The Horniman Museum and Gardens is a brilliant London museum located in Forest Hill, South East London. The Horniman Museum is free to visit and features a natural history gallery with a large collection of taxidermy, a musical instrument gallery and fantastic gardens with an animal walk and musical play area. Discover more about this hidden gem in London and what to expect when visiting the Horniman Museum and Gardens with kids.
Horniman Museum and Gardens with Kids
The Horniman Museum is a fantastic museum, popular with local families and baby and toddler groups. Since it is a small museum that is easy to walk around and explore, the Horniman is one of our favourite London museums for toddlers and pre-schoolers. The Horniman also regularly runs special family-friendly events and exhibitions throughout the year and hosts a Farmer’s Market in the Gardens every Sunday.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens is open daily except for Wednesdays. Read on for more highlights of visiting the Horniman Museum with kids.
Natural History Gallery
One of the best things to do when visiting the Horniman Museum and Gardens with kids is exploring its fascinating Natural History Gallery. Most of the specimens, including the famous taxidermy mount of a walrus, were collected more than 100 years ago during the Victorian and Edwardian periods.
The Natural History Gallery at Horniman Museum London is split into two levels. The displays on the ground floor – packed with a large collection of taxidermy, skeletons and specimens preserved in fluid – cover evolution and adaptation in the natural world.
Many of the original showcases remain the same from when the Natural History Gallery first opened in 1901.
On the first floor, you will find a geological timeline of mostly British fossils, as well as the start of a display about classification in the animal kingdom. Also on the balcony, you can find the Apostle Clock and a children’s reading space.
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There are a number of family-friendly hands-on displays and exhibitions throughout the museum, with one of the best areas for children being the Nature Base next to the Natural History Gallery.
There is a special hive in the Nature Base at Horniman Museum where visitors can see hundreds of live honey bees busy at work. Families will also enjoy using the microscopes to look up close at the wings of insects and listen to the calls that animals make at night.
The World Gallery at the Horniman Museum displays more than 3,000 objects from their internationally-important anthropology collection. This fascinating gallery celebrates human creativity, imagination and adaptability.
Different encounters at the Horniman World Gallery present examples of ways of living from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania and Europe.
Visitors can get hands-on by touching an intricately tooled Tuareg metalwork, arctic seal and reindeer skin, smelling aromatic herbs used by Bhutanese ritual healers in the Himalayas, listen to epic First Nations’ stories from the Pacific Northwest Coast and play in a Lagos market stall.
Another excellent and interactive gallery at the Horniman is the Music Gallery, which has more than 1,300 objects from the museum’s internationally-renowned collection of musical instruments from around the world on display. The Music Gallery at the Horniman Museum features the largest number of musical instruments on display in the United Kingdom.
One of the best things to do at Horniman Museum with kids is to visit the aquarium. Visitors will enjoy an up close look at 15 exhibits that showcase aquatic environments from around the globe, ranging from the British pond to Fijian coral reefs.
All visitors, including Members, must buy their Aquarium tickets in advance online. Tickets cost £4.50 for adults and £2.50 for children. Under 3s enter free but must also be booked on the timeslot ticket. Tickets for the Aquarium include free admission to the Museum. Read more and book tickets to the Horniman Museum Aquarium
Visiting the Butterfly House is another great thing to do when visiting the Horniman Museum and Gardens with kids. There are hundreds of stunning butterflies to see in the Butterfly House’s tropical indoor garden. Entry to the Butterfly House is by timed ticket (15 minutes), as there is limited capacity inside.
Tickets for the Butterfly House are separate to those for the Museum, and you do not need an entry ticket to the Museum to purchase a ticket for the Butterfly House. Tickets cost £6 for adults and £6 for children. Under 3s enter free but must also be booked on the timeslot ticket. Read more and book tickets to the Horniman Museum Butterfly House
Horniman Museum Gardens
The gardens at the Horniman Museum also offer plenty of things for children to see and do. Highlights of the Horniman Museum gardens include a Nature Trail, a Sound Garden inspired by the museum’s collection of instruments and an Animal Walk where you can see alpacas, sheep, goats and more.
There are several large-scale instruments at the Sound Garden inspired by the Horniman’s musical instruments collection: the Spiral Scraper, Bat Pipes, Xylophone Wall, Drainpipe Drums and Chime Run.
The Sound Garden instruments have been designed to play with family and friends. It’s a wonderful place to visit with children after exploring the museum.
Another great thing to do when visiting Horniman Museum and Gardens with kids is to go on the Animal Walk, which is home to goats, sheep, guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens and alpacas. It’s a short walk-through but lovely for young children especially to have an up close look at the animals.
The Animal Walk at Horniman Museum and Gardens is open daily from 12.30pm to 4pm, and you do not need a ticket to enter.
Near the Sound Garden, you will see the Horniman Bandstand, which was built in 1903 and offers a view of London. In the photo of below, you can just about see the Shard and the City of London in the distance. The surrounding terrace at the Bandstand also provides a large picnic area with stunning views.
One more interesting building to see when visiting Horniman Museum and Gardens is the Grade II listed Victorian Conservatory that is next to (and sometimes used by) the Horniman Café. The Conservatory was originally built at the home of Frederick Horniman’s parents at Coombe Cliffe, Croydon, in 1894.
After some time of falling into disrepair, in 1982, the Conservatory was dismantled and moved to its current site where it was restored with the help of English Heritage. The Conservatory at Horniman Museum was re-opened in 1989 and is used for performances and special event hires.
What’s On at Horniman Museum & Gardens
Horniman Museum and Gardens regularly runs family activities and events during the school holidays. Find what’s coming up to help plan your next day out at Horniman Museum.
Brick Dinos at the Horniman Museum
10 February – 29 October 2023
Step back in time with Brick Dinos, the new family-friendly exhibition at the Horniman Museum and Gardens. See dinosaurs and other prehistoric giants – including the raptor-like Masiakasaurus and a life-sized flying pterosaur – recreated in miniature form by artist Warren Elsmore and his team.
The Brick Dinos exhibition will also feature rarely seen specimens from the Horniman’s stores, and a range of hands-on activities for children to enjoy including build your own dinosaur and digging for fossils.
Tickets cost £9 for adults, £4.50 for children. Free for under 3s.
Book exhibition tickets at the Horniman Museum
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Spring Fair at the Horniman Museum and Gardens
8 April 2023
Join in with seasonal fun and games at the annual Horniman Spring Fair this Easter. There will be live music, free make and take workshops, bubble performances, an Easter bonnet parade, dance workshops, face painting and much more.
Family games include eco versions of giant Twister and Snakes and Ladders and UrbanCrazy Mini Golf (additional fee – £7 per adult, £4.50 per child).
Book tickets for the Spring Fair at the Horniman Museum
Horniman Museum Information
Address: 100 London Rd, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ
Opening Times: The Museum is open from 10am – 5.30pm daily except Wednesdays
Tickets: Admission is free, however, you do need to book a ticket to enter the Museum. The Gardens are unticketed. There is a charge for the Aquarium [£4.50 for adults and £2.50 for children, under 3s go free], Butterfly House [£6 for adults and children; under 3’s go free], and some exhibitions and events.
Book your tickets in advance at the Horniman Museum and Gardens
Pin for Later – Horniman Museum and Gardens with Kids
This post was updated on 26 March 2023 with up-to-date visitor information and details of what’s on at Horniman Museum and Gardens during the Easter 2023 school holidays.