National Waterfront Museum

Oluwatosin Michael
Feb 29, 2024 By Oluwatosin Michael
Originally Published on Oct 07, 2021
A small boy playing on one of the interactive learning machines at the National Waterfront Museum.
Age: 4+
Read time: 5.6 Min

  • Delve deep into the history of south Wales and its industrial past, with interactive exhibits and activities.
  • Check out the real vehicles and locomotives that were used, as well as stunning replicas.
  • Head to one of their regular events where kids can take part in some science, arts and crafts, and educational fun.
  • Children can play to their heart's content at the play area while you enjoy a coffee at the Waterfront Cafe.

The famous city of Swansea on the south coast of Wales is known for its history, culture and beautiful seaside location. The National Waterfront Museum, located in Swansea's Maritime Quarter, exists to celebrate over 300 years of history in the local area. In particular, the contribution to industry and innovation are at the core of the National Waterfront Museum's collection, making it the perfect place to learn about the industrial history of Swansea and Wales.

With over 100 different exhibits to explore, and made even more engaging with the use of interactive technology, the National Waterfront Museum is one of the top things to do with kids in Swansea. Whether it's checking out what the  first steam locomotive in the world would have looked like, to playing on one of the many interactive displays, there is something for kids of every age at the Waterfront Museum. Originally established in 2005, the museum includes a Grade II listed warehouse as part of its building, which used to be the Swansea Industrial and Maritime Museum. Now, the museum is dedicated to helping people learn about and experience what it was like in Wales at the time of the Industrial Revolution, and the significance this has had on local culture, business, industry and history.

As you explore the National Waterfront Museum, you'll find over 15 different galleries, each with different themes and filled with objects. There are objects from Amgueddfa Cymru (or Museum of Wales) that you can see in the museum, that help to give a view of how industrialisation affected the lives of Welsh people. South Wales was infamous for its role in the coal mining industry during the 18th and 19th centuries, and the cities of Barry and Cardiff to the east were once some of the largest coal producers in the world. With such a significant presence in the history of the coal industry, Swansea and the surrounding areas are a fascinating place to visit, as it is here that the coalfields themselves were located. The South Wales Coalfield included Swansea, as well as many other areas such as Caerphilly, Neath Port Talbot and Torfaen, with the valleys being particularly popular due to their large coal despoits. During the 19th century the coalfield was responsible for a huge turn in Wales's industry, with many people being employed to work there. While there were many disasters and the mines were very unsafe places to work by today's standards, the population of nearby towns exploded, as did the economy. However, the coal industry began to wane in the 20th century, like it did in many areas of the UK, and many of the collieries were closed in the 1950s and '60s.

Now, you can walk in the footsteps of the mine workers and those who contributed to Welsh industry at the National Waterfront Museum. From the People, Communities and Lives area where children and adults can learn about the human impact of Wales's industrial past, to the Transport, Materials and Networks section that explores the expansion of travel and transport in Wales, there is lots of do and see in all the galleries at the museum. One top attraction at the National Waterfront Museum is the Tinplate Rolling Mill, a machine that had a significant effect on the rise of industry.

Kids can learn all about the composition of coal and why it was so useful, and see some of the huge vehicles that would have helped to transport it all those years ago. There are often interactive workshops on offer at the museum for kids, including science labs where they can have a go at experimenting with chemicals that would have been used in the olden days, as well as film screenings and arts and crafts. With free entry for most events, this is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon in Swansea with the kids. There is also a free play area on site, which is the perfect way for kids to get out some of that extra energy.

Learning about 300 years of Welsh history can be hungry work, so if you start to feel peckish on your trip, head to the Waterfront Cafe, where you can grab something hot or cold to eat, or enjoy a coffee and some cake. There are also lots of great places to eat in Swansea. The Maritime Quarter, where the National Waterfront Museum is located, has a selection of great restaurants, cafes and pubs, or head up Oystermouth Road for more options.

While visiting the National Waterfront Museum is certainly one of the best things to do in Swansea, there are also many more great days out to experience while you're in this part of Wales. Plantasia Swansea is the place to go for lovers of nature, with an indoor tropical world of plants to explore. Or, for a day spent in the great outdoors, head to the largest park in Swansea, Singleton Park, which is located in Sketty. Here you can check out the botanical gardens, wander the paths and even try your hand at some crazy golf! 

What to know before you go

  • National Waterfront Museum opening times are from 11am - 4pm on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
  • While tickets to the museum are free, they must be booked in advance.
  • The National Waterfront Museum is fully wheelchair accessible, and there are also wheelchairs available to borrow on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • There are accessible toilets and baby-changing facilities located on the ground floor and first floor.
  • For those who require some time out on their visit to the museum, there is a 'Chill Out' room designed to help alleviate stress for those who might feel overwhelmed or unwell.
  • Assistance dogs are allowed in the museum.
  • Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Getting there

  • If you are travelling by car, you can reach the National Waterfront Museum by travelling to Swansea's Maritime Quarter via the A4067 or A483. Pay-and-display parking is available at St David's on Oystermouth Road. There is also a park and ride in Swansea at Fabian Way, which will drop you off near the museum.
  • Swansea City Bus Station is just a 10-minute walk from the National Waterfront Museum if you are travelling by bus.
  • The nearest train station is Swansea station, which has connections to the rest of Wales, as well as London and other areas of the UK.

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Written by Oluwatosin Michael

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

Oluwatosin Michael picture

Oluwatosin MichaelBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

With a Bachelor's in Microbiology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oluwatosin has honed his skills as an SEO content writer, editor, and growth manager. He has written articles, conducted extensive research, and optimized content for search engines. His expertise extends to leading link-building efforts and revising onboarding strategies. 

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