The National Museum of Natural History in Paris has been an important centre of scientific research since 1793. It has several sites across France, with its main site in the verdant Jardin des Plantes. Here, you can visit 8 galleries, several greenhouses, cafes, shops, botanical gardens, and a small zoo.

The museum combines the ancient with the cutting-edge, mixing exhibits like a rhinoceros skeleton that once belonged to Louis XV with modern touchscreen panels and virtual reality headsets. The buildings reflect this fusion of old and new, with the imposing 19th-century structure given a soaring contemporary glass roof. The museum also owns arboretums, zoological reserves, and marine research facilities around France that contribute to its vital research work.

National Museum of Natural History in Paris - one of the highlights of 11 Best Museums in Paris (Read all about Paris here)

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What to do with kids at the National Museum of Natural History?

The National Museum of Natural History has plenty of exhibitions aimed at getting kids of all ages excited about natural history. In the Children's Gallery, interactive games, stuffed animals, surprise creepy-crawlies and a virtual magnifying glass teach families about plants and animals. Watch videos about the life of children in the Kayapo tribe of the Amazon, or spin an enormous 1.4-metre-tall globe to see desert, steppe, and tropical forests.

In the Cabinet of Virtual Reality, you can walk around an evolutionary tree, explore a 3D gallery, and play species-related guessing games on the most up-to-date VR equipment. Outside the museum, don't miss Dodo Manège, a carousel featuring extinct animals like horned turtles, Barbary lions, and a dodo. The botanical gardens surrounding the museum are filled with colourful flowerbeds and a maze to get lost in.

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What are the highlights and features of the National Museum of Natural History?

The National Museum of Natural History is divided into 3 major galleries, focusing on evolution, palaeontology, and mineralogy. The Gallery of Evolution has 7,000 carefully preserved specimens, including 2 gigantic whale skeletons, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, polar bears, emperor penguins and blue macaws. The Palaeontology and Anatomy Gallery is similarly stocked with skeletons from all over the world, including several extinct species like Tasmanian tigers and Steller's sea cow, which died out in 1768.

Admire the sparkly gemstones of the Geology and Mineralogy Gallery, where you'll learn all about the formation of minerals and how they get their bright colours. The museum's stunning collection of Brazilian giant crystals is complemented by meteorites from Mars, gems in the rough and historical jewellery. Take some time to wander around the greenhouses of the Jardin des Plantes, which preserves trees and plants from tropical forests, mangrove swamp and desert ecosystems.

Good to know about the National Museum of Natural History

The closest subway stations to the National Museum of Natural History are Paris Austerlitz, on subway lines 5 and 10, or Censier-Daubenton, on line 7. Buses 24, 57, 61, 63, 67, 89 or 91 also stop near the museum. The Gallery of Evolution has a cafe on the first floor, and there are several stands dotted around the park selling snacks and drinks. Take a wander down the Boulevard de l'Hôpital, south of the park, for a wider choice of restaurants.

Buy tickets to any of the museum's branches online to skip queues at the ticket office. The National Museum of Natural History runs the Paris Zoological Park in the Bois de Vincennes, where you can see everything from Humboldt penguins to Amazonian jaguars. Also check out the Museum of Mankind in Trocadéro Gardens, which traces the path of human evolution with bronze busts, reconstructed archaeological digs and audio exhibits of worldwide languages.

National Museum of Natural History in Paris

Location: 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France

Phone: +33 (0)1 40 79 56 01

Victoria Hughes | Contributing Writer