Destination: London
Top Ten
1 British Museum
2 Covent Garden Piazza
3 Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster)
4 National Gallery
5 Natural History Museum
6 St Paul's Cathedral
7 Science Museum
8 Tower of London
9 Victoria & Albert Museum
10 Westminster Abbey

Westminster Cathedral
1 British Museum

The British Museum holds what is probably the greatest collection of antiquities in the world, and is also the country's most visited cultural attraction.

Founded in 1753 from the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, the BM (as it is known to its regulars) has occupied its present site since 1823. Recent upheavals, however, which include the relocation of the British Library and the construction of a spectacular Great Court entrance, are as drastic as anything the museum has seen. The £100 million Great Court, which opened to the public in December 2000, is Europe's largest covered square and forms the centrepiece of the museum's 250th anniversary development programme, due to be completed in 2003.

The following are just a few of the BM's greatest and most popular treasures. Pick up a floor plan to locate them: Starting on the ground floor, the sculptures from the Parthenon (the Elgin Marbles) are widely held to be the greatest works of their kind from ancient Greece. The adjacent Nereid Monument, from Xanthos, Turkey, is a striking reconstructed temple. For more breathtaking sculptures on a monumental scale see the Assyrian human-headed winged bulls of Khorsabad. The museum boasts the greatest collection of Egyptology outside Cairo, including the famous Rosetta Stone, which enabled scholars to decipher the meaning of hieroglyphics. Not so renowned but equally worth while are the Oriental Collection (particularly the Indian sculptures) and the Mexican Gallery, both of which contain outstandingly beautiful works of art. In the British Library Galleries the Magna Carta is the most popular draw, but another 'must see' are the remarkable Lindisfarne Gospels.

On the upper floors follow the crowds to the macabre Egyptian mummies and the preserved un-mummified body of 'Ginger'. In the Prehistoric and Romano-British sections, highlights include Lindow Man, the Sutton Hoo Treasure, the Mildenhall Treasure and the Lewis Chessmen. Close by, the Clocks and Watches collection, from the 16th to the 20th century, is one of the finest in the world. Be there on the hour when the clocks chime in unison. Easily overlooked among a welter of antiquities from Greece and Rome is the Portland Vase, a priceless example of the art of glass making.

Address: Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury
Phone: (020) 7636 1555 Recorded information (020) 7580 1788 WEBSITE:
Open: Main museum Sat-Wed 10-5.30, Thu, Fri 10-8.30; Great Court Mon-Wed 9-9, Thu-Sat 9am-11pm, Sun 9-6. Closed 24-26 Dec, 1 Jan, Good Fri, May Day public hol
Restaurant: Café (Inexpensive), Restaurant (Moderately priced)
Bus: Regent Street 3, 6, 12, 13, 15, 53, 59, 88, 159; Piccadilly 9, 14, 19, 22b, 23, 38; New Bond Street southbound and Berkeley Street northbound 8
Metro: Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Russell Square
Accessible: Excellent. Access enquiries Phone: (020) 7323 8299; Artsline, voice and minicom Phone: (020) 7388 2227. Leaflet detailing facilities available at reception
Admission: Free
Practical: Highlights tour Mon-Sat 11:15, 2:15; Sun 3, 3:30. Eye Openers tours (free) hourly every day; pick up a leaflet for details

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