I Took My Kids on a British Museum Out of Hours Tour. This Is What It Was Like

It's a perfect option for people who want a less-crowded peek into the British Museum.
Empty Egypt gallery as seen on a British Museum out of hours tour
(Photo: Christine Sarkis)

I found out about the British Museum’s Out of Hours tours while doing a general sweep of kid-friendly tour options for kids in London. I’ve had great luck in the past with family tours, since it takes some of the pressure off parents and lets everyone have fun and learn things. These tours are run by the museum and take place when it’s closed to the general public (hence the “out of hours” part, which is British English for outside of opening hours).

Out of Hours Tours: The Details

waiting for the out of hours tour to begin at the British Museum in London
Waiting for the Out of Hours tour to begin at the British Museum (Photo: Christine Sarkis)

Out of Hours tours run from 8:50 to 10 in the morning, and all enter through the main entrance (since the museum is closed, you wait and then someone comes out to collect you). The cost is £33 for adults (or £30 for members/students/etc.) and £16.50 for kids ages five to 15.

These guided tours are led by expert guides and focus on specific collections at a time of day when the only crowd is your group (on the tour I went on, the group was probably about 30 people). It feels like a private tour without the private tour pricing.

BEST TRIP EVER: 50 Best Family Vacation Ideas for All Ages

There were a few tour options to choose among, including introductions to ancient Egypt, the ancient Greek world, China, and the British Museum along with a deep dive on life and death in ancient Egypt.

You can book about a year out, and booking well in advance gives you the best chance at getting the tour you’re most interested in.

Why Pay for an Out of Hours Tour?

tour guide in the Egypt Gallery at the British Museum on the museum's Out of Hours tour
Tour guides tell the history and stories during Out of Hours tours (Photo: Christine Sarkis)

While these British Museum tours aren’t particularly expensive, since the museum is free, any amount is necessarily a lot more than you need to pay. These tours also tend to book up in advance, so you’ll need to decide and book a few months ahead of time.

I have been to the British Museum dozens of times, but this was hands-down my favorite visit. Getting to enter the museum before it’s open felt fun and exciting. And it was so memorable to be able to be in the museum when it was quiet and crowd-free.

TEEN-FRIENDLY TRIPS: 10 Best Vacation Ideas for Families with Teenagers

It was my kids first visit, and honestly and in the best possible way, I think it a little bit ruined them for future visits, when they’re going to have to peer over people and deal with the standard jockeying for position to see the Rosetta Stone, mummies, and manuscripts.

What Else to Know

kids legs with visible British Museum out of hours tour passes hanging
Kids should be able to stand for the length of the tour and be old enough to enjoy the tour format (Photo: Christine Sarkis)

These tours require a fair amount of standing around and listening, so that has to be a good fit for your family to work well. I took my kids and my nieces on the tour, and the older ones were rapt the whole time while the younger ones tried their hardest but were definitely getting bored by the end.

The lesson I learned the hard way is that it’s nice to be able to stick around after the tour. As the tour ends, the general public starts to filter in but since you’ll be deep into the museum when the tour wraps up, you can pretty easily find uncrowded rooms and exhibits to enjoy before it gets crowded. I had planned an activity right after the tour, so we missed making the most of our time in the museum at this less crowded time.

More from FamilyVacationist:

Christine Sarkis
A traveling parent and longtime travel writer and editor, Christine Sarkis is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of FamilyVacationist. She is the former Executive Editor for TripAdvisor travel magazine SmarterTravel.com, she has spent nearly two decades finding and sharing the best places to go with an audience of enthusiastic travelers. Her stories have appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her expert advice has been quoted in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, Here & Now, Life Kit, and California Now. Her stories have been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008, and she is working on a travel memoir. Christine and her husband first met in Paris, and travel remains a big part of their shared experience. With their two kids in tow, they have piloted a barge down canals in France, befriended llamas in Peru, tended olive trees in Italy, and gone snorkeling with sea turtles in Hawaii. The family lives in California and loves traveling around the state. Their California favorites include Yosemite National Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, and the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.