The Natural History Museum (NHM) is part of the cluster of big national museums in West London. Along with the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, this is a huge museum that you can explore for days. With kids in tow, we recommend starting with a couple of old-time favourites!
This is a museum that contains a lot. As an example, it houses 17 million insects and 3 million plants over eight floors. As a family with young kids, we always hone in on a few favourite sections of the museums to make sure we make the most out of our day before we start to run out of energy. Here are our top five favourites:
5 Favourites at The Natural History Museum
- The Roaming T.rex (Blue Zone) – Its’s realistic enough to be scary and kids just love the big monster!
- The Real-sized Mammals (Blue Zone) – Chances are high your kids will find their favourite animal in this section
- The Great Hall – Take your time and walk up the grand staircase to admire the splendour of the hall
- The Minerals Section (Red Zone) – If you’d like a quieter part of the museum and enjoy exotic rocks
- Andy’s Clock – The one and only time machine clock from the famous BBC TV-show
Moving swithly through the different sections of the museum, we usually limit our visit to maximum 2 hours. Luckily Kensington Gardens is not far away perfect for a picnic in summer.
1. The roaming T.rex at the Natural History Museum
The roaming T.rex is the star of the show. While the natural size dinosaur wiggles his tail and looks ready for dinner, kids are flocking to watch with big fascinated eyes. It can get a bit scary for the smallest ones although our 2-year-old stood his ground next to big sister.
The only downside is that for kids into dinosaurs, this is as cool as it gets at the museum. Which means if you start with T.rex, the rest might be a slight disappointment. So you might want to consider starting with one of the other sections and finish off with the dinosaurs.
2. Real-Sized Mammals
We also like the exhibition of real-sized mammals. As opposed to the Hintze hall, this area feels very crowded and the air gets very stuffy in summer. Nevertheless, it’s a very impressive sight for kids to see all the iconic animals displayed side by side. It might be a good place to start your visit since it gets so crowded. This area is also in the Blue zone.
3. The Great Hall
In addition to the Blue Zone, the other big highlight for us it the Hintze Hall. This is the impressive space that greets you if entering through the main entrance. You’ll feel like stepping into a grand palace from a forgotten world, with strange creatures greeting you. This is where you’ll find the biggest skeletons, such as that of a blue whale as well and the American mastodon.
4. The Minerals Section
As opposed to the Dinosaurs and Mammals gallery, the mineral section is a lot quieter. Here you’ll be able to admire the enormous collection of rocks from all the corners of the globe in peace and quiet. Our kids love this section, admiring all the curiously coloured gems in different shapes and forms. The 635-kilogramme iron meteorite that fell in Argentina in 1783 is one of the biggest highlights along with the blue topaz gemstone.
5. Andy’s Clock
For kids who have watched BBC’s “Andy’s Dinosaur Adventure”, a picture next to Andy’s Clock is high up on the list. In the popular TV-show, the main character Andy who is working at the museum jumps inside the clock and goes on prehistoric adventures. He discovers amazing creatures and brings back different artefacts which are added to the exhibition without anyone noticing. You’ll find Andy’s Clock next to the Central Cafe (Green Zone).
Lunch at the museum
The museum is located in South Kensington, which is easy to reach by tube. Be aware that there are not many places to have lunch close by, so it makes sense to plan for a couple of options. You’ll find lunch places in the museum that are not bad at all, but relatively expensive and often very crowded. Around South Kensington tube station you’ll find quite a few options, which is our preference in winter (around 10 min walk).
A little bit further up Exhibition Road, you’ll find Kensington Gardens which is great for picnics in summer. We usually bring a packed lunch and relax in the park after going to the museum. If you have any energy left you could also stop by the nearby Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens.
To summarize, we would recommend concentrating on the Blue zone and the Hintze hall. You should also check out their website (see below), to see if any special activities are taking place during your visit.
Keep in mind that more than 5 million people visit the NHM every year and it is one of the 10 most visited museums in the world. What this means is that the museum is almost always crowded, especially during weekends and holidays. If you want to beat the crowds, check our tips for a family-friendly day at London’s museums.
Is the Natural History Museum child-friendly?
Yes, this is definitely a family-friendly favourite. Kids love the roaming t.rex, the impressive Hintze Hall and the real-size mammals.
Is this a good museum to bring toddlers?
On paper, most definitely with all the exciting animals. But when the museum gets crowded (weekends, holidays) it’s quite stressful to run after an energetic toddler. Our advice is to keep it short and sweet and concentrate on a few favourite sections.
Is the National History Museum free?
The main sections are free of charge, but a small donation will go a long way to support the museum. Additionally there will be ticketed exhibitions through the year.
How can I support the National History Museum?
You can buy a paid membership or support the museum with a donation either through the website or in the museum itself.
When is the best time to visit the museum?
If you want to beat the crowds, making a visit during weekdays outside of the holiday season is the best option. If you are visiting with young kids, try to avoid peak hours from noon to late afternoon during weekends and holidays. As always in London, the best way to avoid the queues is to arrive early in the morning.
What’s so special about the Natural History Museum?
The majestic architecture, its historical importance and the fact that it remains a living memory of the Victorian age scientists and explorers that laid the foundation for the vast collection.
Can you take your own food to the museum?
Yes, there is a picnic area outside and another one on the lower ground floor.
Is it free to see the dinosaurs?
Yes, it’s completely free to see the dinosaurs including the roaming t.rex.
Which is the nearest train station?
Victoria Station. No need to change lines from Victoria to South Kensington tube station using the District or Circle lines.
Is the museum interesting for adults or is it mainly for kids?
The museum is great for all ages.