Those who know me (or who read my blog long enough) will soon discover that I absolutely love going to the library. I’m like a kid in the candy store with so many books to choose from and they are all free! Well except for the ones I keep buying at my library’s little used book section. I just can’t resist them. So with this said it really was no surprise to anyone that the British Library was on the agenda for one of our trips to London.
It’s been on the list of places to see for a few trips now but I just haven’t been able to see it because there are so many things to see and do. I’ll never get to see them all! Ah but this trip I finally made it to the British Library and while I wasn’t allowed to browse the stacks, as I wish I could have, I did get to see some of the neat treasures that they have on display in the John Ritblat Gallery.
The gallery houses treasures such as the Magna Carta (which sadly wasn’t on display when we visited), some of Shakespeare’s plays, Beatles lyrics for the Beatles fan amongst us (oddly enough it’s the kiddo that’s the fan between Lee, the kiddo and I), Jane Austen’s writing desk, and many, many other books. Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to take any photos in this gallery so you’ll have to make a stop the next time you’re in London to see these pieces of history.
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After touring the gallery we took a quick peek at the British Library’s stamp collection that is kept along the walls in dozens of vertical trays. Also in this area is the King’s Library which is a multi-storey floor to ceiling glass shaft that showcases King George III’s collection of 60,000 volumes that were donated to the library in 1823.
From here we wandered around a temporary exhibit called ‘Enduring War: Grief, Grit, and Humour‘ that ran though October 2014 as part of the British Library’s contribution to the First World War Centenary. There were posters, books, some poems, and even hand written letters and school assignments available to learn more about that time in history. Click here to find out what their current and upcoming temporary exhibitions are and will be.
- Walking around the King’s Library to get a good look at his thousands of volumes.
- Taking your time in the John Ritblat Galleries– there are so many things to see, don’t rush yourself.
- The view of the Gothic architecture of St. Pancras station contrasted against the modern library from the piazza.
- Isaac Newton hard at work in the piazza…he is big!
- Their temporary exhibits- check them out on their website before your visit so you’ll be sure not to miss anything.
Plan Your Visit
- Admission is free but the reading rooms are only available to pass-holders.
- Open Mon-Thur 0930-2000; Fri 0930-1800; Sat 0930-1700; Sun 1100-1700| Reading rooms are closed on Sundays and Public Holidays| Exhibition Galleries and Shop close at 1800, except on Tuesday when they close at 2000.
- A café, gift shop, cloak room, and lockers are available for all visitors’ use.
Make it a Day
Looking for ideas for a whole day out in London after your visit to the British Library? Here are some suggestions~
In the Area
- Grab some delicious bangers and mash for lunch at the Euston Flyer, a traditional British Pub. It has free WiFi too.
- Only a 20 minute walk from the library is the British Museum where you could easily spend the afternoon.
- Or take slightly longer to get to the museum and stroll through Russell Square for some people watching and a little rest.
- Fans of Harry Potter can take a quick walk back to King’s Cross Station to have their photo taken at Platform 9 3/4 (platforms 4 and 5 were actually used for filming though).
- Those who like Charles Dickens can visit his restored Georgian home to learn about his life and works through rare books, photos, and paintings at the Charles Dickens Museum.
- After viewing his original plays at the library, visit the Globe Theatre, which is a reconstruction of the original theatre so often associated with William Shakespeare.
- Called a ‘book lover’s mecca‘, Charing Cross Road (between Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road) is known for its quaint secondhand and independent book shops.
- Or visit the largest bookstore in Europe – Waterstone’s Piccadilly– for hours of browsing and shopping and a bite to eat at the 5th View Cocktail Bar with views of London over the rooftops.
This post is part of my London Love series.
For more information on common (and some not so common) sights in London, as well as itineraries to help you plan your time, please visit my collection of posts in London Love.
Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission but this does not affect the price to you. Please read my full disclosure policy here. Thank you for supporting One Trip at a Time.