Today we are exploring a slightly less-known museum in London – the National Maritime Museum. The theme is in the name here and you will learn everything there is to know about the maritime history of Great Britain, from trading tea from East Indian in the 1700s to the World Wars.
The Museum can be found in the centre of Greenwich on the bank of Thames and a stone throw away from the Prime meridian. Which seems only appropriate for a place dedicated to boats and navigation across oceans. It is easy to spot with its giant boat in a bottle at the front.
You enter the National Maritime Museum in the rather grand Greenwich Park which is definitely worth a wander around before or after your visit.
The stunning ground floor reminds me of the British Museum with the huge room covered with a glass roof. It also set the stage for what is to come with entire boats and many vessel’s bows on display, some twice a normal human being size.
Some boats are particularly striking and some look like they belong to a James Bond movie.
Moving to the first floor, you will find the Great Map. It is often covered with children learning about the world and different countries.
The themed exhibitions surround the central room. My personal favourites are the Nelson and the Traders ones, but let me walk you through most of them so you can decide which one you don’t want to miss on your next visit!
The National Maritime Museum is a bit smaller than most London museums so it is an easy one to visit if you have little time. It is also quite interactive which makes it perfect to explore with children.
On the ground floor, visit the Jutland 1916 exhibition. It is a touching one with many personal stories about what is known to be the largest sea battle of the World War I.
On the first floor, explore the Traders and the Atlantic galleries which will take you on the trading route to Asia and the history of the West Indies. There you will learn about tea, spices and coffee trade as well as the complex relationship with the Caribbeans, including the movement of people and slavery.
On the third floor, you will find Nelson’s Trafalgar coat. He wore it the day he passed away and you can still see the bullet hole on his jacket. It also covers the life of what I discovered to be a man of principles with very strong values.
The curators of the National Maritime Museum have done an excellent job making the different galleries very atmospheric. The East India Company exhibition has the warm orange tones of a beautiful sari while the World War II gallery feels cold and industrial like a submarine.
I hope you will enjoy the National Maritime Museum as much as I do, and after learning so much about Great Britain history reward yourself with a treat at the Greenwich market!