Sitting in the centre of the British Museum is a huge Round Reading Room, with a massive dome. Although long closed to the public, the museum offers weekly tours inside.

(c) British Museum

The Reading Room was built for the British Library when it occupied the space, but when the library decamped to St Pancras and the courtyard cleared of books to create the indoor space it is today – the library reading room was also opened to the general public for only the second time in its history.

The museum put a temporary floor in to use the space for exhibitions in 2007, but that stopped in 2013 and is now used to house the museum’s archive. Sadly, that means the room has been pretty much off-limits to visitors for the past decade.

The museum does, however, offer short tours of the room that lets you go inside and see the magnificent dome and the space where some of the most famous (infamous?) writers studied, such as Karl Marx, Lenin (who signed in under the name Jacob Richter) and novelists such as Bram Stoker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The tours are free (donation requested), and need to be booked in advance from here.

The tours take place on Tuesdays at 11am and 12pm, lasting 20 minutes. Meet at the information desk.

New tour dates will be released monthly – and March tickets are on sale at the moment, but if March is sold out, put a note in your diary for 5th March as that’s when the April tickets are likely to be released.

Photography is not permitted in the Round Reading Room.

(You used to be able to look down into the Reading Room from the Great Court restaurant, but they blocked off the windows for the exhibitions and they’ve been blocked off ever since, which apart from stopping people from seeing inside the reading room, killed off the “secret perk” for getting tables next to the windows for the amazing view.)


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  1. E says:

    It’s mad to me that this isn’t used as a space for temporary exhibitions in some way but then again wtfdik

    • Siobhan says:

      A Tuesday for 20 minutes.
      When the majority of us work. You couldn’t make it up.

    • ianVisits says:

      When I had a Mon-Fri job, I still took holidays, or time off from accrued overtime, and that’s a great way of visiting places only open during the week.

  2. Eileen says:

    What a waste of such a beautiful room.

  3. kevin flude says:

    It is a scandal, the BM received public money when it did the Great Court project from Millennium funds, Part of the offer was making the Reading Room available. Originally, it had a free public access library, which was brilliant. Then they closed it and started using it for exhibitions, then they just kept it closed. It should be open every day, it is a priceless part of the World’s heritage. I’ve written to the BM about 3 times about it and never got a reply.

  4. Jen says:

    Photography is not permitted? Wtf is that all about?

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