Day out in South London: Horniman Museum

There is something special as a parent taking your child to places you visited as a child. Experiencing it again, reliving memories and watching your child make discoveries that you made. When I was a child the nearest museum to us was a Victorian curiosity; Horniman museum in South London. It has long been on my list of things to do. Noo is now at the age where he really enjoys and is interested in visiting museums.

I went back to Hornimans to find it has a modern extension, rather lovely new cafe with an outdoor seating area. The room of preserved animals dominated by a slighted worn walrus was as I remember.

The walrus of my childhood.

I didn’t remember an aquarium, it’s small and that is reflected in the entrance cost a mere £2.50 for adults and £1.00 for children, while the museum itself is free. The aquarium has been designed from the perspective of children and has a mixture of brightly coloured fish and British coastline charms. One area fills and empties with water to replicate the tide and this seemed to be a particular draw for children.

We loved the display of musical instruments, the collection is the biggest in Europe. There are drums to bang and unusual instruments to strum. I do admit that my enthusiasm for this waned very swiftly as a small room with small children “playing” various instruments with the gusto only small children have to untuned random noise and I had to leave.

The museum has characters in Victorian dress who wander the corridors to capture the imagination of children. Various temporary exhibitions come and go when we visited; “The body adorned. Dressing London” was a more adult experience, with a mixture urban street photograph and traditional dress, I would think it would be interesting to many style conscious teenagers.

We really recommend the Hand on Base room, full of things to touch and try, the rules simple: “sensible in the room but not too sensible.” Stuffed animals out from glass cases to touch with little fingers. We loved the fox and his great bushy tail. Various dressing up clothes and masks. More music instruments to try. An array of objects all accessible in plastic boxes or on shelves. Just ask staff and they will pass the object down to the child and explain more about it. Proper hands on experience.

If the weather is good stroll the extensive gardens and across the road a nice park “Hornimans Triangle” with a little cafe selling teas, coffees and homemade cakes. When you’ve had enough of the enclosed space of a museum but aren’t quite ready to go home there is plenty to do outside. 
A gem in South East London. I would really recommend a visit.

Hornimans Triangle. Park & sand pit.

Parents, where from your childhood would you take your children?


  1. Asturian Diary

    How lovely. It really is a joy visiting these kind of places with littlies. I now have a new-found appreciation of all the quirky little museums as well as fab parks that are funded/subsidised publicly and make such great days out.

  2. Notmyyearoff

    It looks really good and great that kids can actually touch stuff. We went to Beatrix Potter world the other day and you’re not allowed to touch anything which I can understand but is a bit disappointing.

  3. Grenglish (@smudgerella)

    The Horniman is right on my doorstep and I spent many a day on maternity leave walking the gardens, visiting the aquarium etc. Such a great place and we are really lucky to have it right next to us. Have an annual family pass now too! Z loves the instruments you can play outside in the grounds. I’m glad you had such a great day 🙂

  4. Claire

    LOVE the Horniman! I live down the road and it’s our rainy-day go-to. Even four years of crap weather haven’t depleted my love for it, or my gratitude that it’s there! The aquarium is adored by kids of all ages, the music room is a revelation (it took me about 3.5 years to realise it was there, think it was some sort of self-preservation stopping me from going in!), and the shop is brilliant! Have to drag the kids out. It’s great to publicise these sort of places because they can be lifesavers. Thank you!

  5. HPMcQ

    the hornimans is fab, don’t live too far from there. aren’t the jelly fish fab? also that park over the road is pretty damn good too!
    give us a shout next time your south london way i’ll take you to my friends coffee shop just round the corner from the museum which is fabulous x

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