Skip to Content

British Museum Highlights: Things You Simply Must See!

I think it’s pretty obvious by now. I love museums and I love history. Therefore, what better way to spend an afternoon than by visiting one of the oldest and most prestigious museums in the World? Particularly visiting British Museum highlights…

The British Museum was founded in 1753 by an act of parliament. The 17th Century mansion Montagu House was acquired to house the museum collection. In the 1840s, the original house was demolished in order for new premises to be built in order to house an ever-growing collection. The entire British Museum collection currently comprises of around 8 million objects.

British Museum Highlights You Simply Must See:

Portland Vase, Room 70

The Portland vase is so named after the dukes of Portland who had it in their possession for a considerable amount of time. It is one of only two examples left of Roman Cameo Glass left in the entire world. In 1845, it was deliberately smashed by a drunk visitor to the museum. It took a curator 5 months to painstakingly repair it. He was only paid £25 for his work (definitely a labour of love) and his reparations lasted until 1945 when it had to be re-restored.

portland vase british museum highlights

Lewis Chessmen, Room 40

There is a bit of legend surrounding the finding of these pieces; legend has it that on one dark and stormy night (why is no good story ever set on a sunny day?) a sailor couldn’t sleep. He, therefore, went down to the beach (in the middle of a lightening storm?!) and found the chess set.

The Lewis chessmen are so called because they were found on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. At the time, the Outer Hebrides were part of the Kingdom of Norway. They are Scandinavian made, probably Norwegian, and date back to around 1150 AD. They are easily dated because of the way the bishops are wearing their miters. Since the 13th Century, they have been worn the opposite way with the peaks at each side of the head rather than front to back.

lewis chessmen british museum

Bust of Hadrian, Room 70

Known as ‘the little Greek’ as a boy due to his love of Ancient Greek culture and language, Hadrian (76-138AD) rebuilt the Pantheon. Despite being best known for commissioning Hadrian’s Wall and other buildings, he was incredibly creative and wrote a lot of poetry in both Ancient Greek and LatinHe was also the first emperor (besides Nero) to sport a beard.  It became so fashionable, that all emperors after Hadrian also sported a beard.

bust of hadrian british museum

Lamassu, Room 7-8

The picture below doesn’t do justice to the sheer size of the Lamassu. An Assyrian deity with a lion’s body and an eagle’s wings; a pair were often placed at the doors of the royal palace to guard the entrance. They have five legs. From the front, they look like they are standing still, waiting to pounce; whilst from the side they look like they are running into battle to defend the inhabitants of the palace.

highlights of the british museum

The Royal Cup, Room 40

Made in around 1370 AD, it was the first antique purchased in the UK using public funds in order to benefit the nation. It was bought in 1892 from a Bond Street, London dealer for £8000. The rim of the cup is damaged because it was originally encircled with pearls.

highlights of the british museum

Lycurgus Cup, Room 41

Saving the best till last… Okay, this is almost definitely my favourite object in the museum! The Lycurgus cup is 4th Century Roman Glass. The glass is made using tiny particles of both gold and silver so that the cup appears different colours when illuminated under different lights.

highlights of the british museum

Your Turn, Room…?

Are there any British Museum highlights that you would have loved to have seen? Let me know in the comments below!

British Museum Highlights you won't want to miss on a trip to the British Museum in Central London, England.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

MaryAnn grant

Wednesday 25th of April 2018

I really like your list and will hunt them down on my next visit! I have an old guide book, dated 1948, to the museum which I've poured over.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.