Fodor's Expert Review Natural History Museum

Kensington Museum/Gallery
Free Fodor's Choice
Natural History Museum, Kensington, London, England.

Originally built to house the British Museum’s natural history collection and bolstered by samples provided by Britain’s great 19th-century explorers and scientists—notably Charles Darwin—this enormous Victorian cathedral of science is one of the world’s preeminent museums of natural history and earth sciences. As might be expected given its Darwin connection, the emphasis is on evolution and conservation. The terra-cotta facade is embellished with relief panels depicting living creatures to the left of the entrance and extinct ones to the right (although some species have subsequently changed categories). Most are represented inside the museum, which contains more than 70 million different specimens. Only a small percentage is on public display, but you could still spend a day here and not come close to seeing everything.

The skeleton of a giant blue whale dominates the vaulted, cathedral-like entrance hall. Meanwhile, similarly huge dino bones can be found in the... READ MORE

Originally built to house the British Museum’s natural history collection and bolstered by samples provided by Britain’s great 19th-century explorers and scientists—notably Charles Darwin—this enormous Victorian cathedral of science is one of the world’s preeminent museums of natural history and earth sciences. As might be expected given its Darwin connection, the emphasis is on evolution and conservation. The terra-cotta facade is embellished with relief panels depicting living creatures to the left of the entrance and extinct ones to the right (although some species have subsequently changed categories). Most are represented inside the museum, which contains more than 70 million different specimens. Only a small percentage is on public display, but you could still spend a day here and not come close to seeing everything.

The skeleton of a giant blue whale dominates the vaulted, cathedral-like entrance hall. Meanwhile, similarly huge dino bones can be found in the Dinosaur Gallery (Blue Zone), along with fossils and some extremely long iguanodon teeth. You'll also come face-to-face with a virtual Jurassic sea dragon and a giant animatronic T. rex that's programmed to sense when human prey is near and "respond" in character. When he does, you can hear the shrieks of fear and delight all the way across the room.

An escalator takes you into a giant globe in the Earth Galleries, where there's a choice of levels to explore. Don't leave without checking out the earthquake simulation in the Volcanoes and Earthquake Gallery. The Darwin Centre houses some 80 million items the museum itself doesn't have room to display, including "Archie," a 28-foot giant squid. If you want to see Archie and some of the other millions of animal specimens preserved in spirit (including some acquired on Darwin's Beagle voyage), you'll need to book one of the low-cost behind-the-scenes Spirit Collection tours (around £15). These 45-minute tours take place at 11:30, 12:30, and 1:30, plus 3:30 on weekends, and can be booked on the same day (space is limited, so come early). The center's interactive Cocoon Experience is a free 45-minute tour that reveals how the museum stores, preserves, and uses specimens from its plant and insect collections. In the David Attenborough Studio, there are free, half-hour drop-in talks (usually on Friday and Saturday afternoon) given by scientists and curators, covering a wildly eclectic range of subjects. Night owls might prefer one of the evening talks or spending an entire night in the museum at one of the "Dino Snores" events.

The museum also has an outdoor ice-skating rink October through January, and a popular Christmas fair.

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Museum/Gallery Free Fodor's Choice Family

Quick Facts

Cromwell Rd.
London, Greater London  SW7 5BD, England

0207-942–5000

www.nhm.ac.uk

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: Free (some fees for special exhibitions)

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