The British Museum, established in 1759, welcomes 6 million patrons each year. At its founding, the collections included mostly books, manuscripts and natural specimens. Today, the museum is home to 8 million objects spanning 2 million years of human history and culture. This year’s exhibitions highlight life in Pompeii before Mount Vesuvius erupted, fourth-century fine dining in Roman Britain and the history of money during biblical times. Then, of course, the permanent collection has its gems—the Rosetta Stone, a key for interpreting hieroglyphs created in Egypt in 196 B.C, for instance, and the Elgin Marbles, ancient Greek sculptures originally part of the Parthenon. Admission is free.