London is packed full of museums and galleries, but which artefacts are the cultural heavyweights you must see? Amy Hughes investigates
Rosetta Stone at the British Museum
The darling of London’s museum scene is surely the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum. Have you used the learn-a-language service? Well, it’s named after this 2200-year-old chunk of rock which was unearthed in Egypt by the French in 1799, before being seized by Britain three years later. Covered in carvings written in hieroglyphics, demotic (ancient Egyptian) and ancient Greek, it was the study of these translations that led to the cracking of the Egyptians’ hieroglyphic code. Find out more.
Admiral Lord Nelson’s Trafalgar coat at the National Maritime Museum
London’s uniquely British treasure is Admiral Lord Nelson’s coat, on display in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. This is the coat that he was wearing when he was mortally wounded during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805; you can even see the bullet hole in the coat’s left shoulder. There are also bloodstains on the tails and left sleeve, thought to be from Nelson’s secretary, John Scott, who died in earlier action. An artefact rich in history and one definitely not to miss.
Hope the blue whale, Natural History Museum
The recognisable star of the Natural History Museum is Hope the blue whale. Suspended above visitors’ heads, the skeleton is from a whale that became stranded in Wexford Harbour, Ireland, in 1891 – just ten years after the museum opened! Previously displayed in the Mammal Hall, Hope now turns heads in the spectacular surroundings of the Hintze Hall. Find out more.
The Crown Jewels at the Tower of London
Come face to face with magnificent crowns, the Sovereign’s Sceptre and Rod and other sparkling objects used to crown sovereigns of England. The coronation regalia itself, commonly known as the Crown Jewels, have been protected at the Tower of London since the 1600s. Before you ask, yes, they are real! Find out more.
Princess Diana of Wales’s wedding dress, Kensington Palace
Arguably the most famous gown of the modern era, see the wedding dress of Diana, Princess of Wales in all its glory at Kensington Palace, on loan until 2 Jan. Its spectacular 25-foot long sequin encrusted train dramatically filled the aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral, and remains the longest in royal history. Utterly magnificent. Find out more.
The Bucklersbury mosaic at the Museum of London
One of the most widely viewed Roman mosaics in the country is on display at the Museum of London. It caused quite a stir when it was discovered in nearby Queen Victoria Street in 1869. Around 50,000 visitors came to see it during the three days before it was removed. See it for yourself in the fascinating Roman Gallery. Find out more.
Van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery
The famous artwork that is part of a series by Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh, was created while he lived in France. So it may not be of British heritage, but make sure you pay it a visit while in London. The Sunflowers pictures are among Van Gogh’s most iconic and best-loved works. It now hangs in the National Gallery. Find out more.
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