One of London’s best loved family attractions and an institution among the finest of its kind in the world, Natural History Museum is a fantastic day out. With exhibits that guide visitors through all 4.6 billion years of our planet, no stone is left unturned as you chart your way from the origins of life, through the time of the dinosaurs and ahead to Earth’s uncertain future.
Born out of the British Museum, the museum as we know it today opened in 1881. Even before you reach its world class collections, the striking Romanesque style architecture on display makes the Natural History Museum a London landmark. Step inside and you’ll explore an unrivalled selection of animal specimens and skeletons, fossils, rocks and minerals. With child-friendly exhibits and something to inspire minds everywhere you turn, this is an attraction suitable for all ages.
The museum was the most visited in the country in 2021. With around 1.5 million people making their way through its gates each year, you’ll certainly be in good company when you stop by. That’s why it also pays to be prepared for your trip. Here, we’ll run through everything you need to know for a day at Natural History Museum, including how to get there and what there is to see.
The museum is in the South Kensington area in the Central London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It’s a stone’s throw from other major attractions like the Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum, and Royal Albert Hall.
With the museum’s lively Central London location, it’s a good idea to travel into the city via by train. Arriving at London Waterloo, you should join the Underground by going northbound on the Jubilee line. After a short journey, you’ll switch at Westminster for any District or Circle line service heading westbound. It’s then only three stops before you get off at South Kensington, with the museum entrance just 200 metres north of the station.
If you’d prefer to leave the car at home and avoid the Congestion Charge and other Ultra Low Emission Zone fees in force around the museum, why not catch the train? Using the South Western Railway network, you can travel into London direct from stations such as Woking, Basingstoke, Guildford, Winchester, and Southampton Central train stations.
Things to do at the Natural History Museum
From world class exhibits to special tours, one-off events and more, there’s plenty to look forward to once you’ve reserved your Natural History Museum tickets.
Natural History Museum exhibitions and collections
With its vast network of galleries, the Natural History Museum has a zoning system in place to help ensure you get the best out of your day. It’s colour coded, with areas loosely tied together by a broad theme.
If you’re entering from Exhibition Road, the Red Zone is first up. This section charts the changing history of the Earth, with a rich array of rock, plant and mineral specimens on show, many of which can be touched. It’s famous for its striking entrance that sees you ride an escalator up and through a giant sculpture of our home planet.
By the Cromwell Road entrance is the Green Zone, which covers all things evolution. You’ll uncover an abundance of plant and animal life, with special exhibits dedicated to birds, creepy crawlies and fossilised marine reptiles. The grand architecture of the Hintze Hall is at the zone’s heart, where you can see the spectacular blue whale skeleton in full display.
Heading left through the Hintze Hall, the Blue Zone explores the diversity of life on Earth. Life-sized recreations of species of past and present are everywhere you turn, from the days of the dinosaurs through to the Mammals Hall, where you can walk among some of the planet’s most fascinating creatures. It’s sure to inspire young minds if you’re travelling in London with kids.
Alongside these permanent collections, the museum regularly hosts fascinating temporary exhibits that offer insight into some of nature’s biggest questions, so always check what else is on when planning your trip. Five-acres of redeveloped garden are also set to join the museum’s line-up in 2023, promising to be a tranquil oasis at the centre of urban London.
Natural History Museum tickets
Did you know the Natural History Museum is among the best free things to do in London? Like similar national museums of its size and importance, Natural History Museum prices are set to zero. But you should still reserve a ticket when planning your trip. This will grant you access to the museum without having to queue for tickets on the door.
Simply head to the Natural History Museum book tickets site. You’ll need to specify how many are in your group, pick a date you’ll visit and a rough time at which you’ll enter. Once in, you’re free to explore the museum to your heart’s content.
Book a Dino Tour
The Natural History Museum loves to bring its exhibits to life. Private tour experiences are just one of the ways they do this, and the Out of Hours Dino Tour might just be the best among them. For a fee, guests can get up close with the towering Titanosaur and all the other residents of the museum’s legendary Dinosaurs Gallery. You’ll have access to the museum before it opens to the wider public, allowing you to beat the crowds and hear from experts as you make your way around. The Dino Tour is suitable for ages 11+ and usually runs on Fridays and Saturdays.
Natural History Museum events
As one of the finest museums of its kind in the world, the Natural History Museum events team are always thinking up fun and exciting new ways to bring the exhibits to life. No matter what time of year you visit there’s something going on, so always check the website in advance. Some of the more eye-catching events in recent times have included:
- New Year’s Eve Jurassic Party – a disco with live music, performances and bingo set under the spectacular blue whale sculpture in the Hintze Hall.
- Valentine’s at the Museum – a chance to learn all about how animals love alongside a cocktail or two, with out-of-hours access to the museum and a private tour.
- Silent Disco – a Natural History Museum events calendar staple, with the chance to party away in the Hintze Hall until the early hours of the morning.
- Yoga at the Museum – another events regular, guests can undertake an invigorating yoga class and gong bath while surrounded by a wonderous exhibit.
Got a special event coming up? From weddings to corporate get-togethers, the museum’s grand architecture and impressive displays make it a truly magical hospitality venue. There are a variety of spaces available for hire to suit events of all sizes, from the dramatic Hintze Hall to the calm and tranquil Fossil Way. The museum can even provide on-site catering, with impressive food and drink menus to take your pick from.
Natural History Museum shop
If you’ve enjoyed your day at the museum, why not take something to remember it by? Whether you’re treating yourself or surprising a loved one, there’s some real treasures to be found at the Natural History Museum Shop, located in the Green Zone. Choose from branded tote bags, stationary, clothing and more. For younger visitors an adorable plush toy might be in order, all of which are made sustainably with a 100% recycled plastic filling. Meanwhile, grown-ups may want to peruse the recently launched range of carbon-negative gins.
Tips for enjoying the Natural History Museum
With so much to see and do, an enjoyable day at the Natural History Museum is all but guaranteed. But there are a few things you can do to ensure your day goes as smoothly as possible:
- Reserve tickets in advance. Some are available on the door each day, but you can expect a considerable wait for these.
- The Cromwell Road entrance tends to get very busy. Try the side entrances on Exhibition Road instead.
- If possible, avoid visiting during school holidays. The museum gets very busy at these times.
Things to do near the Natural History Museum
Situated at the heart of bustling Kensington, there’s no lack of activities to enjoy in the natural History Museum’s immediate surroundings. The museum forms one part of a museum quarter, with the popular Victoria and Albert Museum and London Science Museum located directly next door. A short walk up Exhibition Road is legendary events venue the Royal Albert Hall, which itself fronts directly onto the famous Hyde Park and all the attractions it offers.
With endless acres of parkland to explore and away from traffic, families can make use of London’s bike hire schemes to get around the area. The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Serpentine Gallery and boat hire services on the lake are some of Hyde Park’s most popular things to see and do.
A short distance away to the west is bustling Kensington High Street. The road is lined with names you’ll recognise – and a few you won’t – whether food, drink or retail therapy is the order of the day.
Food and drinks
With its sprawling site and winding network of galleries, there are several spots across the museum where you can stop and recharge. All of the Natural History Museum cafés are family friendly and provide delicious, freshly prepared food. Central Café is the place to be in the Blue Zone, with an array of sandwiches, salads, cakes and pastries. The offering is similar over at The Kitchen in the Red Zone, while the Green Zone’s T.rex Restaurant offers something more substantial in its charming, dine-in Green Zone setting.
Places to stay near Natural History Museum
Thanks to its Central London location, there are plentiful accommodation options in the surrounding area, with something to suit all tastes and budgets nearby.
If you’re looking to save, Copthorne Tara Hotel London Kensington and Holiday Inn London Kensington High Street are among your cheaper options, with the latter ideal for families. For some more luxurious touches at a reasonable price, the 4-star Best Western The Boltons London Kensington isn’t too far away. You could save 10% of your stay here thanks to SWR Rewards. While for something special, try the 5-star 100 Queen’s Gate Hotel.
Natural History Museum accessibility
The museum strives to make its buildings, exhibitions and collections accessible to all. There are a limited number of on-site parking spaces for blue badge holders, which can be reserved in advance. Step-free access to the museum is available via the Exhibition Road entrance, while there are wheelchairs available for hire from the information desk. Assistance dogs are welcome, while an induction loop system is set up for visitors with impaired hearing. You can find more Natural History Museum accessibility info on the website.