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British Museum on a Friday: Day or night visit?

Hi all,

We're heading to London with our two kids (ages 14 and 12) the first week of April (UK school holidays that week, I should mention) and have Friday set as our British Museum day. The dilemma now is, do we go first thing in the morning or do we take advantage of the late hours and go around 5pm? The way I see it is: going in the morning means we can stay as long as we want, don't need to worry about a weird meal schedule, and may have more energy to walk around a giant museum; going in the evening means a funky dinner schedule (eating dinner at like 4:30pm?) and maybe more tiredness since it's the end of the day, BUT less crowds (I would think?), which might be worth it. I also can't imagine our kids would want more than 3 hours in any museum anyway....

Any advice?

Posted by
8888 posts

Morning. Just remember thats when school groups descend up the Museum. So more crowded. Opens at 10am.

Posted by
27453 posts

This is what I know about the British Museum in September (haven't been there in April): A museum security person told me weekends and Fridays are busiest, plus rainy days. If Friday works best for your itinerary (or if you want to take advantage of the late hours), you can't avoid the Friday situation, but you might want to look up at the sky and consider the weather forecast. If it starts out rainy, the morning will be busier than usual. If the day starts out nice and then clouds roll in, additional mobs will descend on the museum.

I am a late starter and have never managed to get to the Museum before opening time. Arriving shortly after opening time means about 30 minutes in line, on average. The security line may well be shorter an hour or two later (unless it has just started to rain!), but I can't say that for sure. There's a second entry point on the back side of the museum used by tours, but others can normally enter there as well (not if the scanners are broken, which happened on the day of one of my visits). That line is usually shorter, but it's a rather long walk around the building from the front, and if you arrive and discover there's a problem, as I did, you'll have to walk back around the building and will have wasted a lot of time.
You're right to think about the food situation, because I don't think anything was open after about 4 PM on the Friday I went to the museum, and everything except the grab-and-go place on the ground floor may have closed by 3 PM or so. There are quite a few cafes/restaurants south of the museum, but I've never eaten in any of them, and going to one of those mid-visit would mean facing the security line again. Of course, the security line might be extremely short at 5 PM or so; I don't know about that.

I made multiple trips to the museum in 2022. The last two were to the upper floor, which is always noticeably less busy. On my Friday visit, that floor was blessedly empty by late afternoon/early evening. I don't know what it was like on the ground floor, but I'm sure it was better then than earlier in the day. People do get hungry.

If you decide to go later in the day so you can take advantage of less crowding at the end of the day, I'd suggest going upstairs first and finishing on the ground floor. That will be tricky from the time-allocation standpoint, because I suspect you'll want to spend more time on the ground floor, where the kids may be more wowed by things like mummies. It might be helpful to think about what would be the maximum time your group could stand be on its feet in a museum. Most people have a limit, be it 2 hours or 4 hours. A sit-down meal along the way could extend that, of course. Three hours seems reasonable to me.

Posted by
210 posts

We did this in May 2018. I liked evening because at that time we were able to just walk right in - no line whereas during the day you had to cue up and wait. Also museum a lot less crowded and gives you time during the day to other things.

Posted by
45 posts

We do have flexibility in our schedule to shift to a Tuesday visit instead of Friday (we would bump Hampton Court Palace to Friday then). I'm just not sure if the day of the week really matters, since it'll be a school holiday anyway.

Posted by
2238 posts

We did this last year in May on the same Friday there was a school-half term and a bank holiday on the following Monday. We arrived around 1:00-ish and walked right in. It was busy, but not outrageously so. We were easily able to find seats for a snack at the grab-and-go on the bottom floor. I think the Rosetta Stone and the gift shop where we only found clusters of people. The weather was nice, so that may have helped out.

Posted by
939 posts

I haven't been to The British Museum on a Friday evening, but if it follows the same pattern as Tate Modern, where I have spent a bit of time, Friday evenings are good. At Tate Modern Friday (and Saturday) evening tend to be the quietest time of the week, unless there is an event on. Tate Modern is open until 10pm, whereas The British Museum closes at 8:30pm.