Days Out: The Aquarium at the Horniman Museum, South London

The venue

Just opened, the £1.5m aquarium at the Horniman Museum is a timely replacement of the original, which was Britain's first free public attraction of its kind. The aquarium is set in the modern Centenary Development structure, next to the original 1901 museum building. Visitors descend into the deep - or the basement - where 15 displays offer authentic habitats for more than 150 species of plants and animals. The seven zones recreate local to global environments - British pond life to a Fijian reef. The two most popular among our group were Drifters, an entrancing violet tank of beautiful moon jellyfish and floating plankton, and Seashores, which replicates the rock pools of the British isles, complete with crashing tides, stunning seahorses, starfish and crabs. This is no dark, dank fish tank; the aesthetics are cool and attractive and despite holding 14,000 litres of water, the aquarium is a manageable size for children without boredom setting in.

For children

There are interactive elements, such as the Marine Marathon magnetic game, Whacky Facts displays, worksheets and trails and seating with children's reference books. The Explorers' Vests, in which kids can don glasses and view their surroundings as a four-eyed fish, went down a treat with our young ones. In the rest of the museum, there are family hands-on activities every weekend throughout summer and different events at other times. The gardens include an animal enclosure with turkeys, goats and rabbits and a nature trail.

For adults

Big people will get just as much out of the aquarium as little ones, but the rest of the Horniman is home to some interesting ethnographic and instrument collections, too. The hands-on room in the music gallery, where you can experiment and create many different sounds, is certain to prove a hit with all of the family.


There is a reasonably priced café on the ground floor, serving a range of hot and cold snacks and meals, with indoor and outdoor seating.


All exhibition spaces and facilities are accessible to people with limited mobility. Bookable car-parking spaces. Large-format printed material, and hearing loop systems in some areas.


Open daily 10.30am-5.30pm. Closed 24-26 December. Entry to museum, aquarium and gardens is free; a charge is made for major temporary exhibitions.

How to get there

The Horniman Muse¤um, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ (020-8699 1872; By train: five minutes' walk from Forest Hill. By bus: 176, 185, 312, P4, 63, 122 and P13. By car: the museum is on the A205 South Circular and there is free parking in local streets.

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific