The Museum unwrapped: 12 festive things to do this Christmas

Wandering around the Museum is like opening windows on an advent calendar - you never quite know what you'll discover next.

To make finding the festive fun easy, we've unwrapped some of the best holiday activities to do in the galleries and at home. 

  • Free entry

  • The Natural History Museum
    Cromwell Road
    London SW7 5BD

  • Open every day 10.00-17.50
    Last entry 17.30
    Closed 24-26 December

1. Get a Santa's-eye view of Earth

Embark on a journey around Earth as seen by astronauts on board the International Space Station or Santa on his annual sleigh ride. Orbit: A Journey Around Earth in Real Time is a 90-minute Ultra High Definition video reconstructed using time-lapse photography from NASA archives. 

Until 5 January 2020, free

2. Go on a treasure hunt for gold

While there's no frankincense or myrrh at the Museum, there's plenty of gold to be found in Earth's Treasury, Minerals and The Vault. Gold nuggets are scattered throughout Earth's Treasury, while gold ornaments can be found in the cases at the front of the Minerals gallery.

Permanent, free

3. Surprise and delight your friends and family

Turns out humans aren't the only ones to give gifts. The animal kingdom is full of generous creatures, from Gentoo penguins presenting pebbles to their mates to help build a nest, to male bowerbirds creating love nests by collecting bits and bobs in the hope to impress a passing female, or male Eurasian jays showing just how much they care by giving their partner their favourite food.

Your friends and family may be slightly puzzled by the gift of a pebble, so instead, check out our handy Christmas gift list – there's something for all. 

4. Have an eco-friendly Christmas

Flex your creative muscles this festive season with eco-friendly craft activities you can do at home. Bust out the beeswax to make food wraps and cut out cling film, create your own nature-inspired wrapping paper, or make a compostable wreath from natural materials found in your own backyard.

5. Marvel at Wildlife Photographer of the Year's cold snaps

See remarkable images of animals in their natural environments, including a long-tailed tit pecking at an icicle, a lone American bison facing a blizzard and a hare in a winter wonderland, all at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

Until 31 May 2020, £13.95

6. Roll out the red carpet for Christmas VIPs

With seven swans a-swimming and six geese a-laying, plus four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree, our feathered friends are Christmas VIPs.

Head to the Birds gallery to see the array of birds on display, including swans and their chicks, and don't miss the cases on the first balcony in Hintze Hall where you'll spot chickens and pheasants. 

Permanent, free

7. Away in a manger

The supporting acts from the nativity scene can be found in Mammals. On the ground floor of the gallery you can find a donkey, a camel and a (musk) ox. 

Permanent, free

8. Let the stars guide you through the galleries

While it doesn't shine so bright now, the tiny vial of stardust in The Vault is made up of millions of microscopic diamonds. Having formed billions of years ago in the dust around dying stars before our Solar System even existed, the diamonds are the oldest things you'll ever see. 

Permanent, free

Looking for stars of a different kind? Join a behind-the-scenes tour of the spirit collection, where the remarkable specimens preserved in jars are the real stars of the show.

Various times, £15, booking required

9. Skate in a winter wonderland

Twinkling lights set the backdrop to the Ice Rink where you can whizz around the Christmas tree or settle in with mulled wine at the ski chalet-themed Café Bar. 

Until 12 January 2020, booking required

If you've somehow got a free Thursday evening left in December or are looking to host a festive get-together, head along to Acoustic Lates every Thursday at the Café Bar. 

Until 19 December, free, no ticket required

10. See the holly and the ivy

Keep an eye out for blood-red holly berries and ivy in the understory on a winter walk through the Wildlife Garden. The berries add a splash of colour to the Wildlife Garden in the cooler months, along with the scarlet stinking iris, purple-black brambles, and pink and orange spindle fruits. 

Free, 10.00-15.30 (closed 24-26 December)

11. Why is Rudolph's nose red?

Snot bots. Not an obscure internet term, but the possible real cause of Rudolph's red nose. It turns out that reindeer are susceptible to flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and that tell-tale red nose. The cause of their red nose is not, however, a common cold, but an infestation of fly larvae (or snot bots) that wreak havoc in an unlucky deer's throat. 

12. Watch out for Grinch bugs

Picking out the perfect Christmas tree is an important tradition for many families. 

But the trees that make it as far as your home are the lucky ones - at least they've been spared the Grinch-like insects that would have considered your decor their dinner.

Discover more (and friendlier) arthropods in Creepy Crawlies