A trip to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich with kids

A trip to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich with kids

Considering a trip to Greenwich with kids? We recently took our boys, aged six and three, to the National Maritime Museum in London. It’s part of the Royal Museums Greenwich which includes the Cutty Sark, the Queen’s House and the Royal Observatory. The National Maritime Museum is a brilliant place for children (and adults) to learn about Britain’s naval history.

Families in the UK and particularly in London are fortunate: our national museums are free to visit (with the option of making a donation). If you have energetic children with short attention spans, you can drop in, see something specific and then make a swift exit without worrying that you’ve wasted your money or that you haven’t soaked up enough culture.

Greenwich with kids

Exploring the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich with kids

On our visit to the National Maritime Museum, with our three year old at his exuberant best, we knew time might be short so we opted to join one of the excellent child-friendly Character Encounters.

We joined John Simmonds, a black sailor who served with Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He was played by a talented actor who engaged brilliantly with the children and took us on a very animated trip through British naval history touching on slavery, life aboard ship and the brutal reality of war at sea. I would highly recommend taking one of these tours, which run on Saturdays and last about 45 minutes.

The tour commenced at the Sammy Ofer Wing which is where I recommend families enter the museum as you will avoid coming across the Ahoy! Children’s Gallery which is next to the Stanhope entrance (once your children have discovered this play area you’ll find it hard to extract them).

After pointing out Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, a replica of HMS Victory, John Simmonds took us up to the Nelson, Navy, Nation gallery where the children unfurled semaphore flags and took part in a recreation of the Battle of Trafalgar by dropping to the floor to avoid getting blown to pieces by cannon fire from the French and Spanish.

We saw the fatal bullet hole in Nelson’s naval uniform and the boys even got to see the metal spoon, complete with teeth marks, which Nelson bit on while doctors fought in vain to save his life.

Greenwich with kids

Exploring the All Hands Children’s Gallery

After much singing and shouting (I’m impressed that the museum has such a spirited tour), we concluded our exploration close to the All Hands Children’s Gallery where kids can dress up as sailors, practice morse code and operate a crane lifting cargo onto a ship. If your child is going through a phase of not wanting to share, you might wish to avoid the crane, there were several disgruntled toddlers while we were there, including our own. The gallery is aimed at children aged six to twelve but most of the children were younger than that when we visited.

Greenwich with kids

Operating a crane at the All Hands Children’s Gallery

Once we’d exhausted the All Hands gallery we headed for the Great Map which is a suitably large, open space for children to expend a bit of energy while parents refuel at the adjoining cafe, good planning on the part of the museum.

Greenwich with kids

The Great Map and cafe

Finally we took the children to Ahoy! Children’s Gallery which is located next to the Stanhope entrance. Aimed at children aged up to seven years, Ahoy! is a child-heaven and parent-hell kind of place.

Greenwich with kids

Ahoy! Children’s Gallery

There’s certainly a laudable amount of education to it: boats to be fixed, a fish shop to man and a replica of the SS Rawalpindi to captain, but ultimately it felt claustrophobic and intense on our visit. The ceilings are low and there’s no natural light. If you live close by I’d imagine it’s a great soft play location to bring children on a rainy day, provided you arrive early. By the time we reached Ahoy! it was around 4pm, the gallery was a bit of a mess and some children were showing signs of needing to go home (or perhaps that was just me).

Overall I was incredibly impressed by the National Maritime Museum and I’m sure we’ll return to explore it further, there are numerous themes with which to explore the museum such as art and trade and you can take other Character Encounter tours. Clearly a lot of thought has been put into making it a great family experience. However, my kids are desperate to visit the Cutty Sark so I expect that’s where we’ll head to on our next visit to Greenwich with kids.

Please note, while the National Maritime Museum is free, some of the other royal museums at Greenwich such as the Cutty Sark are chargeable.

Have you been to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich with kids? If so, what were the highlights for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Visiting the National Maritime Museum in London with kids

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  1. 3rd December 2017 / 7:56 pm

    Greenwich and all are museums are brilliant, the character tour sounds like an excellent way of discovering the museum. When you go back Cutty Sark is just brilliant. Thank you for linking up to #CulturedKids

    • 3rd December 2017 / 9:57 pm

      Yes, I can’t wait to take them to the Cutty Sark!

      • 3rd December 2017 / 10:03 pm

        It was one of the first placeI visited in London when I was 9 and is still special today

  2. 5th December 2017 / 8:26 pm

    We could barely drag out kids out of Ahoy! They loved it. We had them shovelling coal in the boiler room for ages. The map was v cool too. #citytripping

    • 5th December 2017 / 9:01 pm

      Don’t remember seeing any coal, must arrive earlier next time!

  3. 5th December 2017 / 9:13 pm

    We must go here! I can’t believe we haven’t to be honest. Looks brill for kids and after our trip to Portsmouth historic dockyard our interest in naval history has been reignited. Thanks for linking #citytripping

    • 5th December 2017 / 9:24 pm

      I loved your review of Portsmouth, that’s definitely on my list!

  4. 6th December 2017 / 5:21 am

    This was on our list to see when we went to London but sadly we ran out of time…it looks like a great place to visit with or without kids #theweeklypostcard

    • 6th December 2017 / 7:26 am

      Yes, it’s great for everyone. My school history lessons glossed over A LOT so it was very interesting to get a more rounded education on what Britain got up to…

  5. 6th December 2017 / 10:43 am

    My toddler loved the Ahoy! gallery – as you say, hard to drag them away! #citytripping

  6. Allison
    6th December 2017 / 11:54 am

    I love that many of the museums in London are free. The museums in Chicago charge an arm and a leg. This museum sounds very interesting. I think my kids would enjoy it. #CulturedKids

  7. 6th December 2017 / 2:26 pm

    We so need to go here…can’t believe we haven’t! Looks so much fun for the kids and a great tip to take one of the character tours #ExplorerKids

    • 6th December 2017 / 2:57 pm

      Definitely do it, we’ll be going back soon I’m sure!

  8. 7th December 2017 / 11:22 am

    I’ve been to Greenwich many times but never into any of the museums. The Maritime Museum looks so interesting! #citytripping

  9. 7th December 2017 / 3:06 pm

    We went here recently too and I was so impressed – I did not expect to enjoy it anywhere near as much as I did. Highlights for me were Turner’s Battle of Trafalgar and the section on the slave trade. My kids were fascinated by it all too – a real surprise of a find and I’d recommend it to anyone! #citytripping

    • 7th December 2017 / 5:18 pm

      It’s great visiting places like this with kids isn’t it? You see it from a whole new perspective.

  10. 7th December 2017 / 4:00 pm

    We have been considering a trip to this area for quite some time. I’m wondering if my boys 9 and 15 would enjoy this? #citytripping

    • 7th December 2017 / 5:16 pm

      If they have an interest in naval history or astronomy I think they’ll love it.

  11. 8th December 2017 / 7:35 am

    We have been to the National Maritime Museum a couple of times. I think it is a museum for all ages. I loved visiting the Old Royal Naval College, especially the Painted Hall. So beautiful. #FarawayFiles

    • 11th December 2017 / 5:21 pm

      I can’t wait to return to explore the museums further.

  12. 11th December 2017 / 10:54 am

    This is so interesting. I have not visited the NMM in Greenwich for years! It has all changed! Looks very impressive. I must take the kids there one day. I like to find out what’s hell like in the Ahoy! Children’s Gallery. lol! 😉

    Thanks so much for linking up with us on #ExplorerKids xx

    • 11th December 2017 / 5:20 pm

      Hopefully it’s more appealing first thing in the morning. We were there on a cold rainy afternoon in autumn so I think it was rather busy!

  13. 11th December 2017 / 11:18 am

    I must take my kids here. My daughter recently went on a school trip to Greenwich Observatory but we haven’t been to Greenwich as a family in a few years now. Sarah #ExplorerKids

    • 11th December 2017 / 5:19 pm

      I can’t wait to return to Greenwich. I hadn’t realised until we went just how much there is to see there.

  14. Clare Thomson
    11th December 2017 / 2:50 pm

    These character encounter tours sound brilliant. What a fab way to get children excited about the museum and its stories. I agree that the the activity areas for kids are amazing at the National Maritime Museum. Can’t wait to take mine again. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • 11th December 2017 / 5:18 pm

      It’s such a brilliant place, I wish we could get into London more frequently.

  15. pigeonpairandme
    11th December 2017 / 8:44 pm

    I haven’t been to the Ahoy Gallery with mine yet, but I do have memories of that crane! The Character Encounters sound brilliant – we really must go back. We went through a stage of visiting the Maritime Museum every month or so, as it’s not too far from us. And, as you say, when it’s free, it’s so easy to just nip in for a short while. Thanks so much for linking up with #CulturedKids!

    • 11th December 2017 / 8:52 pm

      I’d love to have places like this so close by. We traded culture for countryside but still have to come back regularly to get a London fix!

  16. 11th December 2017 / 10:11 pm

    The Great Map looks awesome and I know my kids would love to practice morse code. Looks like the perfect place to let the kids burn off some steam all the while learning some history. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    • 12th December 2017 / 12:09 pm

      We loved the map, such a great idea!

  17. Rizology
    13th December 2017 / 10:23 am

    I love museums, your children are at the perfect age to go museum hopping. I can’t wait to do that with my little one in the future. X

    • 13th December 2017 / 12:09 pm

      It’s a great family outing, I just wish we had more time to go to London as we have such a long list of places we want to explore!

  18. Rizology
    13th December 2017 / 12:13 pm

    I know what you mean, you need a good few days there if not more, to make the most of it. 🙂

  19. 13th December 2017 / 4:52 pm

    Wow! This museum seems so charming and a place I would love to visit, Annabel. Is a day trip enough to explore this place?

    • smudgedpostcard
      22nd May 2018 / 8:44 pm

      Sorry, I have only just discovered your message, it had been withheld without me noticing for some reason. Anyway, in case you still need the question answered, if you’re just visiting the Maritime Museum a day should be long enough. However, if you want to visit some of the other attractions in Greenwich such as the Cutty Sark and the Observatory, you’d need another day or two. We only scraped the surface on our visit which lasted around 2 hours I think.

  20. Trish @ Mum's Gone To
    20th December 2017 / 3:46 pm

    I’m ashamed to say, in all my trips to London, I’ve still not gone to Greenwich. I really must go, as we loved seeing HMS Victory in Portsmouth – I love all the history about Nelson.
    I’m chuckling to myself, remembering visits to museums with my boy when he was little – things don’t change, no matter how hi-tech the exhibits are!

    • 21st December 2017 / 9:25 am

      I’d love to visit Portsmouth, it sounds like there’s been a lot of investment in visitor attractions since I was last there. Yes, visits with small children to museums are quite exhausting but rewarding (I think…)!

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