“Up Spirits” came the cry on HMS Belfast at 11am every day from thirsty crew ready for their daily tot of rum. We learned from the audio tour that shockingly in 1970 the practice of knocking back 40% proof whilst handling dangerous machinery including weaponry was ended #outcry!

HMS Belfast sits proudly on the Thames surrounded by some of London’s most iconic landmarks,  amongst them the Shard,  Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

Views from the deck of HMS Belfast – The Shard, Tower Bridge, Tower of London

The ship is famous for its active service in World War 2 and beyond. HMS Belfast London is now part of the Imperial War Museum’s range of attractions. Before visiting be aware that touring the ship involves climbing up and down a maze of steep ladders. Kids must be 120cm tall to use the ladders and I don’t recommend it for little ones or anyone who can’t climb up and down independently.Collect an audio tour on your way in, we did the kids one and it was perfectly designed with just the right amount of information and a few tales designed to appeal to the gross out factor so beloved by kids. Make sure you listen in the galley! 2000 meals a day were produced here and some of them had some disgustingly unwanted ingredients.

My great grandfather was a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy during World War Two and HMS Belfast for me was a fascinating insight to his life at sea and a great opportunity to discuss this piece of family history with my own children.

Your tour starts in the gun turret where you gain a brief overview of one of HMS Belfast’s most famous operations in the Northern Cape and experience something of what it was like to be in the gun turret when the shells fired.  From there no area of the ship is left unexplored. Deep in the heart of the ship the huge engine rooms and boiler rooms with their staggering amount of dials, switches and vast machinery unveil the complexity of powering this mammoth seafarer. The living quarters, hospital, workshops, kitchens and mess quarters are set up as dioramas with dummies and sound effects, hammocks hanging from every available place.


Dioramas throughout the ship bring the HMS Belfast to life

Popular with my kids was the opportunity to sit on the Captain’s chair and look put onto the guns. Below decks the shell room  allows you to get up close to where the ammunition was hoisted to the turrets. There is also an exhibition onboard telling you more about the ship’s engagements during World War Two.


HMS Belfast is a real part of Britain’s wartime legacy that you experience via the sights, sounds and stories of the ship and its crew. From the decks to the dentist it’s a fascinating part of British naval history and well worth a visit. Up Spirits!


If you like ship-visiting check out my review of Greenwich and the Cutty Sark here.

If you are in New York City and want to see ships, a submarine, concorde and a space shuttle, check out my review of the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum here.



Don’t forget your kids can get in free to HMS Belfast with a Blue Peter Badge see here for details.

Where Jo Goes other London Reviews:

Hotels 4*  Pullman London St Pancras/ Hotels Budget Premier Inn Kensington

Things to do Greenwich including Cutty Sark/World’s Biggest Lego Store/British Library/Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre/Ham House (National Trust)

Family friendly Restaurants Pizza Pilgrims/Snog Frozen Yoghurt

Days out from London Legoland Top Tips/Legoland Top 10 Rides/Oxford

Where Jo Goes other ship related reviews 

Intrepid Air, Sea & Space Museum, New York 

Linking up with

the Pigeon Pair and Me
Wander Mum


  1. February 3, 2017 / 9:42 am

    This looks fascinating. I have a few little wannabe sailors (over 120cm, of course!) that would love to explore this ship, and the dioramas would really help bring to life a world which is outside of their everyday consciousness. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. #CulturedKids

    • February 3, 2017 / 9:45 am

      They can also spend time in the punishment cell!😂

  2. February 3, 2017 / 12:09 pm

    It must have been brilliant having the ship as a prompt for the conversation about your great grandfather. I really must get to HMS Belfast – my two would love it. Thanks ever so much for linking up with #CulturedKids!

  3. February 5, 2017 / 3:50 pm

    Indeed sounds fascinating. Something about exploring old ships and going back in time – and how great you could tie it to your great-grandfather and proudly tell your kids all about him. #culturedkids

  4. February 7, 2017 / 8:23 am

    This looks like a fascinating place and my little wannabe sailors would love all that climbing. We are compiling of list of must do’s for our Easter trip to London from Newcastle upon Tyne. We can’t wait there’s so much to do! #culturedkids

  5. March 14, 2017 / 8:10 am

    I’ve been to IWM and I loved it, but I haven’t been to HMS Belfast. Looks like an educative and fun place to visit. Thanks for this great report! #CityTripping

  6. March 14, 2017 / 8:15 am

    I have bean meaning to explore this ship for a long time – but will have to wait until my toddler grows now! #citytripping

    • March 14, 2017 / 8:24 am

      Yes it’s definitely not a toddler trip! So many ladders!

  7. March 14, 2017 / 9:53 am

    I’ve still not visited HMS Belfast but would love to, it looks so interested and great option for travellers with kids! I think the Imperial War Museum does some great work with its exhibits etc, I recently visited Churchill’s War Rooms and learnt so much! #citytripping

    • March 14, 2017 / 6:58 pm

      Keri I love Churchill’s War Rooms. It is a really fantastic museum, one of the best in London in my opinion.

  8. March 14, 2017 / 4:36 pm

    My older kids did this one with Nick years ago but the triplets were only tiny back then, I think it is one they would enjoy now and I’ll get to go too! #CityTripping

  9. March 14, 2017 / 7:32 pm

    We haven’t been here for years, but I’d quite like a return trip now! I don’t think we did an audio tour when we went and it sounds such fun. I love this part of London anyway, so any excuse to go back is good for me…#citytripping

    • March 14, 2017 / 8:03 pm

      Thanks Sarah yes there’s lots to do in the area. Great spot for sightseeing.

  10. March 14, 2017 / 10:02 pm

    A fascinating tour of such an iconic London landmark. We have been in submarines in Chatham’s Historic Dockyard numerous times but we’re never subjected to height restrictions as we carried the boys in the slings. Both ours are too little for the Belfast at the moment so we will just have to wait. Love your photos! #citytripping

    • March 14, 2017 / 11:03 pm

      The submarines sound brilliant! 😀

  11. March 15, 2017 / 2:11 pm

    This is really interesting Jo. I’ve often wandered past but never been in. Good to know what age is best to visit, I’ll wait a little longer before exploring with my daughter…although really want to know some of the unwanted ingredients that went into the meals! Thanks for linking to #citytripping

  12. March 17, 2017 / 5:16 pm

    I should add this on my London list for when I visit this summer, it looks very interesting 😀 #citytripping

    • March 17, 2017 / 8:30 pm

      It’s near a lot of the other sights so it’s a handy one to pop in for a couple of hours. Thanks for reading.

  13. March 19, 2017 / 1:11 pm

    Your mention of your great grandfather reminded me of my visit to the newly opened WW2 gallery in Singapore. When I was there, I saw some elderly visiting with their children / grandchildren and telling them their own wartime stories. I can imagine how meaningful bringing your own children to this museum and passing down your great grandfather’s memories to them must have been. #CityTripping

    • March 19, 2017 / 1:21 pm

      If we ever go to Singapore we really want to visit that gallery. Thanks for reading.

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