The British Museum – Top Tips for Your Visit

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Visiting the British Museum in London can be awe-inspiring, but it can also be overwhelming. There are more than 60 galleries you can explore for free, and other exhibitions and events you can book.

The British Museum is one of my favourite London attractions and one of the many free museums in London. Here are 30 British Museum tips to help you make the most out of your visit.

The British Museum: Tips Before You Go

Download the British Museum App

You can download the British Museum app for either Apple or Android devices. The app will help you easily access opening times, maps, tours and much more. It also gives you three choices of what to see in 1, 3 or 6 hours, which you can follow on your phone.

Mobile phone screen showing a vase with actual pottery vase, elephants and figurines in the background
Download the British Museum app and hear about the exhibits

Research and Explore online

Check out the British Museum website for an overview of what you can see and do and for the latest British Museum exhibitions. This will help you narrow down what you want to see.

Have a must-see list and make a plan

With a whole world of exhibits to see, it is easy to get bamboozled and end up aimlessly wandering around, looking but not really seeing anything. If there are particular galleries you would like to see, maybe Ancient Egypt, Chinese Jade or Greece 1050BC to 520BC, then write them down with their room number and make a plan of your route.

Early Bronze-Age Gold Cape 1900 1600BC found in Flintshire mounted on a stand and in a glass box
Early Bronze-Age Gold Cape 1900 1600BC found in Flintshire

Check the British Museum Opening Hours

The British Museum is open all year-round but is closed 1 January and 24–26 December.

The Great Court: 09:00 to 17:30 and 09:00 to 20:30 on Fridays
The Galleries: 10:30 to 17:30 and 10:30 to 20:30 on Fridays

Ten minutes before closing they start clearing the galleries.

Save your money: The British Museum is Free

The British Museum is free to get into, but you do have to book in advance if you have a group of more than 10. There are charges for some exhibitions, guided tours and the audio guide.

Help with Accessibility

The British Museum does all it can to be accessible to all. With self-operable lifts, accessible toilets, British Sign Language guides and audio descriptive guides and much, much more to offer people with disabilities. For a full description of what assistance is available, visit the Accessibility page on the website.

Time your visit

The Museum is at its quietest first thing in the morning, just after opening and after 16:00 near closing time.

Be prepared and buy your ticket in advance

If there are any special exhibitions you want to see, it is worth booking your tickets in advance. Not only will it save you time when you get into the Museum, but also you get to fast-track through security.

The Great Court

Where is the British Museum?

The address of the British Museum is:
Main entrance: The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG

Second entrance: Montague Place, London WC1E 7JW

Plan your route

By Tube: There are four tube stations near the museum:

  • Tottenham Court Road: 5-minute walk
  • Holborn: 7-minute walk
  • Russell Square: 7-minute walk
  • Goodge Street: 8-minute walk

By Bus: You have many options to get a bus which will drop you within walking distance of the Museum

  • New Oxford Street: 1, 8, 19, 25, 38, 55, 98, 242
  • Tottenham Court Road (northbound)/Gower Street (Southbound): 14, 24, 29, 73, 134, 390
  • Southampton Row: 59, 68, X68, 91, 168, 188

Consider becoming a Member

There are advantages of becoming a member of the British Museum. Membership costs from £64 (correct at January 2020) and will give you free unlimited entry to all of the exhibitions, invitation to a programme to special events, 10% discount in the Museum shops and cafés and use of the exclusive Members’ Room and Members’ cloakroom. For more details see the Membership page on the British Museum website.

The British Museum: Tips When You Get There

Security Checks

Before entering the British Museum, you will have to go through a security check. Bags will be checked and any unsuitable objects will be removed.

If you have already bought a ticket or are a Member, have young children under 5 or an accessibility issue, you can use the fast-track lane.

No Smoking

Text on stone wall saying No Smoking in the Museum
No Smoking in the British Museum (if you feel bad about smoking you can donate £5!)

Smoking is not allowed in the museum including vaping. If you need to smoke, you can smoke outside and use the bins provided for the cigarette butts.

Don’t carry your coat, use the cloakroom.

It can get pretty warm walking around the Museum, but you can leave your coats, umbrellas and bags at the cloakroom immediately to the left of the main entrance. There is a charge depending on what you are leaving, but fold-up pushchairs are looked after for free. For current charges please check the Facilities on the British Museum website.

Travel Light, leave your heavy bags behind

You cannot bring any oversized bags or luggage into the museum. Wheeled cases and sports equipment are also not allowed. Bags up to 8kg can be left in the Cloakroom.

Go old school with guidebooks and Maps

You can buy guidebooks and maps in 13 different languages to help guide you around the galleries and exhibitions. These are available either in the foyer or in the shop. You can also pick up a free Museum map on the ground floor.

White stand with black guide books in different languages Italian, English, Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, Dutch, Greek and Polish and yellow maps
British Museum Guides and Maps

Help is at hand

The information centre is on the left-hand side as you enter in the Great Court. It is open from 09:00 to 18:00 (20.30 on Fridays). If you have lost something you can also enquire here.

There are museum staff in all the galleries who will help guide you around if you have lost your way, or need help with anything.

Listen while you walk

You can rent an audio guide to take you around over 275 of the British Museum highlights of the museum with commentaries, video, images and text to give you more in-depth information.

You can choose to take a themed audio tour, or just the highlights and most popular items. The audio guide keeps track of what you see and listen to and at the end of your tour, it creates a digital souvenir which you can send to yourself.

The audio guides come in ten languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin and Arabic and you can pick them up on the left-hand side of the Great Court.

Price: Adults £7, Concessions £6 (Members, Students, Jobseekers, under 19s, over 60s).

Start at the top

The top galleries tend to be less crowded and it can be better to start there and work your way down. There are eight floors in total to explore in the British Museum, from Level -2 up to Level 5. They are all connected via stairs or lifts.

You don’t need to do it all

There is nothing worse than trudging around a museum looking at things that just don’t float your boat. Don’t feel as if you have to see all of the 95 galleries. If you are not interested in Medieval Europe or even Europe in general, you can skip it and concentrate on what really interests you.

Take a British Museum Guided Tour

The British Museum offers several different tours including Around the World in 90 minutes, 30-40 minute Eye-opener tours, Hands-on tours, lunchtime talks and Friday night spotlight tours. To find out what is on and what the costs are, have a look on the website.

Lights, Camera, Action!

You can use a camera, even with a flash to take photos or video for private purposes, in most of the galleries. There are signs and notices where you are not allowed. However, you are not allowed to use tripods, monopods or selfie stick inside the Museum.

Be Creative

You are allowed to sketch any of the items in pencil. So take your pads and pencils and get drawing!

Taking the kids

Museums can be stuffy and boring for children, but the British Museum is kid-friendly. There are activity backpacks and art materials to borrow, explorer trails and workshops held during the school holidays.

For younger visitors who need sensory support in busy environments, there is a special backpack.

There is plenty to keep them occupied and engaged. For more inspiration check out the family page on the website or get more information from the dedicated Families Desk which is open at the weekend and during school holidays.

Families can also to bring their picnic to the Ford Centre for Young Visitors on the Lower Floor at weekends and during school holidays.

An interactive autopsy of Gebelein man keeps children and adults amused

Be kind to your feet and wear comfortable shoes

As you are gazing at all the exhibits, you may not realise how far you have actually walked. Comfortable shoes or boots are highly recommended, so if you are fond of wearing heels, maybe bring some flats with you to walk around in and change back to your heels when you leave.

shot looking down on a pair of blue lace-up boots and jeans standing on a stone floor
Wear comfy shoes or boots, you might walk further than you think!

Food and Drink at the British Museum

Eating and drinking in the galleries are not allowed.

However, if you are after a quick coffee, snack, lunch or even dinner on a Friday, there are plenty of options for you to choose from:

The Great Court Restaurant is at the top of the staircase on Level 3, just in front of the entrance to Room 56. It is the light and airy and you can order your morning tea or coffee, lunch or afternoon tea. There is also a dinner service on Fridays.

For more information see the Great Court Restaurant page.

Great Court Restaurant seating

The Court Café is on the ground floor, to the back of the Great Court. On sale are sandwiches, snacks, salads and delicious cakes, as well as hot and cold drinks. There are long sharing benches just beside it and on the other side of the Great Court.

Opening hours: 9.00–17.30 (closes 20.30 on Fridays, except Good Friday)

The Court Cafe seen from above

The Pizzeria is just beyond the cloakroom and shop on the ground floor, just turn immediate left as you come through the Main Entrance and follow the signs. Perfect for fresh pizzas, salads and perfect ice-creams.

For those intolerances or dietary requirements, the Pizzeria offers both vegetarian and vegan pizzas and also gluten-free bases.

Opening hours: 11.00–16.00 daily

The Montague Café is great for a quick coffee and a bite to eat. It is inside the Montague Street entrance.

Opening hours: 11.00–16.00 (seasonal variation may apply)

The Coffee Lounge is a on the first floor above the main entrance. You can get to it either by climbing the main staircase (the South Stairs), taking the lift or after going through the rooms on the first floor.

There is plenty of places to sit and you can buy a range of hot or cold drinks, salads and savouries and of course lovely cakes.

Just beyond it is the balcony with an amazing view over the Reading Room and the Great Court.

Opening hours: 11.00–17.00 (seasonal variation may apply)

rectangles of sponge cake topped with thick frosting and cubes of caramel and toffee syrup available from one of the cafes at the British Museum
one of the cakes on sale at the British Museum

Outdoor dining, depending on the weather, you might want to sit outside. There are two food trucks selling hot food and desserts with a seated area next to them where you can enjoy your food.

Opening hours: 10.00–17.00 daily and 17.30–20.15 on Friday evenings

Something to remember your visit

There are several shops spread around the ground floor: the Book Shop to the right of the stairs; Collections Shop on the left and the Great Court shop at the back. There is also a smaller shop on the left as you enter, opposite the Cloakroom.

Keep connected: free wifi

There is free wifi available to visitors. You connect to ‘British Museum WiFi’, fill in your name and address and then you can use the wifi during the visit.

Geocaching

For all you geocachers out there, there is a sneaky little geocache round the corner from the British Museum (GC7Y45) which is a nice little extra. If you don’t know what geocaching is, check out the post on Geocaching.

Tours with Get Your Guide

If you want to book at British Museum private tour, try one of the Get Your Guide British Museum Tours.

Don’t forget to pin this article so you can come back to it later!

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14 thoughts on “The British Museum – Top Tips for Your Visit

  1. The British Museum is now on my special list – have to visit this place!

    1. Fantastic Piotr. Let me know what you think when you visit.

  2. Wow, now we have a complete guide to this amazing museum. Thank you so much! We are really looking forward to visiting the UK soon, and this will be a great reference for us.

    1. Thank you Susan, you will have an amazing time!

  3. A comprehensive and beneficial read. 8 floors of wonderment and cafe for lunch, I could happily spend a whole day there.

    1. I will join you Marilyn! The hours just slip by when you are there

  4. I’ve visited London a few times but still have yet to make it to the British Museum. I’m grateful to have found your post to use as a guide for a future visit. I’ll definitely download the app. I love the idea of having a built-in itinerary based on how long you can visit. It can be overwhelming deciding where to go when you visit a museum.

    1. Fantastic news Brooke. I agree it can totally overwhelm you. I hope you make it to the British Museum soon.

  5. Great tips Larch, especially to get there early. You’ve reminded to go and have another look – this time of year will be quieter too!

    1. I love the space, light, architecture and of course all the exhibits!

  6. Thanks Larch! Saving this for our trip to the UK this summer and autumn.

    1. Fantastic Laurie, it is an amazing place. Maybe even worth more than one visit.

  7. Well done! All visitors could benefit from your guide.

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