Time for another edition of my London Favourites. I know this is my third museum in a row, but we seem to live in museums in the winter. I’m from California (in case you hadn’t noticed), and I am not one of those ‘wading in the mud’ type of mums. The Horniman is another one of those fab free museums that London has to offer. Though small, it is perfectly formed.
We spent many years living in Streatham Hill, which is in South West London, close to Balham on one side and Herne Hill and West Dulwich on the other side. When Moozles was little, and before Dubz was born, we used to often visit the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill as it was only a 10-15 minute drive away. We now live a 40-minute drive away, so last weekend we took the opportunity to re-visit the Horniman while meeting up with friends who live in Nunhead.
The Horniman has improved so much in the three years since our last visit. There is still the fab display of natural history, which includes taxidermy and skeletons. Dubz especially loved the big walrus, the badgers and the owls. Moozles had to cuddle me as she was terrified when she saw the spiders.
The Horniman has a great little aquarium in its basement. I remember taking Moozles many times when she was little. This was the first visit for Dubz, and he loved seeing the jellyfish and the other fish displays. But his favourite part was the coral display. This is the only part of the museum that you have to pay for – a family ticket costs £7.50. But if you live nearby, I would recommend becoming a Horniman Member. For £24 you get unlimited visit to the aquarium and 10% off at the gift shop. I was super thrifty and avoided the gift shop during this visit, as regular readers know that I tend to let the kids go crazy in a museum gift shop.
The other permanent displays include an amazing music collection of over 1300 instruments. Over 40 of those instruments are on loan from the V&A Museum. There is also a ‘Hands on’ section where adults and children can try out the instruments. There is a ‘Hands on Base’ where you can touch and wear various items from the collections, including Mexican masks. Sadly we did not have time to do this, but we are hoping to visit again in the spring/summer.
We did have time to enjoy the museum’s cafe. If the cafe is full, there is a lovely glass conservatory just outside the cafe (but you have to order and get your food from the main cafe). The kids had lunch and the grown-ups had teas and coffees. And when the kids had cupcakes after lunch, I sampled the carrot cake as I thought it important to know whether the cakes were edible. heehee And it was delicious!
The Horniman has an amazing outside space. There are 16 acres to be exact. The gardens are lovely, and include a few outdoor musical instruments.
Husband The kids really enjoyed making some music. We had to drag Dubz away as he really enjoyed banging some tunes out. It’s such a nice outdoor space, that I wish we had gone on a warmer day for a picnic (there are toilets and baby-changing facilities in the garden so that you don’t have to go into the museum). On Saturdays they also have a local farmers’ market, from 9am-1.30pm, so you can bet that our next visit will be on a Saturday.
In 2013, The Horniman added a small petting zoo to their outside space, which they call their ‘Animal Walk’. We got to get quite close to the animals, which included some alpacas and the biggest rabbit I have ever seen. It is open from 12.30pm-4,30pm.
The Horniman is open everyday from 10.30am-5.30pm. It gets quite busy on the weekends (especially on rainy days), but you can normally park nearby (free street parking). During the week, the museum offers various free activity sessions for children under five. It’s not only a great (and free) family outing, but it is a good place to meet up for Londoners across the south and east.