The British Museum opens to the public at 10am, but they’ve resumed a little known tour that starts at 9am before the public gets inside.

The tours are themed around five core topics, and you can book for any of the five tours.

They all last around an hour and with the limited number of just twelve people in each group and the galleries empty except for the tour, they cost £33 per person (£16.50 for children). After the tour, as you’re already in the museum, you can then wander around the rest of the galleries — and my tip would be to head to the popular galleries, as they’ll take a good half hour or so to full fill up with visitors.

All the tours are here and below.

An introduction to the British Museum

Uncover the origins of an extraordinary collection as you learn about the beginnings of the British Museum in 1753 and its subsequent development. The Enlightenment gallery (Room 1) focuses on the 18th century, an era of new knowledge, scientific discovery and European colonialism. The Collecting the world gallery (Room 2) focuses on the growth of the collection from the 18th century to the present day.

Galleries on this tour:

  • Room 1: Enlightenment gallery
  • Room 2: Collecting the world

Booking details

An introduction to ancient Egypt

In the Egyptian sculpture gallery, you can see impressive statues of kings and gods, monumental tomb architecture and ancient tomb reliefs spanning 3,000 years. These include the imposing, colossal bust of Ramesses II, the Gayer-Anderson Cat and the world-famous Rosetta Stone – the key to deciphering hieroglyphs. You can learn the importance of large-scale sculpture in ancient Egyptian temples and tombs, and get the perfect introduction to this unmissable collection.

Gallery on this tour:

  • Room 4: Egyptian sculpture

Booking details

Life and death in ancient Egypt

From painted coffins, statues and models of daily life to spectacular wall paintings from the tomb-chapel of the high official Nebamun, investigate what tombs and burial goods tell us about the lives of ancient Egyptian people. The tour will explore the preparation of the deceased for burial, including mummification, and the use of magic to help and protect people on their perilous journey to the afterlife.

Galleries on this tour:

  • Room 61: Egyptian life and death: the tomb chapel of Nebamun (The Michael Cohen Gallery)
  • Rooms 62–63: Egyptian death and afterlife: mummies (The Roxie Walker Galleries)
  • Room 64: Early Egypt (The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery)

Booking details

An introduction to China

In the Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China, you will gain an insight into the development of Chinese history and culture from 5000 BC to the present day.

Gallery on this tour:

  • Room 33: China (Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery)

Booking details

An introduction to the ancient Greek world

Enjoy some of the highlights of the Museum’s exceptional collection, including sculptures from the Parthenon and the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Galleries on this tour:

  • Room 12b: Greece: Mycenaeans (The Arthur I Fleischman Gallery)
  • Room 15: Athens and Lycia
  • Room 17: Nereid Monument
  • Room 18: Greece: Parthenon
  • Room 21: Mausoleum of Halikarnassos
  • Room 22: The World of Alexander

Booking details

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2 comments
  1. Chris Rogers says:

    Interesting. A shame they don’t keep the Great Court open before and after hours as was promised when it was built. Meanwhile, back inside, and quoting from their recent email to me, “The Reading Room is not currently accessible to the public. The British Museum is still considering options for the future use of the space, and there are currently no firm plans in place. The Reading Room is a complex space with a fascinating history, one that is valued by visitors both past and present.”

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