https://blogs.bl.uk/living-knowledge/2023/11/cyber-incident-update.html (temporary website as the original site is down due to a cybersecurity incident)
The British Library is home to originals of many of the greatest works in literature. Book enthusiasts will love visiting!
The British Library was created in 1973, taking the majority of its collections from the British Museum. It’s the national archives of the United Kingdom and receives a copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland. Its collections include more than 150 million items, including some very important first editions of classic literature. The archives are housed in over 380 miles of shelving in the deepest basement in London!
The British Library is a must-see for any literature lover. Located just north of Bloomsbury, it’s an easy walk from the British Museum. It’s near the transit hubs of St. Pancras Station and King’s Cross Station (with the famous Harry Potter’s Platform 9 ¾). It’s easy to pop in here while your significant other takes the kids next door! The library won’t be as interesting to them, but maybe a readerly teen will want to come.
The library is used mostly by researchers and writers, but there is one room that is for tourists, the Treasures Room. Enter the main doors and head up the stairs to the back left corner where the Treasures Room is located.
It’s a dark room full of some of the most important items from world literature. Displays change as documents are allowed to “rest” occasionally so the items I list below might not be what is displayed on your trip. Download the Rick Steves’ audio guide to help with your visit.
The items here include historical maps and globes.
I enjoyed looking at the Sacred Texts including one of the oldest complete Bibles in existence, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and the Gutenberg Bible.
The library has one of the few original Magna Cartas in existence.
My favorite was Shakespeare’s First Folio, 400 years old this month!
Jane Austen’s original portable writing desk was so neat to see!
There were so many important books and artifacts from British literature, I couldn’t take a picture of them all! From Beowulf to The Canterbury Tales to Charles Dickens, there is something for every book lover.
The library also displays some items from pop history. I especially loved seeing the photo and items from one of my favorite actresses, Vivien Leigh.
While your visit will probably be short, it is impactful! If you love literature, the British Library is a must-see!
- Cost: Free (£5 donation requested)
- Recommended: Ages 14 and up
- Tour time: 30-45 minutes
- There is a gift shop onsite and online
- Transportation: Located beside King’s Cross and St. Pancras Stations, it’s an easy Tube ride from most of London or train ride from other locations. I walked from the British Museum (about a 15 minute walk).
- Dining options: The library has both a restaurant and cafe. The family-friendly chain, Pizza Express, is across the street.
- Nearby hotels: With its location near the train stations, there are dozens of hotels in this area. Check out my London guide for my recommendations of hotels.
- Nearby attractions include: Harry Potter’s Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station, Charles Dickens Museum, Foundling Museum, and the British Museum
Books to Read:
See my Bookshop.org shop where I list my favorite books about London for additional recommendations. All images below are Amazon affiliate links.