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What are the highlights of the Natural History Museum London?

The Natural History Museum in London is a treasure trove of scientific knowledge and natural wonders. Amongst the museum’s collection are the awe-inspiring blue whale hanging in the entrance hall, to the intricately detailed fossils and minerals on display, this museum offers visitors a glimpse into the incredible diversity of life on Earth.

From the Origins of London’s Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum in London was founded in 1881 and was originally located in the British Museum in Bloomsbury. However, as the museum’s collections grew, it became clear that a larger space was needed to house and display them. In 1883, the museum was moved to a new building in South Kensington, which was specifically designed to offer more space for the growing collections.

The Natural History Museum in London was founded in 1881 and was originally located in the British Museum in Bloomsbury. However, as the museum’s collections grew, it became clear that a larger space was needed to house and display them. In 1883, the museum was moved to a new building in South Kensington, which was specifically designed to offer more space for the growing collections.

Blue Whale, Dinosaurs and Mammals

Blue zone, ground floor

T Rex in the dinosaur gallery at natural history musuem

Dinosaur Gallery

The gallery features a diverse collection of dinosaur skeletons, from small feathered dinosaurs to massive sauropods, along with an array of related specimens, including fossils of ancient plants, insects, and marine reptiles. The display showcases the rich history of dinosaur progression and provides visitors with a glimpse into the lives of these fascinating creatures.

The museum’s dinosaur collection has been built up over the course of many decades, with specimens collected from all over the world, including famous sites such as the Morrison Formation in the western United States, the Nemegt Basin in Mongolia, and the Isle of Wight in England. The specimens on display in the Dinosaur Gallery represent some of the most significant and well-preserved dinosaur fossils, providing a window into the distant past and allowing visitors to learn about the evolution and diversity of these extinct animals.

Visitors to the Dinosaur Gallery can expect to be amazed by the animated T Rex and the enormous Triceratops skull. Whether you’re a seasoned palaeontologist or simply a curious admirer of these fascinating creatures, the Dinosaur Gallery is sure to be a highlight of your visit to the Natural History Museum.

Blue Whale Skeleton

Step into the presence of the largest animal to ever grace the earth with this awe-inspiring Blue Whale skeleton. Named “Hope” by the museum as a symbol of humanity’s ability to create a sustainable future.

Despite its impressive size, the Blue Whale’s diet consists almost exclusively of tiny crustaceans called krill. This skeleton is made up of 221 bones and is suspended in the exact diving position it would use to feed.

blue whale skeleton in the hintze hall at the natural history museum
giraffes in the mammals gallery at the natural history museum


The museum holds an impressive collection of mammals, providing a glimpse into the diverse world of animal life. From the majestic elephant to the tiny shrew, the collection showcases the incredible adaptations and evolutionary processes that have shaped these creatures over time.

The mammals on display at the museum have come to be there through a variety of means, including scientific expeditions and private donations.

Many of the specimens have been carefully preserved and mounted, allowing visitors to observe the intricate details of their anatomy and form. Some of the specimens have been gathered from remote regions of the world, providing a rare look into the animals that inhabit these areas. Others are historic specimens, offering a unique window into the past and the changes that have occurred in the natural world over time.

Minerals and Treasures

Green zone


Floor 1

Another highlight of the museum’s permanent exhibitions is the Minerals Gallery, which showcases a dazzling array of minerals and gemstones from around the world. Here, visitors can see specimens of rare and precious gems, such as diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires, as well as unique and unusual minerals, like amethyst geodes and meteorites.

mineral gallery at the natural history museum London
Guy the gorilla

Guy the Gorilla

Guy the Gorilla, a famous western lowland gorilla, is a beloved member of the collection at the Natural History Museum. He was born in the wild in Cameroon in 1966 and lived in London Zoo for many years, where he was a popular attraction. After his death in 1978, Guy was donated to the museum, where he has since become one of the most recognizable and well-observed gorilla specimens in the world.

The museum’s collection of Guy includes his skull, hands, feet, and other bones, as well as a full-body taxidermy mount that provides a realistic representation of what Guy looked like in life

Barbary lion skull

Two skulls, believed to have belonged to royal lions during the Plantagenet rule, were discovered at the Tower of London. The first skull has been dated back to between 1280 and 1385, while the second is estimated to be from between 1420 and 1480. These majestic creatures were once symbols of the power and grandeur of the monarchy, but a recent analysis of the skulls revealed that they were not well cared for and suffered from malnutrition, leading to bone deformities, blindness, and ultimately their deaths. Read more about the reasons for this in our Tower of London guide.

The lions were also discovered to be males of a subspecies that is now extinct in the wild, the Barbary lion, which once roamed the Atlas Mountains and other regions of North Africa. It is unclear when this subspecies became extinct in the wild, but it is thought to have occurred during the 20th century.

Lions have a long history within English culture, with the first recorded use of the lion as a symbol of royalty belonging to King Richard I of the Plantagenet Dynasty, also known as “Richard the Lionheart,” who incorporated the image of three lions into his royal arms. The Tower of London’s Royal Zoo, where exotic animals were kept, operated until the 19th century.

barbary lion skull in London's natural history museum
moa skeleton and bone fragments

Moa bone fragment and skeleton

The British Museum houses a collection of Moa bone fragments, which offer a glimpse into the past. These ancient relics were once part of the largest birds ever to exist on Earth, the Moa of New Zealand.

The museum acquired the fragments through the efforts of 19th-century explorers and collectors who brought them back from their travels. Visitors to the museum can view these remnants of the Moa, another window to the incredible creatures that once roamed our planet.

The Earth Hall

Red Zone

Earthquakes and Volcanoes

Floor 2

The Earth Hall at the Natural History Museum is an awe-inspiring exhibition showcasing the dynamic and complex processes that shape our planet. Visitors are taken on a journey through the inner workings of the Earth, including the forces that cause earthquakes and the fury of volcanoes. The display features interactive exhibits and stunning displays that bring these powerful natural events to life.

Visitors can learn about the science behind earthquakes, how they are measured and their impact on communities, as well as explore the different types of volcanoes, from shield volcanoes to cinder cones, and discover the role they play in shaping the Earth’s surface. The Earth Hall provides a unique opportunity to delve into the inner workings of our planet and understand the dynamic forces that shape our world.

escalator to the earth hall and earthquake simulator
fragment of moon rock from the apollo missions

Moon rock

Ground floor

This rock is a piece of the moon’s surface, collected during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. It is a testament to the achievements of human exploration and the incredible scientific discoveries that have been made about our nearest neighbour in space.

The moon rock at the Natural History Museum is just one of many samples that have been brought back to Earth from the Apollo missions. These samples have provided scientists with a wealth of information about the moon’s composition, origin, and history. It serves as a reminder of the amazing advances that have been made in space exploration and provides visitors with a rare opportunity to see a piece of the moon up close.

A cup made from a human skull

Sip from the skull of a long-gone ancestor with this ancient cup. 14,700 years old and hailing from Gough’s cave in Somerset, this human skull has been cleaned and carefully crafted into a vessel for your sanguine sipping pleasure.

But don’t worry, this isn’t a relic of cannibalistic tendencies – scientists believe it was simply a matter of our prehistoric ancestors wanting to ‘eat the evidence’ and save time on hunting for other sources of protein. Plus, it kept pesky scavengers away from the camp. So go ahead and quench your thirst with a splash of history.

human skull cup in the natural history museum

The Darwin Centre

Orange zone Ground floor

The Darwin Centre is a remarkable institution, dedicated to the study and preservation of the natural world. Named after the famous naturalist Charles Darwin, the Darwin Center is home to millions of specimens, including some of the most significant and unique specimens in the entire museum.

The Darwin Centre was established in 2002, following a significant renovation of the museum’s collections and research facilities. The centre provides a state-of-the-art home for the museum’s vast collection of specimens and serves as a hub for scientific research and collaboration.

Visitors to the Darwin Centre can observe the inner workings of the museum, including the process of preparing and cataloguing specimens. From delicate butterflies to massive dinosaur fossils, the Darwin Centre offers a fascinating look into the natural world and the important work being done to understand and preserve it.

Darwins evolutionary pigeons

Charles Darwin’s pigeons

The Natural History Museum is also home to a remarkable collection of Charles Darwin’s pigeons, which played a significant role in his theory of evolution. Darwin was an avid pigeon fancier and kept many different varieties of pigeons at his home.

He observed the wide variation in their forms and colours, which led him to question how these differences could arise and how they were passed down from generation to generation. This curiosity eventually led him to develop his theory of evolution by natural selection, which he famously described in his book “On the Origin of Species.”

The collection of Darwin’s pigeons includes a variety of breeds, including some of the breeds he kept at his home. These specimens are of great scientific and historical importance, and they provide a tangible connection to one of the greatest minds in the history of science and a key figure in the study of evolution.

On the Origin of Species

“On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.” Published on November 24, 1859, this original rare first edition book has solidified its place as the most influential work on biological theory in history.

While the theory of evolution was already generally accepted, Darwin’s ideas on natural selection stirred up controversy and debate, especially within theological circles who believed that humans couldn’t possibly have animal ancestry due to their supposedly superior spiritual qualities.

Charles Darwin, grandfather of evolution


Overall, the Natural History Museum’s collection is a testament to the beauty and complexity of our planet. Whether you are a curious visitor, a budding scientist, or simply someone who loves nature, there is something for everyone to enjoy at the museum.

What’s on at The Natural History Museum

blue whale skeleton in the hintze hall at the natural history museum

Discover the wonders of the natural world at the renowned Natural History Museum in London. Don’t miss the chance to explore their remarkable temporary exhibits, showcasing rare specimens and immersive displays that bring the natural world to life in extraordinary ways. From fascinating temporary installations to captivating interactive experiences, these limited-time exhibits offer a unique and enriching journey that will leave you in awe of our planet’s biodiversity.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Exhibition until 30th Jun 2024

Tickets from £15

Embark on a journey across Earth’s diverse habitats, from bustling cities to polar seas, and encounter remarkable creatures. Witness the impact of human activities on nature, exploring stories of endangered species and successful rescues. Through immersive experiences and stunning photography, delve into our interconnectedness with nature. Leave inspired to protect our planet’s resources and continue your conservation journey.

Wildlife through the lens of a camera

Dino Snores

1-2 dates per month, sells out quickly!

Tickets from £75

Experience an unforgettable sleepover adventure surrounded by extraordinary creatures at the museum. Set up camp in the galleries and embark on an evening of exploration, torchlight expeditions, and engaging activities. From a dinosaur t-shirt workshop to an educational science show presented by a Museum scientist, you’ll be immersed in a world of excitement. After a cozy night’s sleep, wake up to a delicious breakfast and continue your journey with a captivating trail through iconic galleries, discovering fascinating facts about the natural world. This exclusive sleepover is an opportunity not to be missed, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Visiting London’s Natural History Museum

Opening Times and Admission

The museum is open daily from 10:00-17:50 (closed from 24th-26th of December)

Tickets are free however its recommend that you book a time slot for your visit

Address: Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD

What to see in the Natural History Museum London?

If you visited the list above and you’re still keen to see more of the museum why not check out some of the items below:
-Giant Sequoia tree trunks above the bird gallery (Green Zone Floor 2)
-Fossils of Marine reptiles gallery (Green Zone Ground Floor)
-An Emperor Penguin egg from Scott’s Antarctic journey (Green Zone Floor 1)
-Earthquake simulator replicating the terrifying earthquake in 1995 Japan (Red Zone Floor 2)
-Pompeii casts of the unfortunate victims from the Vesuvius eruption in AD 79 (Red Zone Floor 2)
-Giant squid in the behind the scenes spirit collection (Behind the scenes Darwin Centre)

What’s special about the Natural History Museum?

One of the most special and impressive features of the natural history museum is the sheer number of pieces within its collection. Some 80 million objects are deemed by many to make it the most significant natural history repository in the world. This vast collection has proven to be an invaluable resource for the scientific community, providing critical insights into the history and evolution of our solar system, the geological structure of our planet, and the diversity of life on Earth.

What is the most valuable thing in the Natural History Museum?

The Museum’s specimen of Archaeopteryx lithographica originates from the latest Jurassic Solnhofen Limestone in Bavaria, Germany. It was among more than 1,900 Solnhofen fossils bought from Dr Karl Haberlein in 1862 for £700. While perhaps not the most valuable in monetary terms its value in suggesting the process of evolution is almost incalculable.

Archaeopteryx shows a unique combination of dinosaur and bird characters. It is one of the few fossils that actually show evolution in action and the transition between 2 major groups of animals.

What should you not miss at the National History Museum?

If we were to pick one item in the collection to see, a personal favourite is Audubon’s “Birds of America” book. Life-sized watercolour paintings of North American birds in their natural habitat fill the book.
Recognised as one of the first ornithological works to be completed, the book is regarded as a masterpiece, highly prized by collectors. The museum has digitized the pictures and you can flick through a virtual book during your visit to appreciate the beautiful birds.

Which other museums should I visit?

British Museum –
Check out our British Museum highlights guide
National Gallery –
Check out our National Gallery highlights guide

About the author

Denisa holds the highest UK qualification for tourist guiding, the Blue Badge. She also holds a Management in Tourism degree and a National Tour guiding certificate for the Czech Republic. Denisa’s employment history has covered many roles within the tourism sector, she couples this with the ability to speak several languages. Denisa runs our customer-facing business, she frequently enjoys days spent guiding clients and authors our blogs.

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