Thursday, 8 August 2013

Free Day Out: Natural History Museum

We are lucky to have so many fantastic free attractions in our capital city. One of my favourites is the Natural History Museum which I have very fond childhood memories of, but is somehow even better as an adult. Here are my thoughts on a day at the Natural History Museum to help you plan your visit.

The first thing you see when you walk in is 'Dippy' the dinosaur, who is housed in the most amazing entrance hall:

Entrance Hall

The museum is then divided into colour zones- red (changing planet), green (earth), blue (mammals and dinosaurs) and orange (Darwin Centre). We tried to see as much as possible, but you'd need a full day there to see everything. The museum is open Monday to Sunday 10.00-17.50, which should give you plenty of time to do just that!

It was quite busy when we went, which I guess is to be expected on a Saturday in the school holidays! The dinosaurs gallery (blue zone) was particularly crowded, but you can book in advance to beat the queues or try and go on a weekday when it's a bit quieter.


Whilst the red zone is still impressive, the 'Power Within' gallery which houses the impressive earthquake simulator is closed until January 2014 and this month the 'Vision of Earth' gallery is also closed, so don't go expecting to see any of these. You can use the time saved to hang out with the mammals for a while longer in the blue zone and admire the life size model of a blue whale, whose sheer enormity never ceases to amaze me.

When you start to get hungry, I'd recommend sitting in the Wildlife Garden (orange zone) to eat lunch whilst admiring the 'cocoon' architecture of the new building. From there you're well placed to explored the Darwin Centre and, if your legs start to get tired, to take in a short film in the new Attenborough Studio.

Then it's time to admire the wildlife exhibits in the green zone before re-energising in the Central Hall Cafe, which is in a beautiful room with high ceilings. Finally, head outside to admire the 'Sensational Butterflies' temporary exhibit (tickets can be booked in advance here).

Central Hall Cafe

For other great free days out in London, I've been using the Visit London app on my iPad. Visit London allows you to filter all attractions to show free days out and to shortlist your favourite places to go. The app and website are kept up to date with daily events as well as details of hotels, parks, museums, exhibitions, stadiums, river cruises etc.

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