Natural History Museum, London

The museum originally started from a collection in the 1700s by the Dr. Sir Hans Sloane in the original British Museum location. Notorious for its nepotism in handing out staff appointments (even those that knew nothing about what they were doing) and inability to preserve the collections, many tens of thousands of items were lost.

In 1856, Richard Owen, a paleontologist, was appointed to be head of the natural history collections and changed the discipline and focus of the institution to be a respectable museum and petitioned for a location dedicated to the assemblage of items in 1864. The current building was completed in 1883 (nothing to be done well is done quickly). It has been in its current location on Cromwell Road ever since.



The Arrival - Gloucester Road Tube Station

I alighted from the subway at Gloucester Road (instead of South Kensington, which is where you should) because I misheard the announcements about service at the next station. I then walked down Cromwell Road a while past many hotels and the French Embassy.

Fossils

A massive collection of fossils, and really amazing pieces, including, well, Dinosaurs!
Let's go swimming! Rhomaleosaurus, freaking huge, and I'm sure a top line predator of the day A timeline of upright walking two-legged primates
Ancient stone tools, also known as what we first started working on cars with as teenagers
Dinosaurs!
Are you as excited as I was?  I bet not, but not many are big kids like me There are your raptors, not nearly as big as the movies
Rwar!  Ok, this one moves, not full size, but the kiddies loved it

More Recent Animals

Primarily mammals and a lot of them. This is where the collection really stands out.
Dodos, made extinct by the Dutch Massive, imposing, and realistic
I wouldn't want to be the guy working on this one

Main Hall and Minerals

This was the former main entrance, now is just an incredible wow factor and connection to most of the museum's halls.
Big, grand, and includes the actual full size skeleton of a blue whale The man who started to put sense to why creatures are the way they are Huge hall of minerals, in classic Victorian cases and storage (I dig that kind of layout)
Various diamonds and the effects on UV light of impurities in them

Upper reaches

The top of the museum has a great section on the action that plate tectonics plays on our world, including earthquakes, hot springs and volcanos.
A very cool way to become one with the planet and emulate the path of magma Roman resort towns seem to have a high cost on checkout

Other Areas

So there are other areas too, the storage of the collections' holotypes (used to evaluate a new item against to determine where it falls in the taxonomy), the Cocoon - a 4 story research and education center - the bugs section, an area on the impact of humans on our planet, and more!
Various preserved (thousands and thousands) specimens Primarily for school groups to be brought through and see scientists at work and the process they follow This is as close as I got to the spiders.  Firm nope.
How the planet is changing, and maybe things we can do to keep it from killing us all Every museum has shops, and they are all over this one

Summary

Free, as are most government museums in London. Quite an impressive collection and series of galleries encompassing the history of our planet.

Located in an area with several museums (Victoria and Albert, Science, there are a few), it's a really great museum, but I will say I think the Field Museum in Chicago still wins the world's top spot for natural history museums.

Food is also available here, a great place for children. But as I am a big kid, I also enjoyed the many hours I spent in here. Easy access, free, it's a must do.