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Your “must-see” guide to the British Museum.

by Rajul on September 23, 2009

The British Museum is undoubtedly one of London's cultural highlights The British Museum: undoubtedly one of London’s cultural highlights

London Hotels Insight loves to save you time and money, so here are some insider tips on one of London’s premier attractions: the British Museum.

It’s a huge museum with some fascinating exhibits and a compulsory stop for any culturally-inclined visitor to London.  Even better, it’s free!

Many highlights reflect British archaeologists’ adventures in Greece, Egypt and the Middle East – if you love ancient Egypt, you’ll be in heaven.

But there are also fascinating exhibits from British digs, from the Romans onwards, including the Sutton Hoo treasure from the Anglo-Saxon period.

And while you can see Egyptian artefacts in other museums, you’ll not see anything like the Sutton Hoo treasure outside Britain.

Here are some of the British Museum’s outstanding highlights:

•       The Rosetta Stone is one of the must-sees.  Written in three scripts – Greek, demotic Egyptian (the everyday script) and priestly hieroglyphics – it enabled the French scholar Jean-François Champollion to break the code and finally work out how to read hieroglyphics.  Around it there are some marvellous Egyptian statues in polished granite – you’ll be dwarfed by the huge heads that look down imperiously from their plinths.

•       Upstairs is a massive collection of Egyptian mummies and mummy-cases, many unwrapped so you can see how many different layers were used.  Particularly vivid are the Ptolemaic and Roman era coffin-portraits, in a highly realistic style – one has been displayed with the man’s skull next to it, eerily showing the accuracy of the portrait.  Don’t miss the little case with tiny animal mummy-boxes: you may have known the Egyptians mummified cats, but did you know they also mummified snakes and eels?

The British Museum's beautiful internal architecture adds further colour to your visit The British Museum’s beautiful internal architecture only adds further colour to your visit.  Enjoy some cake at one of its cafes while you’re there!

•       The Tomb Chapel of Nebamun, an ancient Egyptian official, has just been restored – it’s an amazing work, fresh and vivid – look for the afro-haired musicians and the eager tabby cat.

•       The Elgin Marbles are one of the summits of Greek culture, and can still be seen here rather than on the Parthenon. The huge frieze shows a procession – follow it all the way round to make the most of it.

•       The Sutton Hoo treasure is a highlight of English history from the boat-burial of a seventh century East Anglian king and includes Roman silver spoons, as well as a fine iron and bronze helmet and even a lyre.

•       The Lewis Chessmen are part of our Viking heritage, dating from about 1150.  You’ll only see half the ivory pieces here – the rest are in the National Museum of Scotland.

•       Roman Britain is represented by some fascinating exhibits including the Portland Vase, a marvellous cameo glass vase painstakingly put back together after a drunken visitor smashed it, and the gorgeous Mildenhall Treasure with its lovely silver dishes.

•       From further back in British history, the Snettisham Hoard features gold and silver Celtic Torcs – it’s an amazing, massive treasure, probably a jeweller’s stock in trade.

Of course there are other great things to see – we haven’t even mentioned the artefacts from the Royal Tombs of Ur and other ancient Middle Eastern cultures, which should also count as highlights.

But this little lot will take a few hours to see and will definitely impress.

The British Museum is in Bloomsbury - a nice, chilled-out location near the University of London, yet with easy access to Oxford Street and Soho The British Museum is in Bloomsbury – a nice, chilled-out location near the University of London, yet with easy access to Oxford Street and Soho

What about good nearby hotels?  Read on for our well-researched recommendations, including 2 of London’s current top 5 hotels on TripAdvisor (which happen to be within walking distance of the Museum).

You could do much worse than the Soho Hotel – currently ranked number 2 on TripAdvisor and also featured in our review of Soho’s most stylish hotels.  It’s a hotel that guests love, deep in Soho’s throbbing heart.

The Soho Hotel provides a stylish sanctuary and excellent service The Soho Hotel is a stylish sanctuary with excellent service rated very highly on TripAdvisor

Check rates at the Soho Hotel

A further option is the Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street which has not previously been featured on this blog.  It’s currently a very respectable number 65 on TripAdvisor and offers some attractive weekend deals.

The hotel has also been recently renovated (at a cost of £25m) and has an excellent location, ideal for theatres, restaurants and shopping.

Book direct with Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street at the guaranteed best rate

Time and again we prove on this blog that recently-renovated hotels provide great stays and the Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street is no exception Recently-renovated hotels often provide great stays and the Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street is no exception

What’s more, the Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street is literally round the corner from the British Museum, so if this article has excited your cultural taste-buds, it could be your ideal accommodation option.

Finally, there’s the Montague on the Gardens: consistently in London’s top  6 TripAdvisor-ranked hotels it’s a very conveniently-positioned 4 star hotel near the British Museum with a high ratio of repeat guests.

Check rates at the Montague Hotel

The Montague on the Gardens has some marvellously quirky rooms for you to enjoy: just a stone’s throw from the British Museum

Photo credits: The Soho Hotel (Firmdale Hotels), Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street (Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotels), Montague on the Gardens Hotel (Red Carnation Hotel Collection).

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November 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm
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