- Step on board HMS Belfast, one of the Royal Navy's biggest and most important ships during World War II.
- Discover how the Navy sailors lived and worked as they fought against the Nazis on this incredible warship.
- Experience the real-life representations of the different rooms of the ship, including the captain's area, engine rooms, and battle stations.
Discover the Navy ship HMS Belfast, a completely unique experience in the heart of London on the bank of the River Thames. This incredible ship was an integral part of the Navy fleet for over 25 years before it was retired and converted into the 'floating museum' it is today.
With nine different decks to explore, HMS Belfast is a brilliant day out for the whole family and one of the best things to do around London Bridge. From the engine rooms to the captain's chair, you can see how the hundreds of men who were on board HMS Belfast during the war would've lived and worked.
HMS Belfast was built in 1936 in the city that it was named after, Belfast in Northern Ireland by shipbuilders Harland and Wolff. She was unveiled by the Prime Minister's wife, Anne Chamberlain, in 1938 and was soon called to action in the Second World War, patrolling the waters near Germany. Disaster struck, as just two months after her commission, she was struck by a mine and had to be fixed with extensive repairs.
Three years later, in 1942, Belfast was ready for action again. For the next few years, her crew were tasked with the important job of Arctic convoy, which meant they were responsible for bringing supplies to Britain's wartime ally, the Soviet Union. When German ships left a Norwegian port, it was HMS Belfast that helped sink one of Germany's most important naval ships.
HMS Belfast also played an important role in the most significant operation of the war, D-Day, where she was said to have fired the first shots of the mission. After WWII, HMS Belfast also saw combat during the Korean War (1950-52). She was eventually retired in 1963.
After her retirement, it was eventually decided that HMS Belfast should become one of Britain's only naval museum ships, as a way of preserving the memory of her crew's efforts during the war. The ship was taken to London in 1971.
Today, the 187-metre long ship is moored in Central London, where it receives over 250,000 visitors every year. The museum is a mix of real-life objects and facilities used by the crew of HMS Belfast during her time as an active Navy ship, and new interactive features to engage visitors. There are lifelike wax figures of the ship's inhabitants in many of the areas of the vessel, much like the figures you can find at Madame Tussauds.
The different areas of the ship are a great way to learn about what life was like aboard the ship when it was in action. From the inner workings of the vessel to its impressive guns and defences, HMS Belfast has everything you'd expect from a Royal Navy ship and much more. Today, the vast HMS Belfast guns are aimed at the London Gateway services around 12.5 miles away, showing the amazing range of these weapons during wartime.
If you love your trip to HMS Belfast, you'll be glad to know that she's not the only museum ship in London. The Cutty Sark now stands in Greenwich, where this Victorian marvel of engineering draws thousands of visitors each year to discover how one of the fastest ships in the Navy operated.
What to know before you go
- HMS Belfast opening times are every day from 10am - 6pm. If you want to get a proper look at the inner workings of the museum, a trip takes around an hour and a half.
- HMS Belfast has its own café on one of its upper outdoor decks. The café sells snacks, sandwiches, and drinks. You can sit at the café with brilliant views of central London; HMS Belfast is moored next to Tower Bridge and opposite the Tower of London.
- With its central location, there's also plenty of places to grab a bite to eat near the museum ship. Leon, Côte Brasserie, and Café Rouge can all be found in the nearby Hay's Galleria on the south side of the river.
- Parts of the ship are only accessible by steep staircases. The museum has a mix of outside decks and indoor areas, but to get the most out of it, you should go with kids that are at least two or three years old. Children who can walk around confidently on their own will not have too much trouble with a little help from an adult, but it isn't really baby-friendly.
- There are plenty of areas that wheelchairs and buggies can access, including the Main Deck and the café area. Accessible toilets and baby changing facilities are both available on the Main Deck. There is also space to leave your buggies before you enter the museum.
- HMS Belfast is located on the Thames between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.
- Due to the museum's central location, there's no venue-specific parking available. However, there are a few different car parks nearby, including NCP London Bridge, Union car park, and Q-Park Tower Bridge.
- The museum is also easily accessible by public transport. The nearest station is London Bridge, which has both rail and Tube links (Jubilee and Northern lines) and is only a four-minute walk from the ship.
- If you're coming from elsewhere along the River Thames and fancy something a bit different for your journey, HMS Belfast is also just a couple of minutes' walk from the London Bridge City stop on the TfL river bus.
- For the regular, on-land bus, there are a few different routes that have stops within a few minutes' walk of HMS Belfast. These include the 141, 343, and 381.