Launched in March 1938, the HMS Belfast saw active duty during World War II by playing a part in destroying the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst at the Battle of North Cape and in the Normandy landings. It also served the Royal Navy in Korea and was used in peacekeeping duties in the 1950s and ’60s. It is now permanently docked in London near the Tower Bridge and is operated by the Imperial War Museum.
A visit to HMS starts on the quarterdeck, where officers and guests of honour were piped aboard and guards and bands paraded. From there the self-guided tour takes visitors to the top of the bridge, with four Bofors gun mountings, and then down through nine decks.
As you wonder, sometimes through quite tight spaces (like on ladders), you’ll see the triple 6-inch gun turrets, shell rooms, and magazines. Visitors can then get a taste of what life would have been like on board in the cramped mess decks, the (slightly) more fancy officer’s cabins, the sick bay and the galley. What really brings this all to life are the life-size mannequins that represent members of the crew going about their daily business. Sometimes they look so real you’ll think you’ve stumbled upon someone hard at work!
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The operators room is set up as a re-enactment of the ship’s part in the Battle of North Cape on December 26, 1943. Along with the mannequins going about their duties, there are also photographs and other memorabilia that teaches visitors about the human cost of the conflict. The exhibition room tells the story of other lives lost from the Scharnhorst which sunk off the coast of Norway in 1943 and all but 36 of the crew of 1,963 perished.
- The self-guided tour that starts on the quarterdeck, goes to the bridge, and then through nine decks to see what life was like on board. It includes mess decks, officers’ cabins, a galley and sick bay.
- The ship’s galley that dates back to the 50s where you can watch the crew (the mannequins) hard at work dishing up meals and following the precise rules posted around the galley.
- A visit to the boiler and engine rooms to see the huge boilers required to produce the superheated steam that propelled the ship. It took four hours to produce enough steam to get the ship moving!
Plan Your Visit
- Prices – £16.00 for adults, £8.00 for children 5-15, and £12.80 for students and seniors. They also offer some family packages that can be found here. Imperial War Museum Members get free admission. One way to save on the ticket prices is by taking advantage of the “2 for 1 London” offer by Day’s Out Guide combined with a National Rail ticket if it is available when you are visiting. HMS Belfast is also included on the list of attractions if you purchase the London Pass.
- Open daily from 10:00 am. Do check their website for current closing time though as they change with the season; Closed on December 24 through 26.
- During inclement weather they may need to close some ladders and upper decks on short notice.
Make it a Day
Looking for ideas for a whole day out in London after your visit to the HMS Belfast? Here are some suggestions~
In the Area
- Step back in time to the 11th century and visit the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels, the White Tower, and take a tour by one of the Yeoman Warders.
- Visit one of my favourite places in London, the Tower Bridge, which now has glass floors in the high level walkways to let you see down 42 meters to the river below!
- Take in the view of all of London from the Shard from either of floors 68,69, or 72.
- Fire, war, and murder- the London Bridge has seen it all and at the London Bridge Experience you’ll take a journey through all the scariest bits of London’s history. Too scary for this wimp.
Imperial War Museums
- At the Imperial War Museum London you learn about people’s experiences of modern war and you can visit their new First World War Galleries.
- If you like planes the Imperial War Museum Duxford is the place to go. They have several hangars with planes from different countries and it is Britain’s best preserved WWII airfield. You can even book a flight in one of their vintage aircraft. This museum is a day trip in itself and worth the trek out of London to Cambridgeshire if you have some extra time and a car.
- Back in London you can visit the original Cabinet War Rooms and bunker used by Churchill and his government during the Blitz at the Churchill War Rooms.
This post is part of my London Love series.
For more information on common (and some not so common) sights in London, as well as itineraries to help you plan your time, please visit my collection of posts in London Love.
Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission but this does not affect the price to you. Please read my full disclosure policy here. Thank you for supporting One Trip at a Time.