London boasts museums and art galleries aplenty but one of the most popular around is the Natural History Museum.
It is a fun day out for all the family and has been delighting people from all over the globe since opening its doors in 1881. The museums forms a part of three similar attractions on Exhibition Road in South Kensington alongside the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
According to figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (AVLA), the Natural History Museum is currently the fifth most popular attraction in London boasting attendance figures of 5.4 million over the course of 2014. Only the British Museum, National Gallery, Southbank Centre and Tate Modern can claim to have more visitors.
There is a significant gap between the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum which has figure of 3.3 million. There was a one per cent uplift in figures compared to the same period in 2013, highlighting the growing popularity of this attraction.
The museum specialises in five key areas – botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology. It includes a huge amount of life and earth science specimens with around 80 million items spread over its vast collection. It goes all the way back to the time of Charles Darwin, something which you are unlikely to see anywhere else in the world.
All of this put together makes the Natural History Museum an absolute no-brainer for your to-do list in London. You can literally spend hours walking around this incredible museum taking it all in and just enjoying the various exhibitions and installations.
So what is there to see? Here is our guide to the Natural History Museum.
What to see
The Natural History Museum is split into four different areas – Red Zone, Blue Zone, Green Zone and Orange Zone. Each of the sections are dedicated to the various collections that the museum houses. This makes it much easier to plan your day and decide what to visit first or leave to the end.
One of the key attractions that keeps people flocking back in their droves to the Natural History Museum is the impressive collection of dinosaur fossils. Everybody likes dinosaurs and the prehistoric beasts are brought back to life at the museum. Situated in the Blue Zone, there are a host of scale model dinosaurs, rebuilt in their original poses.
Among the skeletons are Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, Coelophysis, Triceratops and, of course, the daddy of them all, the Tyrannosaurus. The exhibitions are a huge with kids and grown-ups alike as they can learn everything from the triassic right up to the cretaceous period when these majestic animals ruled the earth.
It is not just dinosaurs in the Blue Zone as the museum features a number of hugely impressive 3D. Walk into the main hall and you will see a scale model Blue whale attached to the ceiling. Other parts of this section are dedicated to fish, amphibians and reptiles, human biology, Images of Nature, The Jerwood Falley, Marine Invertebrates and mammals.
The Red Zone is arguably one of the most impressive parts of the museum. Take the escalator up to the Earth Galleries, and the entrance itself has been created by designer Neal Potter. The exhibitions takes visitors on a voyage of discovery and charts the history of the world we live in today.
Exhibitions in this zone include:
From the Beginning
Volcanoes and Earthquakes
Visions of Earth
The Waterhouse Gallery (temporary exhibition space)
The Green Zone carries on the animal theme but takes a more aerial slant. This section includes an abundance of rare birds including the Griffon vulture. This areas includes the following exhibits.
Fossil Marine Reptiles
Giant Sequoia and Hintze Hall (formerly the Central Hall)
The final Orange Zone just features the Wildlife Garden and Darwin Centre. However, the latter is one of the star attractions and you can enjoy a self-guided tour learning about all the theories of this great man and how the human race evolved over the centuries.
Getting to the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is an absolute breeze to reach whether you are arriving by car, train, bus or Tube. Situated in the fashionable Knightsbridge area, it is well served by public transport and has numerous car parking spaces, for those that are planning to drive into the capital.
Situated on Cromwell Road, the nearest Tube station is South Kensington. Served by the Circle, District and Piccadilly lines, it is easily accessible for all parts of the capital. Arriving at the Underground station it is only a short walk to the museum where you can start your wondrous journey around this great attraction.
If you are arriving by train then the nearest station will be Victoria. From here jump on the Circle or District line and get off at South Kensington. There is also on-site parking for those driving in.
One of the best things about the Natural History Museum is that it is completely free of charge. While London can be a hugely expensive place in terms of travel, eating and drinking when it comes to culture it is very light on the pocket.
However, certain exhibitions come with a charge. For example, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit which runs until August 30th is priced at £12.60 for adults, £6.30 children and concessions and £34.45 for a family ticket.
There are a number of exhibitions currently on display which include the following:
Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea (until September 13th) – £10 for adults, £4.50 children and concessions and £24 for a family ticket.
Sensational Butterflies (until September 13th) – £5.90 for adults, children and concessions and £19.80 for a family ticket.
The museum is open daily from 10:00 to 17:50 BST with last entry at 17:30 BST, it is closed between December 24th and 26th.
Eat, drink and shop
If you are making a full day out of your trip to the Natural History Museum, you will need a bite to eat. Luckily, the museum has you covered with a number of restaurants and cafes throughout.
The Restaurant offers burgers, pizzas, pasta and puddings along with a special kids’ menu for the little ones.
Both Deli and Central Cafe give you a much lighter option of sandwiches, wraps and seasonal salads along with cakes, pastries and muffins.
Looking for a souvenir? Then why not pick up a gift at the Earth Shop which sells small stones, books, jewellery and much more. The Dino Store has a range of models, soft toys, games, puzzles, mugs, T-shirts and onesies. If you are a bit tired then a pleasant stroll through the night air back to Marble Arch and perhaps a nightcap at The Montcalm Hotel is the perfect end to a perfect evening.