The National Maritime Museum has been an absolute favourite over the years. Living a quick bike-ride away, we often take advantage of the many play areas and activities for young children. This is a museum that the whole family can enjoy.
Just like South Kensington is the great hub of national museums in West London, Greenwich is a cluster of historical attractions and museums in South East London. Royal Museums Greenwich consist of the four distinct museums and experiences: Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House.
The Maritime Museum is located between the Greenwich town centre and the Royal Park. This makes the museum a perfect stop as you can just walk outside after your visit stepping right into the wonderful park. If your kids still have any energy left, we can warmly recommend the Greenwich Park Playground, just a 10 min walk from the museum.
With Britain’s rich naval history in mind, it’s no surprise that this is the world’s biggest collection of historical maritime artefacts. The museum is absolutely massive, so it definitely makes sense to make a plan for what you want to prioritise.
For families, there are our five tips for what to see:
AHOY! Children’s Gallery at the National Maritime Museum
This play area is just brilliant for younger kids! Ahoy! is recommended for children aged 0-7, and is located on the ground floor just to the left of the main entrance. If visiting during the weekend or school holiday you need to buy a ticket but it’s free on regular weekdays. The space is not huge and can feel quite cramped when full of children and parents. However, the gallery is well planned out with several small play elements, which means kids can move swiftly from one area to the other.
All the various installations play on a maritime theme; buying and selling seafood, stoking the boiler of a steamship and repairing a hull of a ship are just some of the activities. Our toddler’s absolute favourite is the air pressure cannon that shoots ping-pong balls on a sailship while our five-year-old probably enjoys steering a ship on a rescue mission in the Arctic! There is a lot going on and the gallery is really popular, so we try to visit as early as possible when the kids have high energy levels and there is a bit more space to run around.
All Hands on deck at the National Maritime Museum
At the All Hands gallery you can explore what life is like on the high seas as you examine the ship Seahorse, foil pirates, and make a feast for the sailors. Lots of interactive play areas to keep your kids busy and entertained. The All Hands children’s gallery is for the slightly older kids, recommended for 6-12s. The gallery is free and open daily.
Journey across the Great Map
The Great Map is exactly what it says on the tin: Basically a giant map that is laid out on the floor! Five models of modern ships are available for kids to play with, and kids are free to run around as they want. After spending time in the slightly claustrophobic Ahoy! it’s great for kids to have some more space and run around. There are often events and interactive games being organised, but our kids often enjoy just playing with the ships and running around. The Great Map is located on the first floor at the centre of the museum and is open daily.
Sea Things gallery
For school-age children, this is a great area. Here the kids can get up close to more than 600 maritime objects, talking sculptural busts and activities and quizzes to discover and share. Everything you see has some type of connection to the sea of course, and there are more than 50 ship models to admire!
Nelson’s Trafalgar Coat
Yes, we are talking about the coat that Admiral Nelson was wearing when he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar! Not the most interesting for the smallest kids – at the end of the day, it is just a coat. However, for schoolchildren starting to learn about Britain’s history, it’s pretty cool to see Nelson’s actual coat with the bullet-hole intact!
Greenwich really is a centre for child-friendly attractions in London. In addition to the Maritime Museum, here are some of our favourites:
- Greenwich Park Playground
- Cutty Sark
- Royal Observatory
Beyond Greenwich, South East London really has a lot of things to do for kids. Thames Path runs along the river all the way from Central London mostly shielded from traffic, excellent for children. If you take the foot tunnel under the Thames, you can reach Mudchute Farm on Isle of Dogs within 30 min walking. If you are keen on more activities, we can definitely recommend the Horniman Museum at Forrest hill a bit further to the south. If you need some action, why not try free jumping at O2 at North Greenwich!
Also, don’t forget to check our tips for how to plan a brilliant family museum day out in London!
Getting to the National Maritime Museum
Address: Park Row, Greenwich Peninsula, London SE10 9NF