The British Library
- Discover the world’s largest library with a visit to the British Library in central London.
- Explore the incredible Treasures of the British Library Gallery, which holds some of the most important documents in history.
- Enjoy one of the fantastic exhibitions at the British Library, which delve into history and the documents that shaped our lives today.
Just a few minutes’ walk from the bustling Coal Drops Yard and Granary Square, you’ll find the amazing British Library, a collection of around 200 million books, documents, and manuscripts. The British Library catalogue has housed some of the world’s most important collections of writing for decades.
Academics and students come to the Library year-round to take advantage of the incredible resources on offer. While the vast resources are perhaps not the most enticing for families with younger children, the British Library’s brilliant exhibitions and events are a great way for kids to get involved with the fantastic pieces of history that are held in the Library.
The British Library can lay claim to possibly the most interesting and unique exhibition in the entire country. The Treasures of the British Library Gallery is a free exhibition that is home to some of the rarest and most important documents ever written. In this amazing free exhibition in London, you’ll be able to see incredible artefacts from across the globe. These include original handwritten notebooks by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the oldest Qur’an manuscripts in the world, and an original copy of the Magna Carta, the 13th-century document commonly seen as a cornerstone of democracy.
You’ll also find original handwritten works by writers and musicians such as William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Sylvia Plath, and John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles. With the vast range and huge importance of the artefacts on show, there’s nothing quite like this British Library exhibition in the entire world.
While the Treasures Gallery is an absolute must-see, there are plenty more amazing things to do at the British Library. The Treasures Gallery is a permanent exhibition, but the Library also holds many temporary exhibitions throughout the year. In these exhibitions, the Library uses specific historic artefacts from its collection to develop a really interesting explanation of a historical period. These exhibitions are often free and well worth a look during any visit to the British Library.
As well as their fantastic exhibitions, the Library also hosts a number of interesting talks throughout the year. These talks are given on a variety of subjects, often by people seen as experts in their field. Whether you’ve got a special passion that you want to know more about or are just curious to learn about something new, the talks at the British Library are a great way to expand your knowledge.
While the Library is a great way to learn about British history, there are so many places around London where you get the chance to experience it, including the nearby Wellcome Collection in Euston.
What to know before you go
- There are multiple places for refreshments at the British Library. The Origin Coffee Shop is located near the Entrance Hall to the Library, where you can get lovely coffees, teas, pastries, and snacks.
- Alternatively, head to the King’s Library Cafe on the Upper Ground Floor, with a range of hot food, sandwiches, drinks, and snacks. While you eat your food, why not check out the Terrace on the First Floor, where you’ll find an outdoor space with seating and great views of St. Pancras.
- There are accessible toilets on every floor of the British Library. The toilets also have baby-changing facilities.
- The Library is accessible for wheelchairs users and parents with buggies. Buggies are allowed inside the Library, although there is also a cloakroom where you can store the buggy if you wish.
- If you want to use the research tools on offer at the Library, you’ll need to order a free Reader Pass online. You’ll have to have the specific books in mind before you go, because there’s nowhere to browse books at the Library.
- The British Library is very easily accessible by public transport - it’s just next to St Pancras International and King’s Cross stations. King's Cross is on the Circle, Hammersmith and City, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria lines, and both stations have rail service across the country (and beyond, in St Pancras's case).
- Euston Tube station is also around a five-minute walk away and has the Victoria and Northern line and National Rail services.
- There are also plenty of bus routes that serve the area. These routes include the 30, 73, 91, 205, and 390.
- There’s no parking directly at the British Library. The closest car parks are at the two nearby train stations, St Pancras International and King’s Cross, and these can be pretty pricey so we'd recommend travelling by public transport.