HMS Belfast – Review for families

Prepare to board the HMS Belfast using tips from our family day out guide

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What is it?

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It’s an impressive naval battleship used during the Korean War and World War II. Find it 5 minutes walking distance from London Bridge tube station. It’s just across the river from the Tower of London and a short walk from Tower Bridge.

Best for: 

Toddlers & preschool / 5 – 8 / 9 – 12 / 12+

OK for:

Babies (if you have a carry seat or body swing).

Cost

££ – Children under 16 go free (when accompanied by an adult) BUT an adult ticket is £14.05 without the voluntary donation pre-added to your ticket price.

What’s on offer

Explore the nine decks of the HMS Belfast with an audio guide highlight tour providing insight into the history of the famous ship. You’ll see the engines, where the crew lived, the kitchens, even the hospital…

You’ll also have the opportunity to explore numerous exhibits covering life aboard the ship, life at sea during the war through the Gun Turret Experience and how the inside of the ship works. There are plenty of one-off activities and events for people of all ages on board, just check the official website for full details. 

As a historic landmark with narrow corridors, space on the HMS Belfast is limited. Therefore, there are no storage spaces on board, so don’t take any luggage or large items with you. Mums and dads with prams, pushchairs and strollers will find that ‘2’ deck is accessible, as it’s the main passage way through the ship.

Regardless, it’s not the place to bring your buggy. Baby bags should be kept to the bare minimum. There is an accessible toilet, though and as usual, there’s a café, a restaurant and a gift shop.

Highlights

It’s a given that children studying GCSE History or who find the history of war interesting will certainly be enamored by all nine decks of this ship-museum. Particularly, the excitement of the gun turrets will most likely be a highlight for all visitors. Younger children may not appreciate the history of the ship, but they will appreciate how large it is and how much the HMS Belfast suspiciously looks just like a jungle gym!

Don’t forget to plonk your little one in the Captain’s chair and get snapping – it’s a great photo op.

The audio guides are really useful, providing lots of relevant and informative knowledge about the history of the HMS Belfast. The ‘crew’, better know as the members of staff working at the attraction, are friendly and knowledgeable and will be happy to talk about any questions you might have about the ship.

There (often) isn’t a great deal of queuing involved for this attraction. Yay!

What to watch out for

– Due to adverse weather conditions and other uncontrollable factors, areas of or indeed the whole ship may need to close at short notice. Speak to a member of staff if you have concerns or simply visit this page to see if the ship has been closed on your chosen visit day.

– Check the weather before you go; the experience is always better on a dry, mild day.

– Little children who can’t walk across lots of steep steps, be warned, this place isn’t for them.

– Mums and dads (or exceptionally tall older brothers) taller than 6’0”, mind your head. All the time. Seriously.

– Children with mobility issues or lung conditions might struggle here, as the ship is not wheelchair accessible and the ship has a funny smell (designed to liven up the experience) that’s a little bit too strong for some.

– Claustrophobic or severely anxious children may also want to give this a miss.

MFM tips:

– Do you have a mini first mate aboard your family ship? Then consider visiting Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum. If they’re interested in the rivers and oceans, then our Sea Life London Aquarium and London Duck Tours guides are also worth checking out!

– If it’s Imperial War attractions that catch your child’s eye, you’ll want to put the Churchill War Rooms and the child-friendly Imperial War Museum London on your list! If you don’t mind travelling further out of London (to Cambridgeshire) the Imperial War Museum Duxford also has a lot to offer families.

– Plan for at least an hour and a half aboard the ship for maximum viewing time.

What the owners say

“HMS Belfast is a large light cruiser which saw action in both the Second World War and the Korean War and is just a short walk from both London Bridge and Tower Bridge. On board HMS Belfast you can discover the exciting stories of those who served on her through an immersive and engaging experience. Our special events and activities bring to life the ship’s history in D-Day, the Arctic Convoys and the sinking of the Scharnhorst.

Visitors can walk around the ship’s nine decks and imagine how sailors once hurried up and down its ladders. Or take a look at the mess desk where her 950-strong crew ate and slept and envisage what life was like in stormy seas and freezing conditions of the Arctic. HMS Belfast is a popular attraction for all the family and entry for children is free when accompanied by an adult.”

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Visit the official HMS Belfast website

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