As a history lover (a trait I inherited from my history buff father), I love London most for its incredible past. And one of the best places to appreciate the past in London is in one of London’s many (mostly free!) museums.
So while my family and I were in London last September, we made sure to budget at least two days for visits to castles and museums.
Most especially the incredible British Museum.
And on the first crisp, rainy day (perfect museum day weather!) we headed over to slowly explore this magnificent museum.And magnificent it truly is.
Found in 1753 on the exact same site, the museum building itself is stunning juxtaposition of neoclassical architecture with a modernist dome windowed ceiling which allows ample nature light for viewing exhibitions with (and is a photographer’s dream!).
I remember the first time I stepped into this inner atrium (known as the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court) in 2008, it took my breath away. It was only opened in 2000 but has already become one of the most recognizable indoor spaces in all of London.
And it’s not hard to see why.The amazing mixture of old and new is positively spectacular and such an innovative space in which to experience all the world wonders found in the museum.When I first came in 2008 I only had a small point-and-shoot camera with me so I was incredibly grateful to return on our family trip with my professional camera to capture the domed ceiling in all it’s glory.
You can easily spend all day just in this atrium!But with over 8 million objects in their collection, don’t spend too much time admiring the ceiling because the treasures within are even more breath-taking. First we stopped at the small café in the atrium for some coffee and…some nibbles to fuel up for our day of exploration! They we were off!First stop? The most famous piece in the entire museum’s collection… the Rosetta Stone.
You can read a little of the history of this famous stone which in 1799 was instrumental in breaking the code to the previously untranslated hieroglyphic language here. Back in college I actually took a semester long class on hieroglyphics — I found the written language to be fascinating and it heavily fueled my passion for Ancient Egyptian culture. Hieroglyphs are very formulaic and religious in nature when translated — read a full translation of the Rosetta Stone here to get a sense for what I mean.
Seeing the stone in person is something everyone should have the opportunity to do in their lifetime (especially because it’s free!). It’s the reason we understand everything we know now about hieroglyphs. And since it’s been on display continuously in the British Museum SINCE 1802, it is the most-visited item in the entire British Museum collection.
And the perfect place to start your explorations!But don’t come just to see the famous Rosetta Stone because there is plenty more to explore! Such as Greek statues of all kinds (some from the Parthenon)… all of which are breath-taking.And filled with so many stories from the ages.There are also Egyptian statues and all sorts of ancient wonders.Not to mention ample displays of ancient jewels. And even real mummies! Though beware, these rooms are always PACKED with tourists. You’ll also find plenty of medieval and renaissance treasures.As well as relics and pieces from the Ancient Americas as well. But my favorite collection has to be the British Museum’s superb display of hundreds of pocket watches of all shapes, sizes, and colors. And larger clocks such as this Spanish Armada ship which is… of course… a clock! See the clock dial? And finally one of the coolest pieces you can see at the British Museum? An actual Easter Island stone head, known as Moai!
The next time you find yourself in London don’t forgo this incredible treasure of a museum — each and every time I visit I see and learn so many new things!