10 Things to Know About London’s Natural History Museum


    There’s no doubt that when it comes to museums, London has plenty of options to choose from – but one museum that should be on every visitor’s itinerary is the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. This beautiful museum is famous for its stunning architecture and dinosaurs exhibit, and here are a few things you might not know about it:

    1. It began as a collection by Sir Hans Sloane

    natural history museum sir hans sloane collections

    The origins of the Natural History Museum go back to 1753, when Sir Hans Sloane left his extensive collection to the nation. Originally, the items were housed in the British Museum, but by 1860, Sir Richard Owen had persuaded the government that a new building was needed.

    2. The building was designed by Alfred Waterhouse

    Alfred Waterhouse, The Graphic, 4 May 1878
    Image Credit:commons.wikimedia.org

    Competition was held to design the new museum and the winning entry was submitted by Captain Frances Fowke, a civil engineer who died shortly afterwards. So, the scheme was taken over by Alfred Waterhouse. He revised the plans significantly, adding the characteristic facades and ornate decorations that the building has become famous for. The original plans were also to include wings on either side of the main building, but these were cancelled for budgetary reasons. Today, that space is now occupied by the Earth Galleries and Darwin Centre.

    Must Read: Tube Stations Near the Natural History Museum

    3. It’s Been Called “A Cathedral to Science”

    The Natural History Museum may have had a humble beginning, but it has become an iconic part of London, thanks to its ever-expanding collection and stunning building. In fact, the Romanesque architecture is similar to the style often used in religious buildings, which has helped contribute to the nickname.

    4. The Gargoyles are Animals

    Unlike most gargoyles, which tend to be grotesques with predominantly human or mythological form, the gargoyles around the outside of the Natural History Museum are all intricately carved animals. If you look closely at the ornate details both inside and outside this beautiful building, you’ll find a variety of other animal carvings too.

    5. It’s Really, Really Big

    The museum’s collection includes more than 70 million botanical items, 55 million animal exhibits, nine million archaeological relics and 500,000 rocks and minerals. Around four million people visit the museum every year.

    6. The Dino at the Entrance has a Name

    Her name is Dippy and she’s a 26-metre long diplodocus skeleton, who has been greeting visitors in the main hall since the mid-1970s. The skeleton was cast from a specimen found in America and has been on display since 1905. The real Dippy is believed to have lived around 156-145 million years ago, but if you want to see this famous resident, you’ll need to act fast – she’s due to tour the UK in 2018 and while she’s gone, she’ll be replaced with a blue whale skeleton.

    7. There’s A Cup Made from A Human Skull

    Found in Gough’s cave in Somerset, this item is about 14,700 years old. It’s believed that the soft tissue was removed shortly after the person died and that it was used as a drinking vessel.

    8. There’s a lot that you don’t see

    With so many items in the museum’s collection, it’s not possible to put everything on display. So, there are several spaces behind the scenes where the rest of the specimens are stored. For example, there’s the Spirit Room, which contains hundreds of creatures preserved in liquids in jars or tanks. Some of these are hundreds of years old and others are much newer. One is a giant squid named Archie.

    9. It’s Located in Albertopolis

    Albert Hall Mansions - Albertopolis London England
    Albert Hall Mansions – Albertopolis London England

    Prince Albert was heavily involved in organising the Great Exhibition of 1851. Following the success of the exhibition, he advised that the profits should be used to purchase a swathe of land in what’s now known as South Kensington. The region was developed to include a number of large educational and cultural sites, including the Natural History Museum. Today, the region is sometimes referred to as Albertopolis, and also includes the Science Museum, the V&A, the Royal Albert Hall, the Albert Memorial and Imperial College London.

    10. Visitors Should Stay at the Park Grand Kensington

    If you’re looking for stylish hotels near the Natural History Museum in London, then the Park Grand London Kensington Hotel is an excellent option.

    This stylish boutique hotel caters to business travellers, as well as families and couples on city breaks, and we are committed to providing a comfortable and relaxing stay for all of our guests. Each room is well appointed, with a contemporary decor so you’ll feel right at home. Plus, our restaurant serves up a variety of delicious dishes throughout the day, so you won’t even have to go far if you’re feeling peckish.

    The hotel is also conveniently located just a two-minute walk from Earl’s Court Underground Station, making it easy to get to other locations in the capital. The Natural History Museum, for example, is just two stops away on the Circle and District line, meaning you could be at the museum in less than 20 minutes after leaving your room.