United Kingdom

Cromwell Road

Phone: +44 (0)20 7942 5000

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum first opened its doors to the public on Easter Monday in 1881, but its origins go back more than 250 years.
It all started when physician and collector of natural curiosities, Sir Hans Sloane, left his extensive collection to the nation in 1753.
Originally Sloane’s specimens formed part of the British Museum, but as other collections were added, including specimens collected by botanist Joseph Banks on his 1768-1771 voyage with Captain James Cook aboard HMS Endeavour, the natural history elements started to need their own home.

Sir Richard Owen, Superintendent of the British Museum’s natural history collection, persuaded the Government that a new museum was needed. He had an ambitious plan – to display species in related groups and to exhibit typical specimens with prominent qualities.
The chosen site in South Kensington was previously occupied by the 1862 International Exhibition building, once described as ‘the ugliest building in London’. Ironically, it was the architect of that building, Captain Francis Fowke, who won the design competition for the new Natural History Museum.
However, in 1865 Fowke died suddenly and the contract was awarded instead to a rising young architect from Manchester, Alfred Waterhouse.
Waterhouse altered Fowke’s design from Renaissance to German Romanesque, creating the beautiful Waterhouse Building we know today. By 1883 the mineralology and natural history collections were in their new home. But the collections were not finally declared a museum in their own right until 1963.

Permanent Collection

With more than 70 million specimens , ranging from microscopic slides to mammoth skeletons, the Museum is home to the largest and most important natural history collection in the world.
It all started with Sir Hans Sloane, an 18th century collector, whose collection of 80,000 items was brought by the nation. Over the years, voyages of discovery, such as Cook's epic journey aboard the HMS Endeavour, have boosted our collections. Many benefactors have also made contributions.
The scope of our specimens is simply vast. They include material from the ill-fated dodo, meteorites from Mars and a full-size blue whale skeleton . They cover almost all groups of animals, plants, minerals and fossils, and range in size from cells on slides to whole animals preserved in alcohol.
In total, there are:
55 million animals, including 28 million insects
nine million fossils
six million plant specimens
more than 500,000 rocks and minerals
3,200 meteorites in our collections
We also have the world's finest natural history library , with the largest collection of natural history library materials in the world including books, periodicals, original drawings, paintings and prints, manuscripts and maps.


Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year
The Shell Wildlife Photographer aims to find the best wildlife pictures taken by photographers worldwide of all ages.
From vivid, colourful landscapes to intimate animal portraits, the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition offers an extraordinary insight into the beauty, drama and diversity of the natural world.

The exhibition features the most creative images from the annual competition, the most prestigious event of its kind in the world.

Open all day

Dino Jaws
Come face to face with ten of the most lifelike moving dinosaurs ever created, in our spectacular new family blockbuster.
Open all day

Exhibitions (3)

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Forthcoming exhibitions

Ice Station Antartica

25 May 2007 - 6 April 2008
Do you have what it takes to survive the coldest, windiest and most remote place on Earth?
Ice Station Antarctica is looking for ice cadets willing to brave freezing temperatures, 24-hour darkness, a scary snowmobile ride and life in a stinking penguin colony.
Are you up for the challenge?
Visit the exhibition to find out.
Under the guidance of the Base Commander , you'll get to grips with a variety of exciting Antarctic challenges, from coping in sub-zero temperatures and riding a snowmobile to collecting ice cores.
You'll meet Antarctica wildlife, experience some of the extreme nature of the continent and explore the skills it takes to work in, and care for, this frozen frontier.
This family exhibition has been put together in partnership with the British Antarctic Survey and is one of the highlights of International Polar Year.


Free to all. Terracotta Tour costs £3.50.

Opening hours

Monday to Sunday 10:00 - 17:50
The Museum is open every day except 24-26 December. Last admission is at 17:30.

Getting there

There are many ways to reach us:
By tube We are within walking distance of South Kensington station on the District, Circle and Piccadilly lines
By bus Routes 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414 and C1 stop near us. Some tour buses also pass nearby
By bicycle There are cycle parking facilities at the Cromwell Road entrance, on the east lawn next to the Garden Kiosk
By coach Victoria Coach Station is within walking distance of Victoria train and tube station on the Circle or District lines. For groups travelling by coach, there is a coach drop-off point outside the Cromwell Road entrance
By car Driving to the Museum is not easy and parking is expensive, there is limited meter parking on Exhibition Road
Use the Cromwell Road entrance for dinosaurs, creepy-crawlies and the blue whale.
Use the Exhibition Road entrance for volcanoes, earthquakes and our giant Earth model.
The Cromwell Road entrance has steps. The Exhibition Road entrance is step-free.


We aim to provide a friendly, accessible environment for all our visitors and the widest possible access to our buildings, exhibitions and collections.
Everything you need to know if you’re visiting with children, from babycare facilities to pushchair access, is in our Parents' survival guide on our main website.

If you have a question or comment about access, please call the information desk on +44 (0)20 7942 5011

To answer all your questions, there are information desks with friendly staff around the Museum. For more information you can also buy a souvenir guide .

Can be found throughout the Museum and are clearly marked on your free map.

Cash machines
Are located by the Cromwell Road entrance and in the toilet lobby off the Central Hall .

Can be found by the entrance to the Cromwell Road entrance, in the Central Hall toilet lobby and by the Exhibition Road entrance.

Meeting point
The meeting point is in the Central Hall, just under the tail of the Diplodocus skeleton .

Avoiding busy times
You can avoid busy times by visiting on weekdays outside school holidays. Mornings are also often less busy. The Exhibition Road entrance is the quietest.

You can take photographs and videos for personal use in the Museum.

First aid
For first aid, please go to the nearest information desk or find the nearest member of staff: look for the red uniform and name badge.

Emergency evacuation
If you have particular needs in the event of an emergency evacuation, please let us know when you arrive.

If you’d like to share your thoughts and comments about your trip to the Museum, pleas...+ [ Read all ]

Museum internal and external photos (3)

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News and events

For a calendar of daily events please see,


A visit to the Museum is a great way for teachers to find stimulation for lessons, add a new twist to a project or encourage pupils to try something completely new.
Our school programme offers inspirational materials for all ages and abilities. It taps into our unique collection of more than 70 million treasures from the natural world, supported by unparalleled, world-class scientific expertise.
We love sharing our knowledge, so why not book a visit? For more information please see,


The Natural History Museum is an international leader in the scientific study of the natural world. Our science describes the present diversity of nature, promotes understanding of the critical importance of its past, and develops knowledge that supports anticipation and management of the impact of human activity on the environment.