basse Yutz flagons, a jug which is among the finest surviving pieces of Celtic art left in the world.

If you want a story to take home, visit Room 55 where you’ll be able to see the Flood Tablet, which according to legend came from Noah’s Ark. You certainly won’t see that every day!

Go full circle and end with the ancient Egyptians in Room 63, where you can ogle the gruesome Mummy of Katebet, one of the most studied mummies in the world, and the Sphinx of Taharqo, the black king of ancient Egypt, a few rooms down.

This condensed time-is-of-the-essence tour is by no means exclusive – there’s plenty to see outside of these bitesize highlights, including ancient ritual games and Samurai armour. If you want to extend your stay, why not pay a visit to one of the museum’s exhibitions. Currently, until March 23rd you’ll be able to see Beyond El Dorado: power and gold in ancient Colombia and until June 22nd you can see the first major exhibition on Vikings at the British Museum in over 30 years, entitled Vikings: life and legend.

So, as we said, there’s a reason it’s so popular. Make sure the British Museum features in your visit to London and you most certainly won’t be disappointed.

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