The National Maritime Museum is one of our favourite London museums with kids. 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 makes sense to make a plan for what you want to prioritise.
National Maritime Museum Highlights for Kids
Here are the most child-friendly areas of the Maritime Museum:
- AHOY! Children’s Gallery – great for role-playing in a maritime environment
- All Hands on Deck – highly interactive gallery on the 2nd floor
- The Great Map – experience the world at your feet
- Sea Things Gallery – lots of interesting maritime artefacts that can be touched
- Nelson’s Trafalgar Coat – check out the fatal bullet-hole of the famous Admiral’s coat
1. AHOY! Children’s Gallery at the National Maritime Museum
Location: Ground floor, east wing
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.
2. All Hands on deck at the National Maritime Museum
Location: 2nd floor, west wing
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.
3. Journey across the Great Map
Location: 1st floor central area
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.
4. Sea Things gallery
Location: 1st floor, east wing
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!
5. Nelson’s Trafalgar Coat
Location: 2nd floor, south wing
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!
Family Attractions in South East London
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, walking to Mudchute Farm on the Isle of Dogs from Cutty Sark takes around 25 minutes. For more museum activities, the Horniman Museum at Forrest Hill is also very child friendly. And if you’re keen on 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!
Is the museum baby-friendly?
Yes, you’ll find excellent baby changing facilities in the museum.
Is the museum good for toddlers?
Yes, we recommend the “Ahoy!” gallery and “The Great Map” for families with toddlers.
Is the National Maritime Museum free of charge?
Yes, the main part of the museum is free of charge.
Is the museum good for teenagers?
Yes, teenagers interested in history will enjoy the interactive sections of the museum. We particularly recommend the “All Hands on Deck” and “Sea Things” galleries.
What’s the coolest thing to see in the museum?
Admiral Nelson’s original jacket with bullet-hole from the Battle of Trafalgar is high up on many people’s list.
Does the museum have an entrance from Greenwich Park?
Yes, there’s an entrance from the park.
Can you bring your own food to the Maritime Museum?
Yes, there are designated places where you can eat your own food. During summer it’s nice to have a picnic in Greenwich Park right next to the museum.
How much time do you need at the museum with kids?
We recommend maximum two hours to enjoy the interactive galleries.
Is there a museum-shop at the National Maritime Museum?
Yes, there are two museum-shops located at each main entrance.
Is the National Maritime Museum good for families with children?
Yes. The museum has done a great job creating interactive galleries that are really engaging for children.
Is there a playground close to the museum?
Yes, Greenwich Park Playground is 10 minutes walk from the museum.