Gone are the days of the stuffy and staid museum stuffed with dust-covered specimens. London's Natural History Museum is a stellar example of how to bring science and research to life in an interesting and interactive manner. From the moment you enter, expect a journey into the wonders of the world and beyond.
The numerous exhibits are certainly exhaustive in this Victorian-era museum where the origins of the collections date back to 1753. The current German Romanesque-style Waterhouse building opened in 1881 and was joined by the former Geological Museum in 1985 and the Darwin Centre in 2009. With more than 70 million specimens, ranging from the microscopic to the mammoth, the Natural History Museum is the largest and most important natural history collection in the world. The massive site is divided into four zones: Blue (life on Earth), Green (evolution and the environment), Orange (Darwin Centre and Wildlife Garden) and Red (Earth).
Highlights of the carefully curated and comprehensive collection include the Triceratops skeleton and a terrifying animatronic T.Rex that 'stalks' its human prey in the world-famous Dinosaur gallery, while the Power Within gallery (set to reopen in autumn 2013) houses an earthquake simulator and volcano room. The new Cadogan permanent gallery contains the Broken Hill skull and other extraordinary treasures. For the wow factor, don't miss the real-life gems in the Vault gallery, which includes famous diamonds as well as crystals, precious metals and meteorites. For sheer curiosity's sake, go behind the scenes and marvel at the 22 million exhibits contained in alcohol-filled jars during the 30-minute Spirit Collection Tour in the research-driven Darwin Centre.
With so much to see and do, you could easily spend an entire day here and still not get around to viewing everything. Entry to the Natural History Museum is free except for temporary exhibitions. To guarantee entry to the Dinosaur gallery, it's recommended to book free advance tickets. To visit, the closest Tube station is South Kensington and from here, it's a three-minute walk down Pelham Street and onto Cromwell Place and Cromwell Road.