Horniman Museum and Gardens review

Our rating 
4.6 out of 5 star rating 4.6
User rating
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In a nutshell

A family-friendly museum with lovely gardens and plenty more. This London gem is a great day out for all ages
Fun for kids
4.5 out of 5 rating 4.5
Fun for parents
4.5 out of 5 rating 4.5
Worth the money
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Facilities
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Family friendliness
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Pros: A brilliant place to spend the day with kids, can be a totally free day out
Cons: The butterfly dome is an expensive add-on, and is quite small

COVID-19 safety update

Some facilities and attractions may be closed or restricted this year, due to COVID-19 – and there may be extra safety rules, pre-booking requirements or one-way systems in place. Please check Horniman Musuem’s website before travelling or booking.

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When we visited:

We visited from 11am until about 3:30pm during the May half-term

What’s Horniman Museum and Gardens like since Covid-19?

  • To control capacity and ensure social distancing in the Museum, all visitors, including Members, are required to book a free ticket in advance for admission to the Museum. Visitors cannot be admitted to the Museum without a valid ticket
  • Tickets allow entry at any time during a 15 minute time slot. There are no restrictions on how long visitors can stay in the Museum
  • When guests visit the Museum, Butterfly House or Cafe they can check-in to the NHS app using the QR codes onsite
  • Hand sanitiser stations will be located throughout the Museum, and additional cleaning of doors and touch points will take place regularly throughout the day
  • Extra staff will be on hand in the Museum. Staff will wear face coverings and are available for the usual help and assistance
  • Visitors are encouraged to use contactless methods of payment where possible in the Shop and Cafe.
  • Visitors are asked to follow social distancing advice throughout your visit, including when speaking to staff

What age is The Horniman Museum and Gardens best for:

Best for: Children aged 2 to 11 years

Still good fun for: Babies and children aged 12+ years

How much does it cost?

  • The museum and gardens and nature trail are free
  • Paid-for exhibitions and attractions include an aquarium and a butterfly dome
  • A family pass is £36, which includes the Butterfly House, Aquarium and the current exhibition
  • You don’t need to buy entry to everything­ e.g. the aquarium is £10 for a family of 4

Any extra charges once I’m there?

That’s entirely up to up – you can easily make it a free day out by skipping the paid-for exhibitions and bringing a picnic. But some paid for add-ons are not too expensive and worth it. One bonus is that it’s very easy to avoid the gift shop!

How long will we spend at The Horniman Museum and Gardens?

It’s a full day out that’ll leave your kids keen to explore further on a repeat visit. There is so much to do and see.

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What’s the Horniman Museum and Gardens like for families?

The Horniman Museum is in Forest Hill, south London, and it’s excellent for families. It’s famous for its huge display of taxidermy animals and its landscaped gardens. There’s also an aquarium, a butterfly dome, a collection of around 1500 musical instruments, and a permanent gallery dedicated to African, Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian art. The museum’s grounds are also home to a beehive and a small animal enclosure.

What shouldn’t be missed?

Highlights for us were:

  • The museum is surrounded by beautiful gardens with views over London – kids will love the nature trail
  • There is a small animal enclosure which houses (live!) bunnies and alpacas
  • Look out for the market on Saturdays
  • Over the school holidays and weekends, there are a range of hands-on activities for children
  • It’s free to walk around the natural history part of the museum – the taxidermy animals and the history of musical instrument – and the gardens
  • The (paid-for) aquarium is small and doesn’t take long to walk around, but has a magical jellyfish display and some rather beautiful poisonous frogs. There is plenty of room to push a buggy around it, too
  • The natural history part of the museum is full of taxidermy animals, including a famous giant walrus

“Our girls – aged 3 and 4 – absolutely loved looking at all the taxidermy animals inside, and it was so nice to find somewhere with indoor attractions mixed with plenty of outdoor space so they could run around after lunch.” Mum of 2, Christy

  • There’s a musical history section with a huge number of instruments on display. It’s interactive, with tables where you can “play” the instruments.

Was it pushchair friendly?

There is plenty of space for buggies here, and it was very easy to manoeuvre one round. But equally there is a buggy and scooter park if you don’t want to take them around the museum. There are also lockers that you can store your bags in if you don’t want to carry them.

What you need to know before you go:

  • It’s busy during half-term, but not offputtingly so
  • Pre-booking is the same price as paying on the day, but you might want to do that to avoid queueing for tickets
  • You do need to book a timeslot in advance for the butterfly dome, so don’t just wander up there and expect to get in (this happened to someone while we were there, they were turned away and left disappointed)
  • The butterfly dome is the most expensive add-on, and is quite small. I don’t think you’ll have missed much if you skip this part
  • Bring along a magnifying glass for the nature trail
  • I had to explain what taxidermy was to my 4 year old before I arrived!
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Food and drink at The Horniman Museum and Gardens:

There’s a pretty good cafe onsite, selling sandwiches and hot food at reasonable prices. I had a hummus and roasted veg baked potato, which was great; but my kids’ pasta looked a little sad.

Even during half-term, the queues aren’t that bad. There is lots of seating, so you should be able to sit down. As I am not always organised enough to get a picnic together when I go on a daytrip, it’s always a bonus for me to find a good spot to eat – and I’m a coeliac and a vegetarian, so the most awkward customer! It had a few decent gluten free, veggie and vegan options. There’s also a stand selling ice creams.

Can you take a picnic?

There’s lots of space to sit down outside and the grounds are so lovely that, if it’s a sunny day, you’d probably enjoy taking a picnic more.

What are the toilets like?

Plenty of them, with baby change facilities. The museum is really geared up for families.

How well does the Horniman Museum cater for disabled visitors?

  • There would be plenty of room for a wheelchair to get around
  • Wheelchairs can be borrowed, free of charge, from the ticket desk
  • There are lifts to every floor
  • For more information visit the Horniman’s website

Opening dates and times:

The Horniman Museum and Gardens is open daily from 10:30-5:30pm, apart from 24-26 December

Best time to visit:

The museum is busiest on Saturday 11am-4pm, and quieter on Tuesday and Thursday all day

Worth a long car journey?

Yes! It is a 40-minute trip on the London Overground for me, and is totally worth it. If you like natural history, then it is definitely a great day-trip out.

How to get to The Horniman Museum and Gardens:

The Horniman is located in Forest Hill, south London

  • It’s a short walk from Forest Hill station, which is on the London Overground
  • Several buses stop outside the museum
  • If you’re driving, there isn’t any parking at the museum, but the roads nearby have the usual London restrictions (free parking on Sundays)
  • A pay-and-display car park is available nearby, behind Sainsbury’s
  • The postcode for your SatNav is SE23 3PQ

Which hotels or holiday accommodation are near The Horniman?

Being in south London means there are plenty of family-friendly accommodation choices, including:

Nearby attractions for a longer day out:

The National Maritime Museum and Cutty Sark are a 20-minute drive from the Horniman. Head into the centre of London for a huge number of attractions, from Madame Tussauds to Kew Gardens and the Tower Bridge Exhibition.

MFM verdict:

We loved it. It’s a brilliant way to spend a day. Not only is it hugely enjoyable for children, but it is also great for adults – so you won’t be bored!

Visit The Horniman Museum and Gardens website

See more reviews of The Horniman Museum and Gardens on TripAdvisor

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Intro to you:

I have 2 children: Theo aged 4, and Sammy aged 19 months