The most well-trodden path in the Natural History Museum is the one that takes you straight to the dinosaur remains. However, the excitement starts way before you reach the huge queue of T-Rex-hungry eight-year-olds. Merely walking onto the grounds of the largest natural history collection in the world is a spectacular affair. The museum itself is housed in one of Britain’s most breathtaking examples of Romanesque architecture. Walk into the museum through the huge Waterhouse-designed façade and you will have already encountered a plethora of animals, fossils and flora embellishing the architecture of the building and surrounding gateposts. The magnificent Central Hall in the heart of the Museum is adorned with ceiling panels decorated with plants from every corner of the globe—a work of art in its own right. Even if taxidermy specimens and skeletal remains are not your cup of tea, the Natural History Museum is worth a visit just to bask in the grandeur of the building.
Most visitors are too busy ogling at the vast collection of over 70 million specimens held by the Museum to notice the building itself. If you manage to see the 55 million animals, nine million fossils, six million plant specimen and 3,200 meteorites owned by the Museum during your visit, then there would barely be time left to draw breath, let alone revel in the splendour of your surroundings. Besides the irresistible pull of the dinosaur galley, other must-see collection highlights include remnants of the hapless dodo, a full-size blue whale skeleton and examples of meteorites from Mars.
For the more studious visitors, the Museum houses an extensive library with the world’s largest collection of natural history materials including books, periodicals, original drawings, paintings, prints, manuscripts and maps. The Museum also runs a programme of contemporary art commissions, and each year hosts the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. For the duration of the Wildlife Photographer show, the Museum stays open late on a Friday evening, offering one of South Kensington’s most wondrous evenings of drink, tapas and mood music—all under the watchful eye of the Diplodocus skeleton.