The British Library is a huge library, similar to how the British Museum is a huge museum. The difference between the British Library and the British Museum is that most of the British Library you aren’t allowed to see. If you have a reading pass, which you would need to get in advance, then you would be able to see more.
As it is, if you walk in off the street you can only view the exhibits. The main exhibit that people come here to see is the Treasures of the British Library.
How to Get to the British Library
It is fairly easy to get to the British Library. Take the tube to the Kings Cross Station (yes, this is also where you board the train for Hogwarts). From Kings Cross walk Southwest down Euston Road. You should see signs for the British Library, but even if you don’t it is only about a block away, you just have to get past the train station.
The entrance to the British Library does not face the street. It faces into a courtyard where there is a giant statue of Issac Newton. It doesn’t cost anything to enter the museum and view the treasures exhibit. Other exhibits do require a purchased ticket, and most areas of the library are off limits unless you are a registered reader. This is similar to how the Library of Congress works in America.
There is a bag security check to get inside.
What You Will See in the Treasure Room of the British Library
Note: Photographs are not allowed inside the British Library exhibits.
The free treasures exhibit is located just up the main stairs when you enter the British Library. In this exhibit you find examples of books and manuscripts from throughout time. It is pretty cool to see them, but if you don’t have much time in London I wouldn’t put it on your must see list.
Since all the books are old and rare they are kept under glass. This means you only see the pages that are currently displayed. One of the most popular items in the exhibit is the Magna Carta, signed by King John. You might have to wait in line to enter the special room where it is kept. You can also see an original copy of the Magna Carta in the National Archives in America.
If you do decide to visit the British Library and the treasures exhibit we recommend you use the Rick Steves audio guide in the audio Europe App. This helps you to actually understand what you are looking at.
The British Library gets put on a lot of must see lists in London and I am not sure why. I am a librarian, so of course I was going to go, but I’m not a special collections librarian or a conservator so the treasures exhibit was probably not as exciting to me as it might have been.
If you like looking at old book then I suggest you go. If you don’t or you have children who don’t then I suggest skipping it. There is a lot to see in London and the British Library is a little out of your way. If you a touring the British Isles you are better off saving you old book energy for the Book of Kells in Dublin.