Horniman Museum

Brixton, Peckham & South London

The entrance to the Horniman Museum

©Will Jones/Lonely Planet

This 1901 art-nouveau building, with its clock tower and mosaics, was specially designed to house the collection of wealthy tea merchant, Victorian gentleman and pack-rat Frederick John Horniman. The core of the museum is the Natural History Gallery, which contains taxidermied animals displayed in old-school glass cases, including the famous overstuffed walrus that doesn't have any wrinkles.

The World Gallery on the lower ground floor shows more than 3000 ancient and modern objects from civilisations around the planet, grouped by continent. The Music Gallery is the largest of its kind in the UK, displaying instruments from 3500-year-old Egyptian clappers to Ghanaian drums, with touchscreens so you can hear what they sound like and videos of them being played. The Hands on Base area, open on weekends and school holidays, is ideal for kids who want to touch and even wear part of the collection themselves. The aquarium (adult/child £4.50/2.50) in the basement is small but mesmerising for little ones, as jellyfish and seahorses float past. The Butterfly House (£6) is a tropical indoor jungle home to hundreds of free-flying insects.

The museum is set on 6.5 hectares of hillside and landscaped gardens with far-flung views of central London, perfect for a picnic on a sunny day. A number of paths circle around the gardens, including the Horniman Nature Trail along an abandoned railway line turned into wild woodlands and the Animal Walk, which goes past enclosures of alpacas, guinea pigs, rabbits and other farm critters.