HMS Belfast

Attractions, Ships and boats Aldgate
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HMS Belfast
Andrew Brackenbury
HMS Belfast

Europe's largest cruiser from WWII, HMS Belfast is now a floating naval museum, a landmark on the Thames near Tower Bridge, with its nine huge decks, including gun turrets, punishment rooms and an operating theatre. 'HMS Belfast in War and Peace' tells the story of the HMS Belfast from her inception in the mid-1930s to the decision to save her for the nation in 1971. Original artefacts, documents, plans and drawings (as well as contemporary paintings, photographs, models and audio-visual displays) give a detailed account of the life and times of the warship and the men who served in her. Under the care of the Imperial War Museum, HMS Belfast offers an immersive experience of what life would have been like for members of the 950-strong crew. As one of the most significant battleships to survive the second world war, you’ll learn all about the ships history, from Arctic convoys to D-Day, its role in the Cold War and beyond. The HMS Belfast also makes an unlikely playground for children, who tear around its cramped complex with ease. 

 

 

Posted:

Venue name: HMS Belfast
Contact:
Address: The Queen's Walk
London
SE1 2JH
Opening hours: Nov-Feb daily 10am-5pm (last adm 4.15pm); daily Mar-Oct 10am-6pm (last adm 5.15pm)
Transport: Tube: London Bridge
Price: £16, £12.80 concs, under-16s £8 (prices include a voluntary donation)
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4.3 / 5

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LiveReviews|12
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Whether you are a history buff or someone who doesn't know the difference between a Union Jack and a Union Flag, the HMS Belfast has something for you. The naval ship offers many different ways to explore the ship, including audio guides, private tours or exploring yourself. 


The private tour guide had a wealth of knowledge and shared stories about the war and life on the ship. Having a tour guide can really help bring the ship's history alive.


It is easy to get lost in the labyrinth beneath the deck, each room offering insight into life on the sea. Every nook and cranny on the ship has a different story, and I can't wait to hear another story on my next visit!

tastemaker

I was lucky to have been invited to their 80th bday celebration. It was a fun day talking to the veterans while exploring the ship. The things on display include some of the veterans’ personal items. It was great to see and hear the stories how the veterans used them during their service time. The ship has multiple floors, with steep and narrow stairs connecting them. The top floor has the captain’s seat and the view from there is amazing. The bottom floor is the engine room, the walkways were the steepest and most narrow here. Overall, I enjoyed my time aboard, do join the tour as the visit is more interesting that way. Allow at least 2 hours to visit.

tastemaker

I love being a tourist around London and love discovering and visiting new places, there’s always a spot you’ve not been before or has been on your to visit list. I was lucky enough to be invited to the HMS 80th Anniversary celebrations that took place a couple of weeks ago. I’ve often walked passed the ship and been amazed at the size and often wandered what it was like inside. I wasn’t disappointed and my expectations were exceeded. You get a real feel for how the crew lived and can actually imagine what it was like for them. I am quite short and even I struggled in some of the confined spaces. There are also a lot of steep and narrow steps - so I wouldn’t recommend wearing heels. The tour takes about 90 minutes and you get to hear stories about what went on and how the soldiers and crew lived through the tough conditions. I found it quite nostalgic and makes you reflect on what it was like all those years ago. The tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and will be able to share so many stories so you can somewhat bring the experience to life. I would highly recommend this experience.

tastemaker

For how big this ship looks from the outside, it's amazing how narrow and small everything is inside. I guess it's optimized for war not for crew ;) It was fun to wander around the ship, it's maze-like with steep ladder staircases connecting the compartments. It's interesting to see that the crew sleep on top of the area they work (engine, gun turret..) I'm slightly envious of their lack of daily commute. The room storing the ammunition shells is like a scene from Alien, and the teal controls with gold trims in the bridge looks unexpectedly on trend.

tastemaker

This year (2018) marks HMS Belfast’s 80 years since her launch! I was fortunate enough to take a tour of the ship that served in the Arctic Convoys, fought in the Korean War and played a key role at the D-Day landings.

We heard countless powerful stories about the 950+ crew who worked on board and learned how they coped, travelling the world and living in extreme conditions.


This attraction continues to amaze with some really vivid elements – the gun turrets were particularly striking as were the sick bay, canteen and the very cramped conditions.


This battleship offers so much more than just being a plain tourist-attraction. It gives you a deeper sense of feeling and comprehension as to how sailors and battle-worn soldiers lived their lives back in the 40s and 50s during the WW2. Media snippets give an insight into the firepower capabilities and the chronological time dates of HMS Belfast involvement in naval activities.


Children of all ages seemed to be fascinated by the ship and eagerly questioned their parents about every aspect of daily operations.


The HMS Belfast is berthed on the South Bank of the Thames, a few hundred yards from the instantly recognisable Tower Bridge. It is a proud and sometimes sombre reminder of the conflict that claimed thousands of lives in the North Atlantic, and has been impressively restored and opened up to visitors by the Imperial War Museum Group.

One thing to note, if you are not nimble, exploration of this ship might be a bit tricky for you. The ladders and stairs are quite steep and there are a lot of tight spaces, with restricted head space.


If you're interested in anything military or history related, then the HMS Belfast is totally up your alley.  And even if it's not exactly your cup of tea, it could be a good diversion from cathedral / museum fatigue.


Overall, it’s a highly recommended way to experience one of the sharp ends of British 20th century military history.

Make sure you check this out – you will not regret it!

Tastemaker

I’ve probably passed this iconic Royal Navy warship several times whilst walking along the Southbank near Tower Bridge, that now takes permanent residence as a museum moored on the River Thames. I am ashamed to say that I haven’t visited until recently which happened to coincide with their 80th anniversary celebrations this past weekend. What a great impressive piece of history this place is! With nine decks you are bound to get lost on the ship and spend hours just exploring all the fascinating areas within it. It’s done really well so you can as a visitor really experience what it was like living on board. It was great speaking to some of the veterans and just listening to their stories offered an interesting extra special insight to how it really was like.  There really is a lot to see from punishment cells, night jars, provision issue room where daily measures of rum were issued, to a dentist (with sound effects!) and even a ship resident cat. Just be prepared there are quite a few ladders so sensible footwear is wise, heels are not a good idea here and there is quite a lot to see and I would definitely recommend the audio guide or some of the tours offered. You get some great views of London from the higher decks of the HMS Belfast and I also noticed that they also offer kip on a ship, so if you were after an unique sleepover experience after hours this might be it.

Tastemaker

A fascinating look at a miniature floating city, which—as big as looks from the outside—still surprises with how massive and compartment-filled it is. There’s fantastic access to nearly every part of the ship, giving a good sense of life on board, from the kitchens to the prison cells to the navigation areas. The waxworks are slightly sinister, though, in a comical way...

tastemaker

Whatever your opinions on warfare, it's hard not to be impressed by the scale and technology of this vessel. This epic part of history had seen action in 4 separate campaigns before being retired and moored in its current resting place in 1971. There are stories everywhere you look on each of the nine decks, from the Admiral's Bridge to the loud and unforgiving boiler room. There are old relics of the past such as the Rum room and the Carpentry workshop which give an insight to life at sea 80 years ago. I would recommend taking the free audio guides. 

Tastemaker

I have walked past this boat a million times and finally went and saw it on Saturday and it was one of the best tours I have ever done. Leo and Lister were amazing tour guides. 

It was nice to have a guided tour and hear many stories of tales gone by. The boat is 9 decks in total and we got to see the nooks and crannies of the ship. To get to the different decks, there are lots of narrow stairs and quite steep.

I especially enjoyed the medical room and the rum room and sitting in the captains chair. 

I have done many tours and this was the most in depth and stimulating one I have ever done. The 90 minutes flew and I just loved all the different stories. I have literally been telling all my friends about it and the Union Jack vs the union flag story and no one knew! 

The top deck, has amazing photo opportunities of Tower Bridge and the Shard and just in London generally. 


The ship turns 80 years old next week and there will be lots of fun and games on board, if you have not been, I DEFINITELY RECOMMEND THIS as a great day out for the family. 


TOP TIP

If you dont pay for the private tour, you get a free audio guide anyway

Dont wear heels on board.

tastemaker

I explored the HMS Belfast on my own and actually preferred it that way, as there is lots to see and you could easily lose people. I firstly walked around the lower deck and went up a ladder to the Y-Turret. Then I went inside the ship and explored the main decks, where I saw the kitchen, the sick bay, the mailroom, the laundry and the chapel among other rooms. One of the most interesting rooms was the arctic messdecks, where the sailors ate, spent their free time and slept.


The only way up and down to the different decks was by very narrow and steep ladders. I went down to the lower decks to see the boiler and engine rooms (as you can imagine they were very hot). The sheer amount of machines and pipes was astounding. There was also a demonstration on the loud speaker of the sort of volume that could be experienced working down there, loud!

What I found very interesting about the tour was that each room smelt authentic to what it was used for. For example, the Laundry room smelt like soap and the bakery smelt like bread. I had an audio guide which was included in my ticket price, this was very useful to know what I was looking at and to get a more in depth look at experiences on the ship.
Tastemaker

This boat – which is now a museum – gives an authentic view of life at sea during wartime. You’ll discover the operating theatre where seamen underwent surgeries, the kitchen, bedrooms and engine rooms, as well as a lot of artefacts and photography of the time. It’s interesting and a great playground for kids who’ll love going up and down the numerous stairs and tricky ladder – don’t worry, there’s an accessible route too.


An interesting couple of hours but one visit is enough.

tastemaker

Ahoy there! I went on a little tourist trip into HMS Belfast and what a little adventure that is.

Very easy to get to from London Bridge tube I dragged along my parents and older brother for a family trip in London and we popped onto the boat.

You don't need to pre-book and if you go on a wet day like we did I'm pretty sure it won't be busy.

You get a free audio guide with the ticket and it's worth having even if you only listen to key parts that interest you.

It's split on different levels so beware many steps to climb and some narrow, although my mother doesn't do stairs she managed to do two levels absolutely fine.

The HMS Belfast does a great job at bringing the boat to life, the exhibitions and descriptions of the areas are really good and easy enough for kids to appreciate as well.

Many great photo opportunities on board as well.

It's certainly worth the money to see how the ship operated and how the living conditions were. I was a fan of the pet cat!

On board you do have a cafe as well if you want to grab a bite to eat.

You can certainly spend a good amount of time on board and easily be entertained.

Enjoy but look out for pirates...(or just the pet cat)