Natural History Museum
Destinations, England, Europe, Travel

A Day At The Natural History Museum In London

The Natural History Museum is one of our favorite places.  Brendan and I’ve been there a few times pre-kids and we took them when they were little too.  Now that the children are older, we couldn’t wait to show them all it’s treasures, knowing that they’ll appreciate and love every minute there.

The Natural History Museum London
The Natural History Museum London

Little did we know just how much they’d enjoy it when we found ourselves following them to the last exhibit much later in the day going: “Can we go home now?”.  But no, even the rock collection fascinated them and we had to walk through every aisle to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ as Leah points out almost every mesmerizing archeological specimen on display.  It is pretty special and not just any old rock collection with hundreds of ancient artifacts gathered from all over the world.

NHM London Interactive learning
NHM London Interactive learning

The Natural History Museum is chock-a-block full of interactive exhibits geared towards children of all ages.  For homeschoolers like us, it’s a treasure trove of learning opportunities. I felt a little jealous of homeschoolers who live in the area when a volunteer told us that many homeschool families visit on weekday afternoons when it’s quiet and the specialist staff and volunteers are free to discuss subjects and explain things in-depth with one-to-one Q&A sessions.

NHM London
The volunteers are all friendly and eager to chat about everything at the museum.

 

NHM London Funny Mirrors
The Funny Mirrors are hilarious and we went back to them more than once for a laugh.

I think we spent the most time in the human biology and development section; listening, playing, laughing at ourselves in the funny mirrors, guessing, fidgeting and having a go at it all.  It’s great to learn about the animal kingdom, earth, space and ancient creatures, but it seemed we were most fascinated by how our own bodies and minds work.  Curious.

Interactive Exhibits at NHM London
Interactive Exhibits at NHM London

The moving life-size exhibits are super cool and made so well; so well that the realistic-looking dinosaurs scared Kate to the point of tears.  The star of the show is the massive T-Rex who looks and sounds like it’s going to jump out from it’s dark and steamy Jurassic swamp any minute to gobble us up. Judging by Kate’s reaction, that must be what it looks like to a 2-year old anyway.  Maybe by Nick’s reaction too..

T Rex at NHM London
T-Rex at NHM London

Brendan and I found ourselves stopping often to gawk at the building itself.  Outside and inside, every inch of its Victorian architecture with ornate terracotta facade is beautiful.  The ceilings, the columns, windows and the staircases, the whole building is an architectural design to be admired in its own right amongst the sea of attention-grabbing exhibits.  They don’t seem to build places like this anymore in today’s age and I find that very sad.

NHM London
NHM London

You can easily spend all day at the Natural History Museum and come back for more again. We hoped to go to the Science Museum next door too, but we were all tired and our little minds were spinning with all the newly acquired natural history knowledge so we decided to leave it for another day.  You could fit both the Natural History and the Science museum in if you want to make the most of it.  Just use your time wisely.

NHM London main entrance
NHM London: The main entrance is on Cromwell Street, but there’s another entrance to the side and back of the museum that might be a good option on busy days.

FACILITIES AND MEALS

The facilities, available visitor information, and sitemaps, the volunteers and exhibits are all excellent.   Bathrooms and baby changing facilities are plenty and easily accessible.  There is no shortage of gift buying options and you can choose from a cafeteria type coffee shop or a restaurant for food.

Lunch for the five of us at NHM London

Lunch for the five of us at NHM London
Lunch for the five of us at NHM London

We had lunch at the Benugo restaurant.  It’s expensive. The food was not bad and service was acceptable on a busy day.  Just so you know, and in case you sometimes miss the little details like we did this time and your waiter doesn’t tell you either, the kiddies menu is on the back of the kids’ activity and coloring pages already on the table. Our kids got busy coloring as soon as we sat down, so we never saw the kiddies menus on the back.  We ordered full price burgers for them from the adult menu, which was double the price and half-eaten of course.  Lunch for the five of us cost over £70 with the tip and we didn’t even have desert! 😊

NHM London
NHM London

ENTRY & PARKING

Entry to the Natural History Museum is free.  However, and here I go again; same as at The Abbey in Bath; donations are made to feel compulsory.  Visitors are led into the museum via a snaking queue to pass a donation station manned by someone who clearly instructs/shouts at the crowd to pay the “recommended” £10 donation.  It’s probably just me, but nevertheless, it irks me.  Just put signs up and say that the entry fee is £10 already!  No-one will mind paying that if they know the cost.  But don’t advertise it as free and then tell them to pay £10 p/p when they show up.

Pleeeease don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind paying £10, especially for a day at an amazing place like the Natural History Museum, but the way it’s done or enforced at some places feel wrong.

Entrance at the NHM London
Entrance at the NHM London

Entry at other museums such as the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is free and it FEELS free.  The many donation boxes are clearly visible on entry and we happily pay the suggested donation without being told to do it by a loud member of staff who makes it feel forced.

Moving Animal Exhibits at NHM London
Moving Animal Exhibits at NHM London

It’s generally tricky to find parking in cities and it can be expensive.  It’s worth planning ahead and searching online for parking lots around the attraction you want to visit in London.  A quick search on Google maps for ‘parking near me’ will help if you’ve not planned ahead.  After we drove around for a while to find parking, we got lucky with an off-street pay and display spot next to the museum.

For up to date information and how to get to the Natural History Museum in London, please visit the website: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/getting-here.html

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