With artefacts dating back 7,000 years from the early near- eastern civilisations, Greece and Rome, the glory of the ancients is laid bare on a British Museum holiday. The controversial Elgin Marbles from Athens’ Parthenon are so vast they get their own room. The multilingual Rosetta Stone, which helped unlock the secrets of Egyptian hieroglyphics, always attracts a crowd. Egyptian mummies are best viewed in daylight – the gallery can be spooky after dark!
It’s not just large-scale monuments which illustrate past lives: smaller items can be just as evocative. Spend some time exploring the intricate artefacts of the Enlightenment in the wood-panelled King’s Library, or check out the famous Viking Lewis Chessmen pieces. Various galleries have objects from African weights to Roman coins you can pick up and examine for yourself, with volunteers around to answer questions. These hands-on desks are the most tactile way of getting in touch with the past.
No two panes of glass in the Great Court’s gracefully arching roof are the same size. Rest your feet, grab a coffee or just enjoy the expansive space. The Court Restaurant lets you dine in style high above the Reading Room.
Step out of Europe and explore the cultures of the Far East with Chinese jade, exquisite ceramics, Samurai armour and sumptuous prints on show. Australasia and Polynesia are highlighted in the Living and Dying exhibition’s thoughtful examination of ritual practices.
Open: Daily 10am-5.30pm; Late Nights Thu & Fri 10am-8.30pm Closed: 1 January; 24, 25 & 26 December
The Great Court is open both earlier and later. On Thursdays and Fridays the Court Restaurant is open until 10.30pm: ideal for hotels near the British Museum.
Tickets: Permanent collections are free, though some temporary exhibitions have paid, timed entry
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