British Museum

Among the must-sees are the Rosetta Stone , the key to deciphering Egyptian hiero­glyphics, discovered in 1799; the controversial Parthenon Sculptures , taken from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin (the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire); the large collection of Egyptian mummies ; the Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo burial relics and the Winged Bulls from Khorsabad .

Begun in 1753 with a 'cabinet of curiosities' sold to the nation by royal physician Sir Hans Sloane, the collection mushroomed over the ensuing years partly through acquisitions, bequests and plundering the empire. The grand Enlightenment Gallery was the first section of the redesigned museum to be built in the 1820s.

The Great Court , restored and augmented by Norman Foster in 2000, has a spectacular glass-and-steel roof, making it one of the most impressive architectural spaces in the capital. In the centre is the Reading Room , with its stunning blue-and-gold domed ceiling made of papier-mache, where Karl Marx researched and wrote Das Kapital .

The British Museum's long-awaited new extension, the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre in its northwestern corner, opened in 2014 with a special exhibition on the Vikings, complete with a 36m-long Danish warship from the 11th century that may have helped King Canute conquer the seas.

The museum is huge, so make a few focused visits if you have time, and consider the tours. There are 15 free 30- to 40-minute eyeOpener tours of individual galleries per day. The museum also has free daily gallery talks, a highlights tour (adult/chilld £12/free, 11.30am and 2pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and excellent multimedia iPad tours (adult/child £5/3.50), offering six themed one-hour tours, and a choice of 35-minute children’s trails.



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