Last updated: 01/10/2019
A different tour option in London for those who want to get away from conventional museums is to visit the HMS Belfast, a warship docked in London that currently houses a very interesting museum.
THE STORY OF HMS BELFAST
HMS Belfast is one of the most important warships of WWII. Originally a member of the British Royal Navy, he traveled all over the world, facing extreme weather conditions, participating in expeditions in various locations.
The construction of the ship began in 1936 and its name is a tribute to the city of Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, where it was built. In 1939, HMS Belfast was initially part of the British naval blockade against Germany. However, at the end of the same year, Belfast was hit by a German mine and spent the next two years going through a repair process. He returned to action in November 1942 with improved firepower, radar equipment, and armor.
In 1943, he participated in operations in the Arctic for escort of Soviet ships. The following year, he participated in operations supporting the landing of troops in the region of Normandy (action known as Day D). Then he went to the Far East to join the British Pacific Fleet, arriving just before the end of World War II. Between 1950 and 1952, he was present during the Korean War and continued to participate in other overseas actions. Finally, he “retired” in 1963. Since 1971, HMS Belfast has served as a museum..
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HMS BELFAST: WARSHIP ANCHORED IN LONDON
To visit HMS Belfast, you can buy your ticket online or directly at the ticket office. It is necessary to access the ship via a bridge of sorts, as it is anchored in the River Thames. Show your ticket to the clerk and pick up the audioguide to begin your tour of the ship. HMS Belfast is quite large and you have to pay attention to follow the numbers shown in each room. Each issue has a corresponding audio explaining the functions of each place, and curiosities about the daily life of the ship's crew.
Book 2 to 3 hours to be able to explore the details of the ship's corners. The tour requires you to go up and down several stairs to fully understand the workings of HMS Belfast. The exhibition, in addition to being very explanatory, has the presence of dolls that simulate the habits of officers. Virtually the entire ship can be explored, passing through the laundry, kitchen, dormitories, control rooms, engine room, warehouses, infirmary and much more. There are 5 upper floors and 3 lower floors!
ECONOMY IN LONDON: ACTIVITY CARDS
For those who want to do many things and visit many paid places in London, the suggestion is to purchase one of the cards that give you direct access to attractions and ride the tourist bus, saving a lot! O THE LONDON PASS is the most famous of them. The card can be purchased in versions of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 10 days. It entitles you to admission to over 60 of London's top attractions and 1 day tour on the hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus. In addition, the card offers more than 20 exclusive special offers at some of the city's shops and restaurants. See the full list of included attractions in this link. Price: from £69.
HOW TO EXPLORE HMS BELFAST
When crossing the footbridge and taking the audio guide, you will reach Floor 0. This is the main floor that will give access to the others during the tour. Right at the entrance there is a television showing a video about the ship. For those looking straight ahead, go left along the corridor until you find a door to enter the ship and start the tour itself, following the numbers that are shown in each room. The figure below better shows the path taken during the tour.
Following the red arrows you will see all the rooms on the ship in order. It looks a little confusing at the time of the visit, but using this little map, you won't get lost. Notice that throughout the tour of Floor 0, you will descend several times to the Lower Floors (-1, -2, -3). Follow the signs because the ship is organized for you to go down a certain ladder and go up another, so you don't run into another visitor in the opposite direction. So respect the signage.
Here you will find most of the rooms on the ship: laundry, woodworking and electrical room, post office, chapel, radio, butcher, bakery, kitchen, sailors' accommodation, medical and dental clinic, radio, grocery store and two exhibitions: Life at Sea (Sea Life) and War and Peace.
LOWER FLOORS (-1, -2, -3)
These floors house the ship's boiler and engine room. This one is pretty tight and the area is more difficult to access. It is not recommended that small children go down the site due to limited mobility. There are signs that show that show certain areas are below the water level. On Floor -2 there are also rooms that house bombs used in wars.
UPPER FLOORS (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
The largest of these floors is 1, where you can walk to the front deck of the ship and see the anchor and very heavy chains. These floors also house the admiral's and captain's cockpit, private officers' cabins, operations and monitoring room. The last deck houses the ship's flag.
WHERE TO EAT / DRINK
Right at the ticket office on HMS Belfast, there is a bar called Tom's Kitchen. It has two floors and is an excellent option during summer days, enjoying the view from the terrace. On the ground floor is a delhi to buy quick snacks and drinks. Those taking the tour inside HMS Belfast have the option of getting to know the HMS Café (Floor 1), which offers ready-to-eat snacks, cakes, muffins and ice cream.
HOW TO GET
By subway, the best options are:
- London Bridge Station: Northern Line (black) and Jubilee Line (grey) – 5 min. on foot
- Tower Hill Station: District Line (green) and circle line (yellow) – 15 to 20 min. on foot
- Address: The Queen's Walk, London SE1 2JH
- Schedules: daily from 10 am to 5 pm
- Entrance: £15.30 (includes audio guide) – buy online in this link
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See other options for museums in London:
- London Natural History Museum
- Sherlock Holmes Museum in London
- Tate Britain: Museum of British Art in London
- Museums that stay open until night in London
- 10 museums in London you need to visit
- V&A – Victoria and Albert Museum in London
- Wallace Collection: one of London's best museums
- Museum of London: History Museum of London
- Handel & Hendrix Museum: Two Music Geniuses in London
- Tate Modern: London's largest modern art museum
- London Film Museum: Exhibition of original James Bond vehicles
- London: The amazing and free British Museum