The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is the world’s largest maritime museum. Free to visit and one of the best London museums for kids, this museum offers hands-on activities and interactive galleries for families. Learn more about a National Maritime Museum day out with kids in this post.
National Maritime Museum
Part of the Royal Museums Greenwich, London’s maritime museum houses a vast collection that spans thousands of objects. The trove of maritime treasures on display include a wide array of artwork, maps and charts, and memorabilia.
Among the first exhibits you will see upon entering the museum are the impressive figureheads. The museum has over 230 figureheads in its collection, including the Medusa from the HMS Implacable. Also on the ground floor is the nearly 20-metre long state barge built for Frederick, Prince of Wales, who was the eldest son of George II and father of George III (shown below).
The Pacific Encounters gallery is one of the top exhibits to see at the National Maritime Museum. Learn more about the legacies and traditions of the people living in Fiji today and see a real Fijian canoe. Fijian canoes, known as drua, can only be built by members of the community who inherited the right to use their skills from their ancestors.
One of the brilliant, interactive galleries at the National Maritime Museum is the Sea Things gallery. In this gallery, visitors can experience a visual spectacle of over 600 objects and participate in hands-on activities. Many of the objects are on open display, meaning that you can get up close and touch them.
The Great Map
The Great Map is a giant atlas at the centre of the museum. Explore the world and join in on free interactive games.
Free activities at the Great Map include using a touch-screen tablet while you walk across the map’s surface to uncover stories of female pirates, Scott’s Antarctic expedition and more.
Five famous ships are also now shown on the Great Map on their voyages. These ships include the world’s largest container ship, Encounter Bay, and RRS Sir David Attenborough, a next-generation marine science platform for UK research in both Antarctica and the Arctic.
AHOY! Gallery Play Area
There are two galleries for children at the museum (check website for gallery opening hours). The Ahoy! Gallery, located on the ground floor, is one of the top London museum play areas for young children.
The Ahoy! Gallery has been especially designed for babies and children aged up to seven, with themed zones that include a vast model of the deck and cabins of a ship and a fresh fish shop for weighing mussels and lobsters.
There are plenty of interactive elements for toddlers and pre-schoolers to get hands on, such as a coal-fired engine room with levers to pull, wheels to turn and metal speaking tubes to yell into.
There is an area for babies and toddlers, with buckets and spades to scoop up sea creature toys and a small play kitchen.
The National Maritime Museum recommends booking tickets for the AHOY! Gallery online in advance to guarantee entry. The AHOY! Gallery tickets include the free entry to the museum and each sessions is 45 minutes.
Entry to the AHOY! Gallery is free on weekdays during term time and costs £3 during weekends and school holidays. Tickets on the day will be subject to availability. Book tickets for the AHOY! Gallery.
All Hands Interactive Gallery
2022 update: The All Hands gallery is currently closed
On the second floor, is the All Hands interactive gallery for ages 7 to 12, where children can explore maritime skills and technologies past and present. Through hands-on exhibits, they can test their skills defending against a pirate attack, use maritime technology and load a cargo ship before it sets sail.
If you are visiting during the week, when it’s not too busy, I would also recommend the area for pre-schoolers. There are some activities that young children can get involved in, such as manoeuvring a crane to load ship cargo and helping to prepare food in the ship’s galley.
National Maritime Museum Address
Address: Park Row, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
Tickets: Entry to the museum is free, but you must have a ticket to visit. Tickets required for entry to special exhibitions
Book your free tickets in advance at https://www.rmg.co.uk/national-maritime-museum
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