horniman museum and gardens forest hill featured image

Horniman Museum and Gardens Forest Hill

Horniman Museum and Gardens Review: Last Saturday Homeboy and I visited the fascinating Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill. Wow, what a beautiful place this is to explore. From Natural History to Anthropology and Musical Instrument collections, there is plenty to keep adults and children occupied. The gardens are glorious with animal enclosures, outdoor musical instruments and a beautiful bandstand. If you’re looking for family-friendly museums in London, best places to visit in South London or things to do in Forest Hill, make sure you visit.

horniman museum and gardens forest hill walrus

Meet The Famous Walrus

Horniman Museum and Aquarium

The museum was founded in 1901 by Frederick John Horniman. He inherited the Horniman Tea business from his father which became the world’s most significant tea trading business in 1891. He enjoyed collecting interesting items and travelling to far-flung countries which thankfully he could do because of his immense wealth.

horniman museum and gardens forest hill clock

Famous Building Clock

Horniman’s 350,000 objects are on display inside an Arts and Crafts style building designed by Charles Harrison Townsend which has been extended over the years. Look out for the landmark clocktower as you walk up (or down) the hill. The mosaic on the front of the building is impressive; the design is by Robert Anning Bell, it was created over 210 days by mostly young women. The Totem Pole in the front garden is another landmark, carved in 1985 by Nathan Jackson for the American Arts Festival.

horniman museum and gardens forest hill mosaic on building

Mosaic Designed by Robert Anning Bell

Inside the museum, you’ll find a fascinating collection which forms three main exhibitions – Natural History Gallery (lots of stuffed animals), World Gallery (anthropology,) and the Music Gallery (musical instruments). The Natural History Gallery is over two levels with a balcony and domed roof. The star of the show is the giant walrus which takes centerstage in between the cabinets full of taxidermy animals and birds. There is so much to see in the collection with other 250,000 specimens ranging from whole skeletons and bones, pinned insects, taxidermy and fossils.

horniman museum and gardens forest hill natural history

Natural History Gallery

The World Gallery is the most significant ethnographic collection in the UK. You can view 80,000 objects from around the world. The primary geographic areas include the Arctic, Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. You can see clothing, masks and objects of interest.

horniman museum and gardens forest hill world gallery

World Gallery

Musical Instruments is the third collection with over 8,000 items. The oldest object made to produce sound is a pair of bone clappers in the shape of a hand made in Egypt 3,500 years ago. Modern instruments include electric guitars and synthesisers.

horniman museum and gardens forest hill aquarium

Educational Aquarium

If you have time, the aquarium is worth exploring. It is small with fifteen exhibits, but it is cute and well thought out. View jellyfish, reef fish, British pond life and more.

Horniman Gardens

The gardens are glorious, and you will find plenty to keep you occupied. Admire the Grasslands, Display Gardens, Wildlife Garden and Meadow Field. You can walk along the Nature Trail if you have time. Keep your eyes open for the sundials dotted around.

horniman museum and gardens forest hill gardens

Splendid Gardens

Admire the beautiful bandstand which was initially built in 1903 by Charles Harrison Townsend. The positioning on a hill gives you breathtaking views across London. Unfortunately, it was foggy on the day we went so I shall return.

horniman museum and gardens forest hill bandstand

Bandstand and Views

Make sure you play on the outdoor musical instruments, it’s so much fun!

horniman museum and gardens forest hill musical instruments outside

Outdoor Musical Instruments

The animal walk has a few animal enclosures with alpacas, goats, sheep, rabbits and more.

horniman museum and gardens forest hill animal enclosure

Animal Walk

The Butterfly House is within a tropical indoor garden. You need a timed ticket to get into the Butterfly House to avoid overcrowding so organise this in advance.

Horniman Museum and Gardens Information

In terms of refreshments, the café inside the museum is excellent. We had a Dahl and Vegetarian stew; both were very tasty. It does get busy at the weekends with families, so it is noisy. However, there are tables and chairs outside where you can sit on a sunny day.

horniman museum and gardens forest hill food at cafe

Delicious Food At Cafe

We also popped into the Grade II listed conservatory for afternoon tea. The cake selection is lovely, and we shared an orange polenta cake and banana bread. You will find kiosk huts in the grounds for snacks.

horniman museum and gardens forest hill conservatory


The gift shop is excellent and worth exploring. They have some pretty gift ideas, educational toys for children and lovely home accessories. horniman museum and gardens forest hill gift shop

Gift Shop

For more information, go to the Horniman Website. The address is 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ. The nearest station is Forest Hill which you can reach via the Overground or Southern Trains. Forest Hill is very close to Dulwich, Sydenham, Honor Oak and Perry Vale. The museum is open daily from 10 am until 5.30 pm. The gardens open Monday to Saturday from 7.15 am until sunset and on Sunday from 8 am until sunset. Check online for aquarium, butterfly house and other opening times plus the Christmas closing dates. The main permanent exhibitions are free, and the aquarium costs £4.50 per adult and £2.50 per child, a family ticket is £10.50. Enjoy your visit. We certainly did. If you want to explore the area further read my Ten Things To Do In Forest Hill article and see the pictures on my Love Forest Hill Pinterest Board.

Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Homegirl London. Thanks: Homeboy for visiting with me.