National Maritime Museum – Review for families

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What is it?

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The National Maritime Museum is a museum all things relating to the sea, including ships, naval matters and seaborne trade. Find it in Greenwich, not far from The Royal Observatory and Cutty Sark.

Best for:

9 – 12 / 12+ 

OK for:

Babies / Toddlers & Preschool / 5 – 8

Cost

Free

What’s on offer

Greenwich, known for its past associations with navigation and the sea, has become London’s top tourist destination for all things maritime. Don’t get this kind of museum confused with a fun, child-friendly aquarium – though it is suitable and enjoyable for kids of many different ages.

The museum itself is incredibly large and is the biggest maritime museum in the UK, offering a range of exhibitions, special collections and permanent displays which cover everything from traders across the globe, mighty sea voyagers, models of war ships and the history of the Atlantic.

National Maritime Museum also offers a specific Children’s Gallery along with a Ship Simulator Interactive Gallery.  The Children’s Gallery allows youngsters to become a sailor on the gallery’s ship, Seahorse. They can prepare food in the galley, whilst learning what real sailors would have been eating on board or they can shoot a cannon at a pirate ship in a new interactive game.

The Ship Simulator brings to life a ship at sea and allows your child to become part of the crew and experience life at the beck and call of the captain.  It has five interactive screens, radars and real navigational equipment – the simulator is actually based on what the captains of P&O are trained with.

Children can also delve into the history of the world and become geographers with The Great Map (which is by the café) or get navigator-savvy in the Compass Lounge. You can also check the website for one-off and special children’s events and activities.

It’s also home to what is thought to be the world’s largest maritime historical reference library. Perhaps not the place to visit with the kids, but if you notice your child has a strong interest in this field, it may be worth checking out to find resources for them.

Facilities wise, there is limited secure storage space at National Maritime Museum, therefore you may not be able to store your buggy. The museum is accessible, but it’s very limited. Speak to a member of staff about this if you’re unsure.

Highlights

Highlights will entirely depend on the age of your child and the family’s level of interest. If you’re a maritime fanatic, the entire museum will be a delight. One enthusiastic TripAdvisor user notes that the highlight of his trip was seeing a ‘fascinating barge’!

Older children will approve of the interactive elements of the museum in the Children’s Gallery. Toddlers will love the little crane ride where they can pick up and throw a sandbag into a boat. This is a nice, and rather cute, touch. Storytelling activities, when they’re on, are engaging and fun.

The new Sammy Ofer wing is great – it has a new restaurant with fantastic views of Greenwich, a new permanent gallery called ‘Voyagers: Britons at Sea’ and has a lounge (The Compass Lounge) where people can relax and use the free WiFi whilst enjoying the collections. 

What to watch out for

  • There is free WiFi, but whether or not you want to eat in the café is an entirely different subject matter. You’ve been warned.
  • The Ship Simulator is open to families on school holidays, every weekend and every Tuesday.
  • There’s not a great deal for young children in the regular museum and they might feel a little lost or left behind given the level of the interactive options, but there are a few. There’s plenty more to do for little ones during half term.

MFM tips:

What the owners say

“Discover 500 years of Britain’s encounter with the world at sea at the National Maritime Museum. Explore our collection and enjoy free wifi in the Compass Lounge. See the uniform Nelson wore at the Battle of Trafalgar, steer a ship into port and fire a cannon in our Maritime galleries.”

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Visit the National Maritime Museum website

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