When it comes to exploration trade, shipping and navigation, no other country in the world has a more advanced naval history than Britain's. As a matter of fact, Britain has such a vast and important maritime history, it's often associated with British culture and identity. That's why the National Maritime Museum is considered to be a treasure trove for any naval enthusiast, young or old.

The National Maritime Museum first opened in 1937, although the building was originally used as a school for children of seafarers during the 1800s, and has since been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area of Greenwich where the museum stands today was once a critical location for Britain's maritime history, as it connected to London's docks via the River Thames, and more recently, to the Canary Wharf.

Today the National Maritime Museum boasts being the largest museum of its kind in the world, and attracts more than 750,000 visitors each year. It's also part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, which includes the nearby Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark and Queen's House.

National Maritime Museum, Great Map. By Edward Blake National Maritime Museum, boat display. By Elliot Brown
National Maritime Museum, entrance sign. By Elliot Brown National Maritime Museum, exterior. By George Redgrave National Maritime Museum, colonnade. By George Redgrave

National Maritime Museum Highlights

With over 2 million objects ranging from artefacts, maps and maritime memorabilia, to exhibits covering famous battles, shipbuilding and even Napoleon, the sections within the National Maritime Museum are as vast as Britain's naval history itself.

There are exhibits dedicated to some of the most famous names and events in Britain's naval history, such as Captain James Cook and his North-West Passage during the 1770s, and Admiral Horatio Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar.

On the ground floor, visitors can glance over an introduction to the museum's archives, before moving up to the first floor to learn more about the East India Company and Asia, as well as Britain's maritime trade with the east during the 19th century. There are also sections dedicated to slavery and trade between Europe, Africa and America between the 1600s and 1850s. On the second floor, there are sections which focus specifically on Admiral Horatio Nelson, and visitors can even look at the bullet-pierced and blood-stained uniform Admiral Horatio Nelson was wearing when he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar.

There are also several areas scattered all throughout the museum which are tailored specifically for children, such as The Ahoy! Gallery (which contains models of ship decks and cabins for children to play in) and the All Hands Interactive Gallery (where children can fire a cannon and shoot down a pirate ship).

Also be sure to check out the Great Map (located at the centre of the museum) which contains a massive atlas so children and adults can walk across the map's surface, and use a tablet with a touch-screen to learn more about pirates, the Scott's Antarctic expedition and much more.

Special Tips

  • If you become a Royal Museums Greenwich Member, you can get free entry into all the museum's ticketed areas and the Peter Harrison Planetarium shows, as well as discounts at the shops and cafes.
  • Because the National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark sailing ship and the Queen's House art gallery are all within walking distance of each other, you can easily visit all three sites in one day. The Cutty Sark is a six-minute walk from the museum, while the Queen's House is a three-minute walk away.
  • Also, if you have some extra time, make sure you check out the The Royal Observatory (a seven-minute walk away) and enjoy some amazing views of the London skyline from Greenwich Park (less than a three-minute walk away).
  • If you're visiting on a sunny afternoon, make sure you spend some time sitting out in the colonnade and enjoy the stunning views!