Interior perspective of domed building of Horniman Natural History Gallery.

  • The Horniman Museum is open to the public; however, due to the government guidelines relating to COVID-19 safety, some of the facilities may not be open at this time.
  • Immerse yourself in nature by visiting the gardens and all the magical outdoor sights to see.
  • The amazing temporary and permanent exhibitions make this one of the best museums in London for families.
  • Delight the kids with an afternoon at the Butterfly House for some mini-beast magic.
  • Keep an eye out for fun free events at the Horniman Museum, including the classic Sunday market.


First opened in 1890 by British Colonialist Fredrick Horniman, the Horniman Museum was built with the intention of bringing the world to Forest Hill. If you're looking for some free exhibitions in London that will delight the whole family, this is a top location for a great day out. From interesting displays, gorgeous open gardens and the iconic Butterfly House, a day spent here will be full of education and fun.

There are so many fun displays at the Horniman Museum, both temporary and permanent. Learn about what life is like and experience different cultures in the World Gallery, focusing on contemporary issues like climate change and migration and how they affect people from different places in the world, telling stories through sentimental objects and films.

Other free, permanent exhibitions include the Natural History Gallery, with fossils and taxidermy the children can track the development of species throughout time and see the effects of evolution.

For the musically inclined, the Horniman Museum's Music Gallery is the place to go. A stunning display of over 1,300 different objects that tell the musical history, traditions and culture of many different countries across the world

For visitors with a keen interest in history, the unique exhibition called Horniman's Vision tells the personal story of the man behind the museum and the events of how the museum came to be, from the year 1851 to present day. With paintings and exclusive items from his collection, this unique display has lots of things to discover

Relax and explore the 16-acre landscape of the Horniman Gardens; kids will love discovering the different areas and all the fun features dotted around the grounds. From the Grasslands that are filled with stunning colourful flowers, to the Sunken and Display Gardens with gorgeous botanical displays, you can spend the whole day looking around the wildlife with the family. The kids will especially enjoy the Animal Walk found at the top of the Gardens where visitors can make some new furry friends. Here you can meet llamas and bunnies and many more cute animals that the children will love to interact with. Other fun outdoor areas in the Gardens include; the Bee Garden, the Sound Garden, the Prehistoric Garden and more.

Image © Horniman Gallery.

Let your kids feel like Disney royalty for the afternoon with a visit to the Horniman Museum's Butterfly House. This is an unmissable activity that allows visitors to walk amongst free-flying butterflies, learn about their life cycle and even get a chance to hold these delicate creatures. This is a brilliant opportunity for children to connect with nature and create some amazing family memories. 

The Horniman Museum holds a number of educational events such as walks, tours and guest speaker-led talks. One of the main recurring events is the Horniman Market; every Sunday local traders and farmers set up stalls in the Gardens for the public to see their wares. Supporting local businesses and having a picnic in a stunning natural area with the family, what could be a better Sunday afternoon activity?

What to know before you go

  • Some facilities may not be open to the public due to COVID-19 complications. The Horniman Museum also requests that visitors book a free ticket online before visiting and wear masks for the duration of their time at the museum indoors.
  • Most of the exhibitions are free of cost; however, some activities and temporary displays are ticketed at a small price.
  • The Horniman Café is located inside the museum grounds. Open from 10am - 5.30pm they have a comprehensive menu that includes vegan and gluten-free options. There are also Café Kiosks throughout the Gardens that sell snacks and drinks. Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic to eat in the designated areas in the Gardens.
  • At the Horniman Gift Shop visitors can purchase interesting books and unique souvenirs. There is also a shop at the Butterfly House that sells plants and garden accessories, among other things.
  • There are toilets, including wheelchair accessible toilets, and baby-changing facilities available for visitors to use.
  • The Horniman Museums and Gardens are fully wheelchair accessible with lifts giving access to all the exhibitions. There is also a wheelchair renting scheme within the museum.

How to get there

  • The Horniman Museum is located in Forest Hill, about seven miles from central London.
  • The closest train station is Forest Hill Station; just a 10-minute walk from the museum.
  • Bus routes 122, 176, 197, 356 and 363 all stop near the museum.
  • Please follow the latest government guidelines if travelling by public transport.
  • Accessible parking is available for blue badge holders on-site, other visitors are requested to park in the pay and display areas outside of the grounds.

Images © Horniman Gallery.

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