The National Maritime Museum | Boats, models of boats, paintings of boats and more…
Yes, the thought did cross our minds to start this with a weak boat-related joke, but we thought that might be going overboard.
So instead, we’ll dive right into it… The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is the largest maritime museum in the world, stockpiling over 2 million oceanic objects within its walls including models, art, uniforms, maps, artefacts and various other bits and bobs that have been used at sea by British sailors over the course of history. If you have any sort of interest in ships, boats, paintings of ships, a long-held fascination with naval battles or historic sea-based exploration, then we feel like we’re not exactly going out on a limb here by saying this museum may appeal to you…
What To See At The National Maritime Museum
The museum was built in 1934 and was then formally opened by King George IV three years later. Today, it’s part of a four-museum line up – alongside the Royal Observatory, the Queen’s House and the Cutty Sark – that forms the Royal Museums Greenwich, a nexus of attractions that celebrate Greenwich’s association with navigation. Wander on inside and you’ve got 14 galleries to walk around – split between the permanent collection which costs zilch to enter (you got it, this is one of the best free things to do in London) and a few temporary exhibitions that cost a bit (normally around £10).
Some of the ‘must dos’, aka ‘what to see if you’ve only got an hour’, include J.M.W Turner’s largest (and most controversial) painting, The Battle of Trafalgar; the coat Admiral Nelson actually wore during that battle; a real life Fijian canoe (also called a drua); a gallery that spotlights arctic and antarctic exploration; case studies on famous explorers like Christopher Columbus and Francis Drake; and Miss Britain III (not a beauty contestant, but the racing power boat that was pivotal in the development of torpedo boats used during WWII). And that’s just touching the surface – there’s also a huge weapons display with cannons, cannon balls and mortars; a gallery documenting The East India Company, trading and Britain’s entry into Asia and America… there’s loads, so to get the most out of it you will want to put aside a whole day.
What’s On Now
Every year, the National Maritime Museum holds the Astronomy Photographer of the Year show, which is a little bit like the Wildlife Photographer exhibition at the Natural History Museum, only targeted for snaps of space and with mind-blowing pictures of the moon and the stars rather than animals and nature. The photography truly is on another planet…
Finally, seeing as though you don’t want an empty stomach to ruin any enjoyment of the museum, you’ll have to make time to eat at some point, too. No doubt that can be done before and after at one of best restaurants at Greenwich, but specifically onsite, there’s the Parkside Café with al-fresco dining and a view looking out across Greenwich Park.
In terms of views, it blows a lot of other museum restaurants out of the water…
NOTE: The National Maritime Museum is open every day, 10am-5pm. It’s free to enter, except for temporary exhibitions – you can book ahead for those HERE.
National Maritime Museum | Romney Road, SE10 9NF
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