An Insider’s Natural History Museum Guide for First Time Visitors

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum Guide: What to see at the Natural History Museum

London Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum in London is a world-renowned institution that houses a vast collection of natural history specimens, including specimens from the animal kingdom, plant kingdom, and mineral kingdom. In this Natural History Museum Guide, some of the highlights of the museum include the Dinosaurs gallery, where you can see life-sized models of dinosaurs and learn about their biology and evolution; the Earth galleries, where you can learn about the planet’s geology and climate history; the Human Evolution gallery, which explores the evolution of our species; and the Wildlife Garden, which is home to a variety of plants and animals. Other popular exhibits at the Natural History Museum include the Fossil Marine Reptiles gallery, which features the fossils of ancient sea creatures; the Insects gallery, which showcases a wide variety of insects from around the world; and the Minerals and Gems gallery, which displays an impressive collection of rare and precious minerals and gemstones. With so much to see and learn, the Natural History Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the natural world

How to make the most of the Natural History Museum

To make the most of the Natural History Museum, it is important to plan ahead and do some research before your visit. This can help you identify the exhibits and events that interest you the most, and allow you to prioritize your time at the museum. Arriving early in the day can also help you avoid crowds and have a more enjoyable experience. While exploring the museum, be sure to take your time and fully immerse yourself in the exhibits. This may mean reading all of the informational signs and listening to audio guides, or participating in interactive exhibits and hands-on activities. If you are visiting with children, consider purchasing a family-friendly guide or participating in a guided tour to help make the experience more educational and engaging. Finally, be sure to take breaks and rest when needed as it takes 4 hours to tour the whole museum. Take advantage of the museum’s amenities, such as cafes and gift shops, to make your visit as enjoyable as possible.

Sequoia tree, the Natural History Museum

The History of the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum in London was founded in 1881, following a donation of over 70,000 specimens from scientist and collector Sir Hans Sloane. The museum was originally located in the British Museum, but quickly outgrew its space and moved to its current location on Cromwell Road in South Kensington in 1892.

Over the years, the Natural History Museum has continued to grow and expand, acquiring new collections and exhibits from around the world. Today, it is home to over 80 million specimens, ranging from fossils and minerals to animals and plants. The museum has also become a major research institution, with scientists studying and cataloging the collections for the benefit of knowledge and understanding of the natural world. The Natural History Museum has become a popular tourist destination, with over 5 million visitors annually.

Earth Hall, the Natural History Museum, London

How to navigate the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is structured into four distinct zones, namely the Green Zone, the Red Zone, the Blue Zone, and the Orange Zone. These zones serve as dedicated spaces to showcase the rich history, evolutionary processes, and incredible diversity of life on our planet, while also explaining the scientific principles underlying them. Although the rooms in each zone may not be as spacious as anticipated by some visitors, they are brimming with informative descriptions accompanying the displayed items, interactive videos, and vibrant visual aids such as pictures, photos, taxidermies, and even interactive life-sized dinosaurs that particularly captivate children. Exploring the museum is a breeze, thanks to the presence of clear signage in every nook and cranny, along with knowledgeable assistants readily available to address any queries.

The first thing you’ll see at the museum

As you enter the museum, you’ll be taken to the large Hintze Hall and the first thing you’ll see is the gigantic skeleton of a diplodocus mammoth in the middle, and a large whale fossil hanging from the ceiling. Surrounding diplodocus, you’ll see a giraffe, marine mammals found in the dinosaur years, and many more.

Hintze Hall feels grand, and you can hear the echo as you talk to your friends and family, but it’s quiet as you walk around the hall. Hintze Hall is the only area of the museum that is architecturally beautiful because Alfred Waterhouse really thought about the intricate detail of the Romanesque design going back to the medieval European era. You can read about the architecture upstairs in the right hand-corner of the museum. You’ll hear footsteps and whispers from across the room, and if you walk straight up, you’ll see a large statue of Charles Darwin. Walk left, you’ll be in the Blue Zone, and you’ll cover the Dinosaurs Gallery, and Mammals & Blue Whale Gallery.

The Central Café and the toilet is further on, and it does get busy there. If you want a quiet space, go to the Coffee House near the Earth Hall. The price of the coffee shops aren’t that big a difference compared to other coffee shops around London, so I’d recommend having coffee near South Kensington Station. There are also several mid-range European cafes and restaurants around South Kensington Station.

The Blue Whale Gallery, The Natural History Museum

The Blue Zone

The Dinosaurs Gallery

Most people that come to the Natural History Museum come for the dinosaurs, and dinosaur fossils and bones are found everywhere in the museum. 

As I walked through the Dinosaurs gallery in The Natural History Museum, I was struck by the size and scale of the specimens on display. From the towering skeleton of a T-Rex to the delicate bones of a pterodactyl, the exhibits gave a glimpse into the incredible diversity of these ancient creatures. I was particularly fascinated by the interactive displays that allowed me to learn more about the different species and their habitats. The museum’s collection of fossilized eggs and nests was also a highlight, offering a unique look into the reproductive habits of these ancient animals. Overall, the Dinosaurs gallery was a captivating and educational experience that left me in awe of the power and majesty of these ancient creatures.

In this room, it allows you to learn about the daily lives of dinosaurs, including their herd behavior and breeding habits. You can also view details about their anatomy, including their bones, muscles, skin, and senses. There are also photos of dinosaurs and a replica of dinosaur eggs on display. While there are only 10 fossils and bones in this room, there are an additional 35 fossils located in another area of the museum. One of the highlights of this room is the interactive T-rex roaring sound and movement effects, which are sure to be a hit with children. It should be noted that the dinosaurs reportedly experienced a slow, painful death. Overall, this room offers a wealth of information and interactive elements for those interested in dinosaurs.

If you go straight on, you’ll be in the Orange Zone and you’ll discover the Darwin Centre, but before we go there, let’s explore the Mammals & Blue Whale Gallery.

The Blue Whale Gallery, the Natural History Museum

The Mammals & The Blue Whale Gallery

TThe Mammals & Blue Whale Gallery is a lengthy corridor featuring a variety of non-human mammal species through taxidermies and accompanying descriptions. Among the specimens on display are foxes, lions, orangutans, monkeys, and more. I was astonished by the immense size of the blue whale in comparison to a human. It was not just large, it was truly enormous. The gallery contains a total of over 50 collections.

The Ocean Room was brighter than the Dinosaurs Room, and featured a model of a blue whale, elephants, rams, and more. Visitors could learn about the evolution of these animals and their ancient ancestors. The room, like others in the museum, was relatively small, but had informative descriptions of marine and land mammals to read. This room tends to be busiest from 2-3 pm, but becomes less crowded later in the day.

The Mammals & Blue Whale Gallery offers a chance to view a selection of nature videos and images. Although the space is small, nature enthusiasts will enjoy browsing the collections of photographs, which include extinct birds like dodos and exotic species. The interactive description provides information on the dodos’ extinction. In addition to birds, the gallery features a variety of reptiles, amphibians, fish, and marine invertebrates.

Crystals at the Natural History Museum

The Orange Zone

The Darwin Centre

The Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in science and natural history. Located on the museum’s second floor, the Darwin Centre is home to the Cocoon, a futuristic, interactive exhibition space where visitors can explore the museum’s vast collection of specimens and learn about the work of its scientists. The Cocoon also hosts regular interactive talks and demonstrations, giving visitors the opportunity to learn more about the museum’s research and its impact on our understanding of the natural world. In addition to the Cocoon, the Darwin Centre offers guided tours of the museum’s spirit collection, where visitors can see how scientists preserve and study specimens in order to better understand the evolution and diversity of life on Earth. Whether you’re a science enthusiast or just looking for an interesting and educational way to spend an afternoon, the Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum is a must-visit destination.

If you ascend the stairs from the seating area, you will find a number of windows where researchers work on fossils. These small windows are home to hundreds of jars of various types of crustaceans, including squid, octopus, and snails, dating back to the time of dinosaurs. According to the website, visitors may observe researchers at work, but when I visited, I saw no one. It was peaceful and quiet at around 4 pm, and only one family was exploring alongside me.

The Courtyard, the Natural History Museum

The Wildlife Garden

The Wildlife Garden at the Natural History Museum in London is a beautiful and tranquil space located within the museum grounds. It is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including butterflies, birds, and small mammals. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through the garden and observe the diverse ecosystem at work. The garden is carefully designed to provide a habitat for these creatures and is maintained by a dedicated team of horticulturalists and biologists. In addition to being a home for wildlife, the garden also serves as an educational resource for visitors, who can learn about the importance of biodiversity and the role that humans play in preserving it. Whether you are an avid nature lover or simply looking for a peaceful place to relax, the Wildlife Garden at the Natural History Museum is sure to delight and inspire.

One of the highlight of the Wildlife Garden seeing footprints from the Iguanadon, it’s hard to make out since it’s been covered with leaves, but you can just about see it. On the website, it says you can see several fox cubs, insects, and frogs in the pond. Although I didn’t see any, I knew this is the place where they lived.

The Green Zone

Fossil at the Natural History MuseumThe Vault

Head back out towards Hintze Hall and head upstairs where you’ll see many displays of mammals, from chickens, birds, and other wildlife preserved in a glass case. As you go round upstairs, you’ll see many different angles of the museum, as well as the tiles you see designed in the ceiling. The Vault in the Natural History Museum London is a must-see for any visitor. Located in the museum’s basement, the Vault houses an impressive collection of rare and precious minerals, including diamonds, emeralds, and gold. The minerals are displayed in a series of glass cases, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with these stunning gems. The Vault also features a collection of meteorites, including the infamous Willamette Meteorite, which weighs over 15 tons and is the largest meteorite ever discovered in the United States. The Vault is a truly unique and fascinating experience, offering visitors the opportunity to see some of the rarest and most valuable minerals in the world.

Spend no more than 20 minutes discovering minerals and crystals and head your way upstairs to see a slice of 1300 year gigantic old sequoia/redwood tree trunk. It’s 101 metres tall and has been polished to make it look brand new. The 1300 year old gigantic sequoia/redwood tree trunk in the natural history museum is truly a sight to behold. Standing tall and proud, this massive tree has stood the test of time and has witnessed countless events throughout history. Its trunk is so massive that it takes up a significant portion of the museum’s exhibit space, and visitors are often in awe of its size and grandeur. The tree is a testament to the resilience and strength of nature, and it serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving and protecting our natural world. Despite its age, the tree still stands strong and serves as a symbol of the enduring power of nature.

Fossil at the Natural History MuseumFossil Marine Reptiles

The Natural History Museum is home to a vast collection of fossil marine mammals and reptiles, offering a fascinating glimpse into the ancient oceans of the past. These fossils are important not only for their scientific value, but also for the insight they provide into the evolution and history of life on earth. Among the many specimens on display at the museum are ancient whales, dolphins, and seals, as well as sea turtles, crocodiles, and other reptiles. These fossils provide a glimpse into the rich and varied ecosystems of the past, and offer a unique opportunity to learn about the diversity of life that once inhabited the oceans. Whether you are a scientist, a history buff, or just someone who loves learning about the natural world, the fossil marine mammals and reptiles at the Natural History Museum are sure to captivate and inspire you.


Walk up to the end of the hall, you’ll be in the Birds section, and you’ll see many different types of birds here.

The bird section in the natural history museum is a fascinating display of avian diversity. From tiny hummingbirds to massive condors, the exhibit showcases a wide range of bird species from around the world. The exhibit features preserved specimens as well as interactive displays that allow visitors to learn about the unique adaptations of different bird species. There are also interactive exhibits that allow visitors to listen to the calls of different birds and learn about their behavior and habitats. Overall, the bird section in the natural history museum is an excellent educational resource for anyone interested in the natural world and the incredible diversity of bird species that inhabit our planet.

You’ll see various eagles from hawks, falcons, vultures, penguins, an ostrich, a dodo, a flamingo and many more. When I was in this area, I felt amazed by the stature of the birds of prey. They seem to be standing tall, proud to be on top of the food chain. I realised there were so many more birds of prey I didn’t know existed, and the ostrich was bigger than I imagined. Some birds looked friendly, some looked fierce. The fiercest are the strongest and the top of the food chain, you can tell by their eyes. At the end of the hall, you’ll see colourful photos of different types of birds and their habitats. You’ll also learn about Creepy Crawlies such as spiders, ants, and many more. You can hear a narrator in the background talking about insects, but it’s hard to hear.

The Red Zone

Skeleton at the Natural History MuseumLasting Impressions

One lasting impression from the natural history museum was the small room filled with shells and fossils. It was fascinating to see the variety of different shells and to learn about the creatures that once inhabited them. One particularly interesting fossil was from an elephant relative, which gave us a glimpse into the past and how animals have evolved over time. Another highlight was the Gogotte sandstone found from France, which was beautifully preserved and had intricate details that were truly mesmerizing. We only spent about 10 minutes in this room, but it left a lasting impression on us and made us want to learn more about the history of our planet. After exploring this room, we made our way towards The Coffee House. As we walked through, we were surrounded by the sounds of background music and the futuristic ambiance felt like we were in a sci-fi movie. We eventually ended up in Earth Hall, which was filled with exhibits on the geological and biological diversity of our planet. Overall, the natural history museum was full of memorable experiences and we can’t wait to visit again.

Earth Hall

You’ll see a large dinosaur fossil standing in front of an elevator going up to the volcanoes and earthquakes section. The Human Evolution is also here, but you’ll be tempted to go up the escalator to the volcanoes and earthquakes sections first. Before you go up the escalator, you’ll see around 40 small circular glass windows containing natural crystals and stones dating back from millions of years ago.

Go up the escalator through a dark giant silver fireball, at the top of the escalators, you’ll start going back to the beginning of time and read and watch videos of how the earth transformed. Earth Hall is a popular exhibit in the natural history museum that explores the Earth’s history and geology. 

Visitors can learn about the formation of the planet, the evolution of life, and the changes that have shaped our world over millions of years. The exhibit features a variety of interactive displays and hands-on exhibits, including a massive globe that allows visitors to explore the different layers of the Earth’s crust and see how the continents have moved over time. In addition, there are exhibits on climate change and the impact humans have had on the environment, as well as a section on natural disasters and how they have shaped the Earth’s surface. Overall, Earth Hall is a fascinating and educational experience for all ages, offering a unique perspective on the history and science of our planet.

Skull at the Natural History MuseumThe Evolution of Humans

The last section of the tour is the Evolution of Humans. The Evolution of Humans exhibit at the natural history museum traces the development of our species from early ancestors in Africa to modern day humans. Visitors can see fossils and artifacts from various stages of human evolution, including the early hominid, Homo erectus, and the more advanced Homo sapiens. The exhibit also explores the cultural and technological advancements that have shaped human society over the centuries. From the use of tools and the creation of fire to the development of agriculture and the rise of civilizations, the exhibit offers a fascinating look at the incredible journey of humankind. Overall, the Evolution of Humans exhibit provides a comprehensive overview of the evolution of our species and the many factors that have contributed to its success and survival. You’ll see a skeleton of a short boy with a wider rib cage dating back to 7 million years ago. Why not discover different coloured tools to hunt, cook, and use for general purposes in different eras? Once you’re done here, head back out, and this is where your tour will end.

The V&As and the Science Museum are next to each other, so if you have time, book 2 hours in the Natural History Museum, and an extra 2 hours each in both the Science Museum and the V&As Museum. You can check out things to do in Chelsea, and 2 of the 8 royal parks of London, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens nearby. There are 9 free museums and galleries that are worth checking out around London.

Taxidermy of a hawk, Natural History Museum, LondonConclusion

In conclusion, the Natural History Museum in London is a must-see destination for anyone interested in science and nature. With its vast collection of specimens, interactive exhibits, and informative displays, it provides a fascinating look into the natural world and the history of our planet. From the towering blue whale skeleton in the main hall to the intricate butterfly collection in the Darwin Centre, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re a seasoned scientist or just curious about the world around you, the Natural History Museum has something to offer. So if you’re in London, make sure to add it to your list of places to visit – you won’t be disappointed!

All in all, I spent around 5 to 10 minutes in each room, but it does take time covering more than 20 departments in each zone. The Natural History Museum is still busy with families under 5s even during school hours, and I can’t imagine how busy it will get during the summer holidays during late July to the end of August, and children will be going back to school in September.

It’s possible to cover all the departments in the Natural History Museum, but since it takes 4 hours to cover, you won’t have time to visit the Science Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum altogether, you’d have to dedicate 2 or 3 days to cover everything. Feel free to contact me on Facebook if you’d like to know more about how to cover the three museums.

The Natural History Museum

Insider Tips

If you’re short of time, I recommend visiting the Dinosaurs Gallery, the Fossils Marine Reptiles, Volcanoes and Earthquakes. You’ll cover 2 hours’ worth of items in the museum. You can visit the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum next or visit Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Portobello Market and visit the Royal Albert Hall. When you’re visiting the Natural History Museum, Kensington High Street is a great area to find hotels, AirBnB, and many great attractions. It’s all a short bus ride to Oxford Street and the rest of the West End area.

If you decide to use the London Pass, I am a part of an affiliate part of an affiliate program with Go City – London Pass, a part of the London Pass group where you get great discount packages on major London attractions. If you book through me, I can offer your a 5% discount code AFFGOALL so you’ll save MORE money. BOOK NOW and unlock access to top attractions, skip-the-line privileges, and exclusive savings.

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In addition, I am able to recommend and advise on your travel plans before you book your travel holidays (vacation as the Americans call it). Contact me on Facebook if you want to tweak your itinerary to suit your taste.

If you have any questions about the Natural History Museum or accommodations near this area, message me down below or contact me on Facebook. But for now, stay safe and take care!


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