More of an experience than a museum – Cutty Sark in Greenwich just outside Central London is very much a hands-on living memory of the golden age of British maritime history. If you’re aiming to get your kids engaged in history, it doesn’t get more exciting than this!
Cutty Sark’s fascinating history
We think of London as a well-connected city today with daily flights to almost every corner of the world. But London was pretty well linked up with the rest of the world back in the Victorian age as well. Cutty Sark was initially built for the China tea trade, bringing tea to London from Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Later the ship served the Australian wool trade transporting more than 45,000 bales to England’s textile factories during the industrial revolution. Cutty Sark took around 80 days to complete the voyage from Australia to London which might seem long, but it was the fastest ship in its day.
Cutty Sark is a delight for older kids as well as preschoolers to explore. Pretty much everything is hands-on, so you don’t need to worry about telling your kids off constantly. Within the hull of the ship (the ‘tween deck), you’ll find a number of interactive exhibitions which will keep the kids busy while they hopefully get the gist of the role that Cutty Sark played in the global trade.
Cutty Sark – all hands on deck
It’s out on the main deck you can get a real sense of the ship, and our kids had a blast running around exploring every corner.
Pretending to climb the ropes, going on the plank, visiting the master’s cabin and trying out the ship’s wheel – it’s a perfect place for pretend play. And there’s the amazing views of the Thames, Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf and Greenwich city centre.
Highlights for kids
- Meeting Cutty Sark’s characters (weekends)
- Interactive elements on the ‘tween deck
- Climbing into the cabins, trying on the props
- Getting a sense of life on board
- Breathtaking view from below the ship
- Exploring the main deck role-playing with the kids
- Lifts for all decks making it easy for families with pushchairs
- Hands-on activities for kids from toddlers to teenagers
Cutty Sark from below
Last but not least it’s the dry dock under the hull of the ship where you’ll be able to see the whole structure of the ship floating above you. And just like the Jolly Roger pirate ship in the Peter Pan adventure, it’s actually floating – although just 11 feet in the air :-) Cutty Sark is a world-class attraction well-tailored to kids that should be on the shortlist for all families visiting London!
The best thing about Greenwich is that you have so many different activities within a fairly compact area. In close proximity to Cutty Sark, you have several attractions like Greenwich Market, National Maritime Museum and Old Royal Naval College (University of Greenwich today). In Greenwich Park, you’ll find a brilliant recently refurbished playground and on the top of the hill is the historic Royal Observatory. Note that if you’re planning to visit both Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory you should buy a day-ticket which saves you 20% on the ticket price.
Suggested Greenwich walking route
This is more of a pick and choose walking route. You wouldn’t have time to experience all of the attractions in depth in a single day (especially not with kids) :-)
- Arrive by boat as the royals did back in the day by taking the Thames Clippers to Greenwich
- Experience the legendary tea clipper Cutty Sark
- Go to Greenwich Market, buy lunch for takeaway
- Walk among the imposing Old Royal College buildings
- Continue towards the park visiting the National Maritime Museum on the way
- After lunch go to the Greenwich Park Playground if you have kids
- Climb up the hill in Greenwich Park and visit the Royal Observatory
- Enjoy a show in the Peter Harrison Planetarium
- Continue towards the village of Blackheat where you’ll find plenty of pubs and restaurants to have dinner
- On your way back find a spot among Greenwich Park’s many brilliant viewpoints and enjoy the sunset
Other attractions nearby:
What’s so special about Cutty Sark?
It was one of the fastest cargo ships back in it’s day, but it’s also a surviving symbol of the British Empire and it’s mercantile power.
Is Cutty Sark suitable for young kids?
Yes, Cutty Sark is all about hands-on experiences for kids and is suitable for toddlers as well as school-age children.
What’s the best way to travel to see Cutty Sark?
Hop on one of the Thames Clipper catamarans going eastwards from Central London, and you’ll arrive at Greenwich Pier right next to Cutty Sark. Alternatively go by tube and DLR to Cutty Sark station.
Is Cutty Sark far outside of London?
Cutty Sark is located in Greenwich, which is a borough in Greater London.
Can I use a pram/stroller visiting Cutty Sark?
Yes, you can reach all the decks of the ship using a lift.
Is Cutty Sark wheelchair friendly?
Yes, the attraction has been described as incredibly accessible despite all the different decks and intricate spaces.
Is there a cafe at Cutty Sark?
Yes, you’ll be able to enjoy the Cutty Sark Cafe located below the copper hull of the ship.
Are there any good lunch options close to Cutty Sark?
There are several pubs and restaurants right next to the ship, and you also have Greenwich Market serving great street food not far away.
What else than Cutty Sark is great for kids in Greenwich?
The National Maritime Museum with several family-friendly galleries is a short walking distance away.
Is there a playground close to Cutty Sark?
Greenwich Park’s excellent playground is just a 10 minutes walk from the ship.