Grandparents' guide to the Natural History Museum
30th September 2022
The Natural History Museum in London’s South Kensington is not only one of the most popular museums in the UK but also one of the most famous museums in the entire world. Iconic for many reasons, including the amazing skeletons that greet you at the museum’s entrance – most famously Dippy the dinosaur and today an incredible blue whale. As one of the UK’s best attractions, the Natural History Museum makes for a wonderful day out, and a brilliant place for grandparents to take their grandkids. If you are looking to make plans with your grandchildren, this guide acts as an introduction to the Natural History Museum, telling you all you need to know when bringing the grandchildren for a visit.
In this guide, you can discover helpful information about the Natural History Museum, such as where to get tickets, opening times, how to travel to the museum, what to bring, and what can be seen at the museum. For anyone with limited mobility or who might utilise stairlifts at home, you can also learn how accessible the Natural History Museum is. So, click the contents links below to find the information you need and get planning a wonderful day out at the Natural History Museum.
- How to get to the Natural History Museum
- Natural History Museum opening times
- Where to get Natural History Museum tickets
- What to bring to the Natural History Museum
- How accessible is the Natural History Museum?
- What is there to see and do at the Natural History Museum?
- Food and drink at the Natural History Museum
How to get to the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is located in South Kensington, London. The main entrance is on Cromwell Road and the other entrance is on Exhibition Road. The postcode for the Natural History Museum is SW7 5BD.
Travelling to the Natural History Museum by Tube
One of the easiest ways of getting to the Natural History Museum is by Tube. The nearest Tube station is South Kensington which is only a short five-minute walk from the main entrance on Cromwell Road. You can get to the South Kensington station via the Piccadilly, Circle, and District Lines. Whether you are a London local or are visiting from outside the city, the Tube is a great option to consider when visiting the museum.
Travelling to the Natural History Museum by bus
The bus is a good option to take when visiting the Natural History Museum as several bus routes stop near the museum. To plan your route, visit the Transport for London website, enter your starting location and then put the Natural History Museum as your destination to see what options are available.
Travelling to the Natural History Museum by car
Travelling via car to the Natural History Museum isn’t the best choice as there are no parking facilities at the museum and only very limited parking close by. However, there are a very limited number of parking spaces for Blue Badge holders that must be booked prior to your visit. There are also some 12 Blue Badge parking spaces on Exhibition Road, but these are not managed by the museum and cannot be booked in advance.
You can discover more accessibility information further down this guide.
Travelling to the Natural History Museum on foot
If you would prefer to walk to the Natural History Museum, make your way to South Kensington and find the entrance on Cromwell Road or Exhibition Road. If you are unsure of the way, consider using Google Maps on your phone and entering the name of the museum to find the best walking directions.
Further travel advice for the Natural History Museum can be found on the museum’s website.
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Natural History Museum opening times
The Natural History Museum is open Monday to Sunday between 10am and 5.50pm. The last entry each day into the museum is at 5.30pm.
The only scheduled dates when the museum is closed are 24th-26th December.
With all day to explore the museum if you wish, you can see as many of the brilliant exhibitions and galleries as possible, while also making time for a bite to eat and a visit to the gift shop!
Where to get Natural History Museum tickets
It is easy to get tickets for the Natural History Museum in London; all you have to do is visit the museum’s website. Just head to the museum’s Visit Us page and click ‘Book your entry tickets’.
Then select how many people are going and what date and time you would like to visit before proceeding to book your tickets and heading to the checkout.
How much are tickets to the Natural History Museum?
London tickets to the Natural History Museum are free. However, the museum asks that you consider a donation with your ticket of either £5, £10, £20, or £50. This is purely optional, however, and you don’t have to pay anything at all. Children go free regardless of whether you choose to make a donation or not.
If you are local to London or think that you will be visiting the museum lots of times in the future, you can consider becoming a member of the Natural History Museum. Perks include not needing to book general admission or exhibition tickets, meaning that you can arrive at any time and enjoy priority access. You can also gain free entry into all the exhibitions and events. Membership starts at £62 and goes toward supporting the museum’s work.
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What to bring to the Natural History Museum
Although the Natural History Museum is an indoor attraction, there are plenty of items that you can pack for a visit to the museum and this section takes a look at some of the items you can bring with you.
Despite the museum being located entirely indoors, you may want to consider bringing a coat with you in the winter and autumn months as you’ll need it when you step outside before and after your visit. You should wear comfortable shoes and clothing as the museum is big and you could be doing a lot of walking.
The museum might be a little chilly in the colder months of the year and you, therefore, might consider bringing a warm jumper or a fleece that you can put on, whilst in the summer you may want to opt for shorts and a t-shirt, especially if it is a hot day.
Packing list for the Natural History Museum
- Comfortable shoes
- Jumper or fleece (for a cold day)
- Raincoat for walking to the museum
- Money for food/souvenirs
- A separate camera for the grandkids to use
- Small umbrella
- Shorts (for a warm day)
- Reusable water bottle
- Spare clothes if your grandchild is a baby/toddler
How accessible is the Natural History Museum?
For grandparents with limited mobility who would like to visit the Natural History Museum, you will be pleased to know that the museum is very accessible.
While there are no general parking facilities on-site, the museum does offer a limited number of Blue Badge parking spaces. If you would like to use one of these, you must book in advance by calling +44 (0)20 7942 5000 and ask to speak to the Security Reception team.
Both the Cromwell Road main entrance and the Exhibition Road entrance have step-free access, making it easy to enter the museum no matter which entrance you choose.
In its effort to make the experience of visiting the museum as easy as possible, the Natural History Museum offers fast-track entry to all disabled visitors, as well as to their family members and carers. Just speak to a member of staff once you arrive to arrange this.
There are wheelchair-accessible toilets available at the museum and lifts for those who might need to use them. If it will make your visit easier and more enjoyable, the museum also provides free wheelchair hire.
For visually impaired visitors, there are large print gallery guides as well as 24 audio-described tours. The audio-described tour of Hintze Hall is even narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
Accessibility at the Natural History Museum
- Accessible toilets
- Assistance dogs welcome
- Fast-track entry
- On-site disabled parking
- Free companion tickets to paid exhibitions
- Lifts available
- Free wheelchair hire
Further accessibility information can be found on the Natural History Museum’s dedicated access page.
What is there to see and do at the Natural History Museum?
There are lots of fascinating things to see and do at the Natural History Museum. From wonderful exhibitions and displays to events and family-friendly activities. While specific displays can change over time, read on to discover some of what you can expect to find at the Natural History Museum.
What exhibits, displays, and galleries are at the Natural History Museum?
Whether you're visiting for the first time or the fiftieth, there are so many exhibits, displays, and galleries that you can explore in the Natural History Museum. Whilst there are exhibits that are temporary, there are different gallery zones and below are some must-visit ones.
The dinosaurs at the museum are world-famous. At the dinosaur gallery, you can meet a roaring T. rex, wander among fossils that date back thousands of years and even see the skull of a Triceratops.
If your grandchildren love dinosaurs, then they will love exploring through this gallery as you will be taken through the different time periods that these animals lived. The gallery also shares great insight into why dinosaurs died out and what scientific research has highlighted about how these prehistoric giants lived and once ruled the world.
Cathy, the writer behind the Mummy Travels blog, loved visiting this gallery: “If you want to see the Dinosaurs Gallery, make this your first stop at the Natural History Museum as it’s one of the most popular areas. For kids, it’s probably top of their list anyway, and even if there are lines, they move pretty fast.
“You could always play the museum’s online ‘which dinosaur are you‘ quiz to pass the time if you are waiting for T-Rex.”
Sanna, from the family blog Wave to Mummy, thinks the Natural History Museum is great for children and has highlighted what she thinks kids will love about going: “The Natural History Museum is great to visit with kids. In my opinion, it is best for kids aged five and older. While pre-schoolers will undoubtedly enjoy the dinosaur exhibition, the rest of the museum provides great learning opportunities for older kids too. Highlights include human species development complete with model skulls and an earthquake simulator! This museum is also next to The Science Museum and The Victoria & Albert Museum, so it is easy to visit all three in one day - very handy if you are visiting London and want to maximise places to visit!”
Hintze Hall is the gateway to the museum’s collections and galleries and once you are inside it you can wander among meteorites, mammals, plants, and birds to name just a few of the items on display.
The most impressive and eye-catching display is the 25-metre blue whale skeleton that is suspended in the air in Hintze Hall, allowing you to will walk beneath the world’s largest animal. There is so much to see here, but some other star attractions include a rock that is as old as the solar system, an American mastodon which is the elephant’s Ice Age relative, and a 122-129-million-year-old Mantellisaurus, one of the most complete dinosaur fossils ever discovered in the UK.
Vyki, from the culture and family blog Museum Mum, has shared her favourite part of the museum: “My favourite part of visiting the Natural History Museum is Hintze Hall. The cathedral-like space never ceases to impress, especially with Hope the whale diving above you. Look out for the carved stone monkeys scampering up the columns. The kids also love the animatronic t-rex and the Victorian-style gem hall.”
Vyki has also shared some top tips for those planning to visit: “Plan ahead - know what you want to see and group them by which colour 'zone' they are in. Even one or two things can be enough when it gets very busy. The Wildlife Garden is a calm spot to get away from it all. The museum is usually quieter in the last hour or so of the day. If you go regularly, consider membership for skip the queue access, special early openings and access to the member's room with board games, kids’ books and bistro.”
Home to the largest mammals in the animal kingdom, including a blue whale model and other marine skeletons and replicas which are hanging from the ceiling. On the ground of this gallery, you can find extinct mammoths as well as current members of the animal kingdom such as giraffes, lions, and hippos.
There is so much you and your grandchildren will learn by wandering through this gallery, including the difference between antlers and horns and how caribou and Dall’s sheep avoid the tundra.
Earth Hall and Stegosaurus
Here you can see the most intact Stegosaurus fossil skeleton ever found and at three metres tall and almost six metres long, it's an incredible welcome to the Earth Hall.
The Stegosaurus skeleton isn’t the only star attraction in this gallery as you can see a boomerang-shaped fossil amphibian skull that lived over 290 million years ago, a fossil which helped influenced the design of the museum, and a memorial stone to extinct marine animals.
Another eye-catching element of this gallery is the escalator that takes you through a giant metallic globe to the upper Red Zone galleries.
In this gallery, you can come face-to-face with your ancient relatives and learn about the origins of human beings and our evolution. By exploring this gallery, you will embark on a 7-million-year journey!
You can investigate a hominin, who are extinct members of the human lineage, and discover the changes in the physical features, lifestyles, diet and environments that have shaped modern humans.
There are lots of fascinating exhibits on display in this gallery and some of the star attractions include a 3.5-million-year-old Laetoli canine (the oldest hominin fossil in the Museum's collection), the first adult Neanderthal skull ever found, a 420,000-year-old Clacton spear, and life-size Neanderthal and early Homo sapiens models.
These are just some of the incredible galleries you can explore, but there are lots of other galleries and below are some more you can experience.
- Images of Nature
- Fishes, Amphibians and Reptiles
- Marine Invertebrates
- Creepy Crawlies
- The Vault
- Fossils from Britain
- Fossil Marine Reptiles
What family-friendly activities are at the Natural History Museum?
The Natural History Museum is the perfect family day out as there is so much to explore in the galleries, including meeting your favourite dinosaurs and mammals and learning about incredible creatures and how we humans have evolved.
Terri, from the parenting and lifestyle blog The Strawberry Fountain, believes the Natural History Museum presents many learning opportunities for children and it’s a great place for grandparents and grandchildren to learn together: “The Natural History Museum is a great multi-generation day out, there are loads of opportunities for parents and grandparents to share their knowledge on certain topics with the kids. In a world where children are all about gaming and YouTubers, finding common ground can be difficult but here there will be conversation starters a plenty and many will link with the children's school curriculum so sharing knowledge, teaching each other and learning together will be fun.”
Below are just some family-friendly attractions you should visit in the museum.
Visit family-friendly galleries
Whilst all of the galleries will pique the interest of children, there are some which will fascinate the children and the Natural History Museum identifies the following three as its most family-friendly galleries.
- Volcanoes and Earthquakes Gallery – Here children can examine fossils from a time when all the continents in the world were joined together. In this gallery, you can see lava bombs and volcanic glass hair.
- Minerals Gallery – From a 635-kilogramme iron meteorite to a 9,381-carat flawless blue topaz gemstone, there are some exhibits that will fascinate your grandchildren.
- Birds Gallery – You can discover an extinct dodo, a Victorian avian anatomy display, and lots of other fascinating birds in this display.
- Dinosaurs gallery – You can meet some incredible beasts in the dinosaur gallery and if you have a dino-mad grandchild, you should look to visit this exhibition first.
Janice, from the travel blog Scots2Travel, has shared what she thinks those visiting with children will enjoy based on her visit: “The Natural History Museum worked for us because it’s epic, interactive, hands-on and features many life-size animals, skeletons, and dinosaur animatronics. Kids have a roar-some time. It’s also free, which makes a huge difference. From learning about how volcanoes work to feeling an earthquake under your feet, the natural world comes to life. My top tips include remembering to pre-book your tickets to avoid disappointment and appreciating that it's a vast museum so prioritise the exhibits you want to see, and don’t feel bad if you don’t see everything.”
Jen, from the family blog Outdoorsy Days, has been to the Natural History Museum with her daughter before and she recommends playing games with children as you explore the different galleries: “I have taken my 3-year-old daughter twice now. With very young children, I find that it helps to gamify the entire experience to make it more interesting. I’ll sometimes make a checklist of things my daughter needs to look out for, such as the Blue Whale skeleton, a model of the moon, a fossil and much more. She enjoys ticking them off her list. If she manages to tick them all off, I might treat her to an ice cream later.
“We’ll also try to learn at least one fact about each area. We’ll talk about each exhibition, and I’ll ask her questions to help the information to sink in, such as ‘what did the triceratops like to eat?’ or ‘how far away is the moon?’”
Take a photo with Andy’s clock
Another attraction that children will love in the museum is Andy’s clock from the CBeebies shows Andy's Dinosaur Adventures and Andy's Prehistoric Adventures.
Located in the Central Café, it makes for a great photo opportunity, but you’ll need to hurry as Andy will need it back for his next adventure which could be at any time.
Buy a souvenir
If you pop into the museum shop, there are some amazing souvenirs you can buy for your grandchildren and this ranges from cuddly toys to other nature-themed merchandise.
There is so much choice that you could be in there for quite a while as your grandchild decides whether they want a toy, art or a puzzle.
As well as the museum shop, there are other little gift stores within the museum and below are the other gift shops you can visit:
- The Cranbourne Boutique – Here you can find Museum-themed gifts, books and souvenirs for both adults and children.
- Dino Store – If you have a dinosaur-obsessed grandchild then the Dino Store is the shop you have to visit. You will find anything from dinosaur games and toys to dinosaur-themed clothes and books.
Self-guided tours at the Natural History Museum
There are plenty of self-guided tours you can follow at the Natural History Museum and this section takes a look at each one. Click the links below to discover more and find out where to go.
The Family Favourites tour takes you to see some of the museum’s biggest sights and most impressive displays. It is perfect for families and here is a sample of the galleries and attractions you will visit on this tour:
- Dinosaurs gallery
- Mammals gallery
- Andy's clock
- The Central Café
- Fossil Marine Reptiles
- Earth's Treasury
- Volcanoes and Earthquakes
- Museum Shop
Exhibits with impact
The Exhibits with impact tour is more aimed at adults or solo travellers, but here you can uncover some of the museum’s most fascinating stories.
The two-hour tour starts at the Exhibition Road entrance and below are some of the galleries and displays you will see on this self-guided tour:
- Sophie the Stegosaurus
- Human Evolution gallery
- Cranbourne Boutique
- Hintze Hall
- Central Café
- Minerals gallery
- The Vault
- Giant sequoia
Even visitors who have been to the Natural History Museum before and have seen the highlights, there will be lots of displays and exhibitions that they didn’t get a chance to visit.
This self-guided hidden treasures tour takes you through some of the lesser-known treasures and is perfect for all ages. The tour will take around 90-minutes to complete and here are some of the exhibits you will get to explore as part of the tour:
- Hintze Hall balconies
- Winchcombe meteorite in the Vault
- Images of Nature
- Museum's spirit collection
- Museum Shop
Natural History Museum Map
You don’t need to walk around the museum aimlessly during your visit. You can plan ahead and take directions from the Natural History Museum map. You can view the map here and either download it to your mobile or tablet or just open up the link, that way you can take a look at it at home and while you are exploring the museum.
The museum map lets you know where all the galleries are located and also includes the museum’s facilities, such as where toilets/accessible toilets are located, as well as lifts, restaurants, and baby changing rooms.
Food and drink at the Natural History Museum
It can get tiring exploring all the exhibits, but the Natural History Museum has lots of family-friendly eateries where you can relax. These cafes and restaurants serve a variety of freshly prepared food, so if you just want a bite to eat or more of a meal, you can find something that will curb your hunger.
T. rex Restaurant
Location: In the Green Zone
At the T. rex Restaurant, you can step back in time and dine with the dinosaurs at this popular family eatery.
You can enjoy stone-baked pizzas, salads ranging from Caesar salads to feta salads, toasted sandwiches, main meals such as grilled beef burgers, sweet potato and lentil burgers, kids’ meals and desserts at the restaurant.
You can see the full menu here.
Location: In the Blue Zone
If you want to take a quick break and want a hot drink and a bite to eat, then the Central Café is the perfect eatery to visit. You can enjoy a selection of sandwiches, salads, or feast on cakes, pastries and fruit and if you want to continue strolling around the museum you can get food to takeaway.
You can see the full menu here.
Location: In the Red Zone
Sandwiches, wraps, seasonal salads, cakes, pastries and muffins can all be bought here. It is a perfect place to eat with the grandchildren as there are special lunches for children and there are even activity packs which are handed out.
You can see the full menu here.
Darwin Centre Café
Location: In the Orange Zone
The Darwin Centre Café is the perfect place to head to if you want to refuel during your visit. You can choose from light bites such as sandwiches and salads as well as pastries, crisps, snacks and fruit.
Location: In the Green Zone
If you would prefer to bring your own food, there is a Picnic Area open on the lower ground floor.
Elfa, the blogger behind A Californian’s Life in London, said that her family used the picnic area when they visited the museum: “The Natural History Museum has three cafes and one restaurant, but there is also a picnic area in the basement. This is where we sat at a table with our packed lunch. I would like to tell you that we are such a thrifty family and are great at saving money. But before we left, we took the kids to the gift shop and let them go crazy buying dinosaur books and dinosaur toys. They didn’t even have to beg.”
Visiting the Natural History Museum as a grandparent
Hopefully, this grandparents’ guide to the Natural History Museum will help you to plan a trip with your grandchildren to this famous old attraction.
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