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“Fantastic museum, aquarium, cafe and gardens”

Horniman Museum and Gardens
Ranked #154 of 1,629 things to do in London
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Fee: No
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: The Horniman Museum and Gardens is an inspiring, surprising, family-friendly, free attraction in South London’s Forest Hill.The Museum has been open since Victorian times, when Frederick John Horniman first opened his house and extraordinary collection of objects to visitors. Since then, the collection has grown tenfold and includes internationally important collections of anthropology and musical instruments, as well as an acclaimed aquarium and natural history collection.Unusually for such an important museum, you can see the collection up-close and face-to-face. You can even pick up, try on and play with some objects.Visitors come time and again to explore this free museum, take part in our activities and enjoy the 16-acre gardens.
Useful Information: Lockers / storage, Bathroom facilities, Baby buggy parking, Stairs / lift, Activities for young children, Wheelchair access, Food available for purchase
London, England, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Fantastic museum, aquarium, cafe and gardens”
Reviewed 28 May 2014

The Horniman museum is located in a beautiful Victorian building with pretty gardens and some sheep and other small farm animals outside. Inside, my favourite room is the traditional natural history museum, with its slightly ropey looking stuffed animals in glass cases. Just how museums used to look like! It's very educational though, and there is a touch and feel room for kids. It is free to get into. There is also a little aquarium, again with educational displays throughout, which has tropical fish, a British pond, sea horses, jellyfish...there is a small entry fee, or you can get a annual membership pass which allows one adult, one child in, as many times as you like. There is a music room which has hundreds of instruments from around the world, interactive displays and a touch and play room. There are also other displays which vary from time to time, such as photographic displays. A fantastic cafe (which is currently being refurbished but due to open soon) has a great selection of home made food at reasonable prices. Kids sessions also run, so check the website. A great place to spend a couple of hours with your kids...or even by yourself!

Visited May 2014
Helpful?
Thank Sally R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
137 reviews
43 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 76 helpful votes
“Shame, it could be soooo good!”
Reviewed 26 May 2014

Visited on a pleasant Sunday, the Museum wasn't too crowded (good start). Went to pay for the two bits that aren't free (Extremes and Aquarium), my husband queried why there was a need to pay 10% extra if we were gift-aiding and got a very abrupt reply. Not a great start, and I did hope other reviewers were wrong about the rudeness of staff. Had a nice, if slightly overpriced, lunch and decided to start at the top and work our way down to the basement which had the aquarium. The main 'hall' is a display of loads of stuffed animals, basically fairly shabby but with some interesting bits to look at. (The labelling could really do with being redone to make things more engaging). Spotted several members of staff doing their best not to engage with the public. Went into the explore room (kids interactive bit), listened to one member of staff tell (very loudly) another member of staff all about him giving up smoking and ignoring several families in there. Then another member of staff started, a lovely young girl, who was actually very engaging and made an effort to talk to my daughter and get her interested.
We entered the Extremes special exhibit (we had paid £15 extra for 3 for this) and was sorely disappointed. 2 of the things to do were fully or partly broken and 3 only worked intermittently (this by the staff there's own admission). Asked for help from a staff person who was busy playing on her phone and she was exceedingly rude, to the point where I actually had to argue with her and my husband was so annoyed (which he never normally is) he went upstairs to complain (and was met with indifference). This upset our daughter which obviously spoilt the day somewhat. Extremes is totally overpriced, if it was £4 per adult rather than £6 then maybe it'd just be worth it.
Went to the Aquarium and met the 2nd nice staff member, a lovely lady who was genuinely apologetic about the issues we had. The aquarium was lovely, I was happy to pay the extra for that, was really fun.
Finally we went for a walk to see the animals but unknown to us (as obviously the museum don't care to give any useful information at the entrance (either by signage or speaking to customers) the animal walk through was shut (for info it's only open 12.30-16.00) so that was a shame as if we'd know we could have visited sooner.
Overall it's just a shame, with a few more caring staff (like the 2 we encountered) and an overhaul of some of the exhibits and less overpricing this could be a really good place. As it is we won't go back, even if we lived close by!
Seriously I would say unless it's on your doorstep and you're flush with cash, just don't bother.

Visited May 2014
Helpful?
2 Thank sarahv70
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
HornimanMuseum, Digital Assistant at Horniman Museum and Gardens, responded to this review, 9 June 2014
Hello Sarah,
Sorry to hear you had a bad experience on your visit to the Horniman. We believe that your overall experience with our staff and gallery volunteers is not the norm and expect everyone working at the Horniman to live up to the standards of the members of staff you remember being caring and helpful.
The Gift Aid scheme requires a minimum 10% to be added to the price as a donation, in order that we are able to benefit by reclaiming tax. This is a requirement set by the government but we do make it a priority to communicate this clearly to our visitors so that they understand the options and where their money is going. Again, this should have happened on your visit and we will be investigating further as to why standards weren’t met on this occasion.
The large numbers of interactive displays in the Extremes exhibition do require ongoing maintenance and are occasionally rendered out of action. However we agree the response to your enquiries about this is unacceptable and again we will be investigating further regarding the quality and maintenance of this exhibition, as well as staff response to visitor enquiries.
I hope you have a chance to return to the Horniman soon and have a more enjoyable visit, including to the Animal Walk.
If you have any more questions or comments we’d be happy to address them at web@horniman.ac.uk.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Tonbridge, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
15 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Good but staff were very rude”
Reviewed 26 May 2014 via mobile

We had a good day here but not enough staff and staff there were very rude. In the hands on base my husband and children were shouted at by a fiercely loud member of staff for touching something on the top of the shelves as the staff have to pass them to you! There are quite prescriptive rules eg you can touch a stuffed fox with one finger stroking it from head to tail! The queue for the restaurant was an absolute standstill and we waited 30 mins to get served.

Visited May 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank Kate M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
HornimanMuseum, Digital Assistant at Horniman Museum and Gardens, responded to this review, 9 June 2014
Sorry to hear your visit was not as enjoyable as it could have been, Kate. While the Hands on Base is an excellent opportunity to experience museum objects up close, many of them do need careful handling in order that future visitors can also enjoy them (our unsupervised Nature Base fox needs to be replaced on a regular basis). Our staff should be able to let everyone know how best to handle them in a friendly way that is not off-putting, and your experience is one we will take up with the team responsible for staffing this gallery.
We can assure you that the waiting time in our Café is not the norm, and may have been exacerbated during your visit by the exceptionally high numbers of visitors we experience during half-term week. Since the date of your review, the refurbishment work has been completed and we now have a new Café Terrace area with additional seating, as well as a kiosk selling food and drink which we hope will reduce queuing time in the main Café.
I hope you manage to return in the future and enjoy your next visit to the Horniman.
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London
Level Contributor
28 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“Excellent museum for the whole family”
Reviewed 14 May 2014

Our family group was aged from 14 to 62 and there was something for all of us. Interesting and entertaining. Very good fun. We all learned something. The grounds are lovely and especially relaxing on a sunny day. The cafe has a good selection of quality food and drinks. Only drawback is its tricky to park so public transport best. There's a lot to look at and lots of good events in the programme. First visit but we will return.

Visited May 2014
Helpful?
Thank LondonBluebell
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
12 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“Great find”
Reviewed 6 May 2014

Lovely weather so didn't go into the museum. Cafe busy and our order not quite right but it was bank holiday Monday and I'm sure on a quieter day all would be fine. The food was good and I didn't consider it too pricey by museum standards. Amazing views of the London skyline. The gardens are lovely with vegetables and fruit growing. My only concern I thought the animal pens quite small especially the sheep pen. Would prefer to see them in a field.

Visited May 2014
Helpful?
Thank Ruarted
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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