The Horniman Museum, at suburban Forest Hill in south London, is an unusual little gem of a place, making it a London attraction that's worth seeking out, a little off the tourist trail but well loved by locals.
The museum was set up by Victorian tea trader and keen amateur collector John Horniman in the 1860s, and his original artifacts form the basis of what is today an impressive and quirky little museum of ethnogrpahy.
Popular relics from the permanent collection include a sand painting by Navajo Indians, a spooky voodoo shrine, outlandish African masks and a sinister torture chair from the Spanish inquisition. At the centre of a hall of stuffed animals you'll find the famous Horniman Walrus; the original Victorian taxidermist didn't know that a walrus has baggy skin folds, so the creature is blown up like a balloon. A new and delightful aquarium displays ecosystems from all over the world, from British pond life to coral reefs. Finally, this eclectic set of displays is rounded off with a hall of musical instruments, from ancient Egyptian bone clappers to electric guitars.
There are temporary exhibitions too, and plenty of activities for children. The museum is set in a leafy park, great for a stroll after you've perused the exhibits, and helping to make a visit to the Horniman a rewarding family day out. For more details, check their website at www .horniman.ac.uk.
The museum is free, and is open daily from 10.30am - 5.30pm.
You can get here on buses 176, 185, 197, 356 and P4. The nearest train station is Forest Hill.