Visiting the Natural History Museum (NHM) is a great choice when going to London with kids. But with a seemingly endless amount of corridors and exhibition halls, we recommend making a plan in advance narrowing down on the top things you want to see. After numerous visits through the years, here are our family’s top 8 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.
8 Favourite Things for Kids at the Natural History Museum
- The roaring T.rex (Blue Zone) – its’s realistic enough to be scary and kids just love the loud roar!
- The Real-sized Mammals (Blue Zone) – a huge display of mammals
- The Great Hall – take your time and walk up the grand staircase to admire the splendour of the hall
- The Minerals Section (Red Zone) – a quieter part of the museum where you can enjoy exotic rocks
- Andy’s Clock – the one and only time machine from the famous BBC TV-show
- Vulcanos and Earthquakes (Red Zone) – explore the evolution of the world and find out how it all started
- Creepy Crawlies (Green Zone) – step inside a kitchen crawling with cocroaches
- Museum Ice Rink – a London classic during Christmas-time
Places to eat near the museum:
- Museum picnic – bring your own packed lunch to the museum
- NHM restaurants – buy your lunch at the museum restaurant
- Restaurants nearby – find a lunch-place in South Kensington
- Picnic in the park – have a picnic in wonderful Kensington Gardens
The Museum Shop
Getting to the Museum
8 Favourite Things to do For Kids at NHM
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. This 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 is 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 busy Dinosaurs and Mammals gallery, the mineral section (green zone) on the 1st floor is usually nice and quiet. 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. Checking out the real Andy’s Clock from “Andy’s Dinosaur Adventure”
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).
6. Vulcanos, Earthquakes and the Human Evolution
The entrance to the Red Zone is really impressive; first, you’re greeted by a real-sized Stegosaurus skeleton before taking the escalator up through the inside of a huge glowingly red globe.
Highlights in the Red Zone include:
- A simulation of how an earthquake feels like in a supermarket in Japan
- A 3,500-kilogramme meteorite
- Lots of interactive hands-on displays for kids to explore
7. Creepy Crawlies
Located in the Green Zone, the permanent Creepy Crawlies exhibition is fascinating for kids with all its insects, crabs, centipedes and spiders. We like the fact that there are so many hands-on displays allowing kids to explore on their own without parents having to worry too much. Our kids particularly enjoyed the infected cockroach kitchen :-)
8. The Natural History Museum Ice Rink (Christmas)
Ice skating in front of the Natural History Museum is such a great way to get into the festive spirit. This is one of London’s most popular Christmas activities, so make sure to book well in advance.
Places to eat near Natural History Museum: 4 different options
Taking frequent breaks with tempting food and treats are important measures when the energy levels are dropping. We usually bring packed sandwiches from home and supplement with drinks and treats that we buy at the museum. Here are 4 different options to consider when looking for a place to eat near Natural History Museum:
Option 1: Bring packed lunch from home
In the Darwin Centre courtyard, you’ll find a dedicated picnic area popular with families bringing packed lunches. This is also a nice place for the kids in and around the garden to let off steam before returning to the museum. There is also an indoor picnic area in the Darwin Centre Atrium.
Option 2: Buy lunch at the museum
You can find several healthy options for food, snacks and drinks within the museum:
The Kitchen (Red Zone): A good selection of salads, wraps and pastries.
Central Cafe (The Kitchen): Sandwiches, kids lunch-boxes, cakes and coffee
Option 3: Find a restaurant near the Natural History Museum
If you don’t find anything tempting in the cafes and restaurants in the museum head towards the area around South Kensington tube station (10 minutes walking from the museum). Great places to eat near the museum include:
- Pierino Pizza & Pasta
- Brompton Food Market
- Honest Burgers South Kensington
- Comptoir Libanais
- Pappa Roma Restaurant
Option 4. Picnic in Kensington Gardens
Just walk further up Exhibition Road and you’ll find Kensington Gardens which is great for picnics in summer. If you didn’t pack a lunch from home we recommend stopping by Whole Foods Market in Kensington High Street where you can pick up all kinds of delicious grocery items.
The Natural History Museum Shop
We usually round off our visit by stopping by the museum shop. We’ve always been impressed by the large range of high-quality toys, books and games. Many of the products are uniquely designed and produced by the museum collaborating with international brands, and you’ll find lots of cool and unique gift ideas.
Favourite gift for kids:
- Dinosaur Toys
- Animal Soft Toys
- Clothes and costumes
How to get to the Natural History Museum?
When visiting a big museum like the NHM with kids it’s really important to plan your transportation options. You want to start off early in the morning and have a smooth journey to save all the energy for the museum.
Travelling by Public Transportation – Train, Tube and Bus
Victoria Station is the nearest train station to the Natural History Museum. Just hop on the District and Circle lines and you’ll be arriving at South Kensington which is the nearest tube station. Walking from South Kensington station takes about a five-minute to the Museum’s main entrance on Exhibition Road.
Important note for families with young kids: South Kensington station is not step-free so if you’re travelling with a pushchair you need to take into account some heavy lifting. We usually go with the Jubilee line to Green Park station (which is step-free) and take a direct bus from there to one of the stops close to the museum. Check out Transport for London’s website for details.
Driving into London – Natural History Museum Parking
Like with most other attractions in London there is no dedicated parking at the museum site, and there is also very limited parking in the streets around the museum. If you’re planning to drive into Central London we recommend pre-booking a car park such as Q-Park or NCP.
Summary visiting NHM with kids
Most families flock to the Dinosaurs and Mammals section (Blue Zone), which is our favourite section as well. But don’t forget to check out the other quieter areas like the Minerals section (Green Zone) and the Volcanoes and Earthquakes (Red Zone). The most important thing is to customize your visit to what your kids enjoy the most.
While more than 6 million people used to visit NHM annually before COVID, it could feel extremely crowded at times. Now with limited visiting numbers and a booking system in place, there’s a lot more space between people and it feels less stressful when bringing young kids.
FAQ Natural History Museum
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 throughout 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.