Don’t be put off by the topic. The world’s largest maritime museum is extraordinarily kid-friendly, brimming with buzzy set-piece toys such as steering simulators and a giant playground that looks like a world map. So it’s not as, ahem, dry as most would expect. Because so much of Britain’s history from the 17th to 20th centuries was transacted via the high seas, this place isn’t just about boats and knots. The facility has an endless supply of Smithsonian-worthy artifacts that would do any museum proud. Highlights include a musical stuffed pig clutched in a lifeboat by a Titanic passenger; and, most ghoulishly, the bloodstained breeches and bullet-punctured topcoat that Admiral Lord Nelson wore on the day he took his fatal shot (in a new gallery devoted to the man); and currently, exhibitions on World War I. Get the creeps from relics from Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated 1848 Arctic expedition, including lead-lined food tins that likely caused the explorers to go mad and probably eat each other. Also excellent is the Atlantic Worlds display, which plumbs the British role in the slave trade, something few London museums touch upon. The museum is also not too flashy to present the viewpoint that through the East India Company, England looted India—in fact, the English word looted has Hindi origins. It’s not all so gloomy, though; there are big set pieces such as figureheads, models, antique instruments, and entire wooden vessels. Weekends are full of free kids’ events (storytelling, treasure hunts) that bring suburban London families pouring into the gates, and the fun Greenwich Market is running nearby then, too.
The National Maritime Museum
Romney Rd., Greenwich, SE10
Our Rating Hours Daily 10am–5pm Transportation Tube: Cutty Sark DLR, Greenwich river ferry, or Greenwich National Rail Phone 020/8858-4422 Prices Free Web site The National Maritime Museum