Natural History Museum: Exploring the past with Charles Darwin

Natural History Museum Blue Whale skeleton

Many of my traveller friends have visited London, and almost all of them visit the Natural History Museum, London. Despite living close to London all my life I have never been. I realised if I was visiting London as a tourist, this would be high on my to-do list. I had some time off recently and thought I should spend a day being a tourist in my own city. Which is why bright and early on a monday morning I was sat in a Wetherspoons. Taking the time to enjoy my breakfast whilst the rest of London was heading to work. 

A day at the Museum

So my first spot on my tourist day was the Science Museum which I will write about separately. It was just gone lunchtime when I entered the Natural History Museum, and what a first impression it makes. I had just dropped my bag off at the cloakroom and I made my way up the stairs. We had entered by the side entrance as the main exterior is currently under renovations. Even here the first thing you are greeted by is a Stegosaurus skeleton. Behind it is an escalator heading up inside a reconstruction of the earth (just not the earth you recognise). We had a look at the map, the Natural History Museum is separated into coloured zones. We decided to immediately head to the furthest zone, the blue zone, and walk our way back.

Stegosaurus skeleton London Natural History Museum

Before we started though, we found a cafe to grab a drink. Fuelling ourselves on coffee and a slice of a rather dry cake, we checked our map and plotted our route. If you visit yourself you may find you come across the exhibits in different orders, that’s the great thing about visiting here. You can choose your own route and just explore at your own pace and just see the exhibits you want to see. 

Mammals and Under the Sea

The first thing we walked through was about reptiles and life under the sea. Is was a small room before we arrived at the exhibit on mammals. Learning about the different species of elephants and mammoths that have existed, and how different mammals have evolved to survive in different environments. The Wildlife exhibits were fascinating to see, although the temptation to read the infographics in David Attenboroghs voice is hard to resist. It was clear that this exhibit was older than others at the museum though, but still fascinating to see.

A walk amongst the Dinosaurs

The exhibits at the Natural History Museum are forever changing, that’s what keeps the museum fresh and exciting even for long-time visitors. Our next stop was the dinosaur exhibit, which felt a world apart from the mammals. The Dinosaurs were full of new tech and interactive parts. For example a true to life T-Rex had its own room. Crowds were gathered around watching in awe as it waved its tail and roared. Everything in this room just felt new and fresh, which added to the excitement. We had evidently visited on a day with a lot of school trips. Naturally they were most excited by the dinosaurs as he exhibit was swarmed. Although after mistaking some fossilised scales for roof tiles I quickly realised my career as an archaeologist would be over before it started, and a roof tiler too. 

The main hall

This took us back to the main hall, where you would first enter under normal circumstances. To say this hall is magnificent would be an understatement. It looks like something out of Hogwarts, but with a massive Blue Whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling. This is “Hope” and since 2017 the museum has been her home. It is the definition of a grand hall, with exhibits lining the sides from Giraffes to Butterfly’s. At the top of the staircase overseeing all who enter sits Charles Darwin, although every time we pass the staircase it has at least one woman and her photographer having a photoshoot.

The Charles Darwin Exhibits

Charles Darwin statue Natural History Museum London

At the top of the staircase overseeing all who enter sits Charles Darwin, although every time we pass the staircase it has at least one woman and her photographer having a photoshoot. Charles Darwin did a lot for the Natural History Museum, so it is understandable there is a commemoration for him here, and the statues has been here since 1885.  The Museum holds the largest collection of his works, including many species he collected during his five-year voyage across the world on the HMS Beagle. Species such as Darwin’s finches which are often credited as the inspiration for the theory of evolution. You can see his contribution in nearly every one of the Natural History Museums collections, so keep an eye as you explore.

Astronomy and Geology

Natural History Museum Earths Core exhibit

You can easily spend hours wandering through the halls here. You’ll find an exhibit that will be loved by everyone in your group. My particular favourite was the Astronomy and Rocks exhibits. You enter by ascending an escalator behind the Stegosaurus. You ascend up through the core of newly formed earth. I loved learning about the planets and the Solar System, and the earthquake experience room.

There’s a section amongst the Geologist exhibits called the vault. Here you can find a collection of precious stones. Some in the form of jewellery and others in its natural form so you can see it’s uses. I loved it and eventually had to be dragged out by my friend.

Eventually though we had to leave, it was getting on and neither of us fancied the underground during rush hour. No visit to London is complete without a visit to the museum, and if you only have time for one then this is the one to go to. If you have the time and money to spend they even do exclusive Museum events like overnight stays in the main hall and even silent disco’s. Definitely something I will be adding to the bucket list. Of course there are also some more family-friendly activities and events too especially during the holidays.

Natural History Museum FAQ’s

How much is the entrance fee to the Natural History Museum?

Entrance to the museum is free but a donation is recommended. 

Do I need to book the Natural History Museum?

You don’t need to, but if you want to guarantee entry you can book online. It doesn’t cost anything and just makes the entry guaranteed. I have attached a booking tool for entry and a guided tour with Get Your Guide below. This ticket does charge but you get an in-app audio guide for your walk around the Museum. By booking through the link I will receive a commission which helps support the blog,

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Is there a cloakroom?

Yes there is a cloakroom but it’s charged for service. Price varies depending on what you leave with them. But handily you can leave a coat or even full size luggage, so its a perfect place to go if you have time to kill before your flight or train home.

Is there a restaurant at the Natural History Museum?

They do have a few cafes to grab some food to eat, one at either end and a third in the middle. It can be pricey to eat here though and the food choices are a bit limited. The surrounding area though is filled with options so you would have a better experience to eat before or after your visit. 

Where is the Natural History Museum?

The location of the Natural History Museum can be found a short walk from South Kensington station. It’s a short walk and there’s an almost direct underground path connecting the tube station and museum.

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