It is one of three major museums on Exhibition Road in South Kensington (map), the others being the Science Museum (map) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (map). The Natural History Museum’s main frontage, however, is on Cromwell Road.
Given the age of the institution, many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Charles Darwin.
The museum is particularly famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons and ornate architecture—sometimes dubbed a cathedral of nature—both exemplified by the large Diplodocus cast that dominated the vaulted central hall before it was replaced in 2017 with the skeleton of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling.
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The museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology.
The Natural History Museum Library contains extensive books, journals, manuscripts, and artwork collections linked to the work and research of the scientific departments; access to the library is by appointment only. The museum is recognised as the pre-eminent centre of natural history and research of related fields in the world.
Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Natural History Museum does not charge an admission fee.
The museum is divided into four sets of galleries, or zones, each colour coded to follow a broad theme.
Red Zone. This is the zone that can be entered from Exhibition Road, on the East side of the building. It is a gallery themed around the changing history of the Earth.
Green zone. This zone is accessed from the Cromwell Road entrance via the Hintze Hall and follows the theme of the evolution of the planet.
Blue zone. To the left of the Hintze Hall, this zone explores the diversity of life on the planet.
Orange zone. Enables the public to see science at work and also provides spaces for relaxation and contemplation. Accessible from Queens Gate.
The closest London Underground station is South Kensington (map) — there is a tunnel from the station that emerges close to the entrances of all three museums. Admission is free, though there are donation boxes in the foyer.
Museum Lane (map) immediately to the north provides disabled access to the museum.