Tourist Information Guide

Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London

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The Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum
The moment you arrive at the Natural History Museum you will see why it brings out the big kid in all of us. As you stand under the large ceiling of the great hall, with a life-sized Diplodocus staring down at you, a shiver of excitement takes over. It's as if he knows the thousands of years of natural history that the museum contains with its 70 million specimens. The Natural History Museum is home to 70 million specimens of animals, minerals, plants and rocks. The specimens are of a high quality and are constantly updated. The Darwin Centre inside the museum even offers you the opportunity to see the scientists at work. The Darwin Centre is named after the famous Charles Darwin). Specimens could be anything from dinosaur bones to fossils and taxidermy.

On this page you will find advice on how to get the most out of the museum, including a guide to exhibitions are there and tips on the ones that might appeal to you (both permanent and temporary). There are tour options, shops., parking details, ticket prices, opening times, places to eat in and around the museum and places to stay in the area.

What to expect at the museum

The diplodocus in the Natural History Museum
The diplodocus in the Natural History Museum

The museum is particularly well renowned for its dinosaur specimens. In the dinosaur section of the museum, you will find dinosaur skeletons of a variety of dinosaurs. As you walk through the dinosaur section, you will first walk along an upper walkway, allowing you to take a good look at the dinosaur bones that are hanging from the ceiling. You may even notice a few escaped live dinosaurs lurking!

The exhibitions and activities are aimed at kids as well as grown-ups (it is definitely a popular family destination). For example, in the dinosaurs exhibition, you will find 'living dinosaurs' and interactive learning games. Or, in the Darwin Centre, the interactive Nature Plus card allows kids to pick up information on their cards to carry on their learning on their computer when they get home (see below for more details).

Some people come just to see the building itself, sometimes nicknamed the 'Cathedral of Nature'. It is called a Cathedral of Nature for two reasons. Firstly because the large and grand stone building has the look of a place of worship. Secondly, because it is like a shrine to nature - a building dedicated entirely to knowledge and learning about nature.

The museum was first established in 1756 when a collection of specimens of dry plants and animal and human skeletons was bought by the British government. The collection was first housed in what is now the British Museum. As the permanent collection of natural specimens grew (specimens of dry plants and animal and human skeletons), it was too large for the building, so in 1881 the museum was moved to its current site, following an architectural competition to design and build the new building, won by Captain Francis Fowke.

Museum exhibitions

Temporary exhibitions:

There are at least three temporary exhibitions taking place at the museum alongside the permanent exhibitions (see below). These could cover anything from an outdoor butterfly house to wildlife photography exhibitions. To find out what temporary exhibitions are taking place during your visit, see the Official Natural History Museum website 'What's On' page.

Permanent exhibitions:

The Natural History Museum is a sprawling space that goes across four floors and approximately thirty rooms. It is organised into four spaces that are split into: red zone, green zone, blue zone and orange zone.

Red zone:
Visions of earth
Earth today and tomorrow
From the beginning
Earth's Treasury
The Power Within
Restless Surface
Earth Lab
Lasting Impressions

The Whale at the Natural History Museum
The Whale at the Natural History Museum

Green zone:
Central Hall
Fossil Marine Reptiles
Fossils from Britain
Creepy Crawlies
Our place in Evolution
The vault

Blue zone:
Images of Nature
Fishes, Amphibians and Reptiles
Human Biology
Marine Invertebrates
Mammals and Blue Whale

The Cocoon of the Darwin Centre
The Cocoon of the Darwin Centre

Orange zone:
Darwin Centre
Wildlife Garden

If you have a limited amount of time to see the museum, it is useful to check out the advice provided by the museum on what they consider to be the museum's highlights - check out the Official Natural History Museum website Highlights page.

The Darwin Centre is a whole new section of the museum with a more modern feel - it's the interactive section of the museum .It is located inside a large cocoon shape. They have free cards called Nature Plus Cards allowing you to pick up extra info and take it home with you (again, popular with kids). To find out more, see the Official Natural History Museum Nature Plus page.

tip It is worth noting that you have to queue to get in during the school holidays. Also, once inside you may have to queue for specific exhibitions (particularly the dinosaurs).

How to get to there

On exiting the South Kensington tube station you will find yourself on Thurloe Street. Head up Thurloe Street towards Cromwell Road. Once you arrive at Cromwell road you will see the Natural History Museum building directly in front of you. It will taj eyou under five minutes to walk to the museum.

Tube Tube: South Kensington (Green Line / District Line, Yellow Line / Circle Line and Blue Line / Piccadilly Line)

Opening times

The Natural History Museum is open:
Monday - Sunday: 10:00 - 17:50

Ticket prices

General admission to the museum is free. However, some of the permanent exhibitions require tickets for entry (see above for more information).

Places to eat in and around the museum

The Natural History Museum sits in an area called South Kensington. This is an area of town that is known for being packed with cafes, bars and restaurants. This means that on leaving the museum you will not be short of places to grab a drink or a bite to eat. However, if you would prefer to eat inside the museum you will find that there lots of choices:

Central Hall Café:
Located in the Central Hall, this laid-back café offers hot an old drinks, snacks, sandwiches and pastries.

Operating hours:
Monday - Friday: 08:00 - 16:00
Saturday - Sunday: 09:00 - 16:00

Central Café:
A canteen style eatery serving both hot and cold food.

Operating hours:
10:00 - 17:30

The T.Rex Grill:
A formal eating option in the museum: there are pizzas, burgers, salads and ice creams on the menu.

Operating hours:
11:00 - 16:00

tip If you are on a budget it is a good idea to bring your own picnic to the museum. There is an area in the museum basement where there are seats and tables and you can enjoy your own food.

Operating hours: 10:00 - 17:50

Address and contact details

Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7942 5000

Website: Official Natural History Museum website

Parking options

The Natural History Museum does not have its own car park. Also, on their website they strongly advise against driving to the museum, explaining that the drive can be difficult and parking can be expensive. However, if you do need to drive to the Natural History Museum you will find a small amount of meter parking on Exhibition Road - one of the roads outside the Natural History Museum.

The Natural History Museum is a British institution - ask most Londoners for childhood memories and they'll probably have one involving this museum. Whether it be the high ceilings of the epic great hall, the Jurassic Park style dinosaur bones or school trip picnics in the museum's basement. Use the details provided above to plan a day at the museum that best suits your tastes and time frame and you're sure to have some fun at the Natural History Museum.

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