Where can you go to see almost every well known animal, surrounded by remarkable architecture and set in an environment of learning, study and adoration - well the answer is obviously the Natural History Museum in the heart of London. I have previously written about military history and naval history in London, but I wanted to start a small three part series about the very best museums and permanent exhibitions in the buzzing (if a touch overcrowded) city. I lived there for a year, and although it's a bit hard work to be there day in day out, for the casual visitor, there are few places to compare.
This museum and art gallery shows off the most incredible collection of animal, plant and dinosaur knowledge, collected by thousands of intrepid explorers over 138 years. There are 80 million different items held in the museum, some of which came from the personal collections of Charles Darwin himself, and his statue sits at the top of the main stairs in the entrance hallway. He looks over all the visitors, entering to be amazed at what they will find inside, and I'm sure he would be happy with the result!
For me the very best part of a visit to the museum is the chance to see some incredibly rare animals that you can only see alive through hugely expensive trips. The Large Mammals Hall is probably the very best example of this.
There is nowhere else in the world where you can stand next to an elephant, rhino, water buffalo and also an extinct Woolly Mammoth, all the while gazing skyward at a blue whale which hangs above you. The chance to truly appreciate the scale and size of the large whales and sharks is shocking, as is the beauty and power of the lions, tigers and cheetahs. The Natural History Museum is something no visitor should miss when seeing London for the first time, and what's even better, it's free!
If seeing these majestic animals ignites an animal curiosity, then the London Zoo and aquarium are not far away at all, and can provide a fantastic connection with the preservation efforts in the Natural History Museum
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