If you have children with you on your London trip, you simply cannot take a tour of London’s museums without dropping by the National Maritime Museum. This museum features Britain’s history with the sea, and together with the Royal Observatory, the 17th-century Queen’s House, and Cutty Sark, was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 – now referred to as the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.
Britain has a rich maritime history, spanning commerce, naval interests, explorations, and travels, and the National Maritime Museum is a veritable treasure trove of more than two million items, including maps, art, memorabilia, artefacts, and various other precious objects commemorating hundreds of years of British exploration around the world.
Greenwich was inevitably associated with navigation and the sea, and has been the home of the Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian since 1884. It is also home of the world’s largest maritime historical reference library, named the Caird Library, that is open to all. While the National Maritime Museum was first opened to the public in 1937 by King George VI, the building itself is much older – and originally served as a school for the children of seafarers, or the Royal Navy Asylum which was later incorporated into the Royal Hospital School.
For families with kids, there is an interactive gallery designed for children with themed zones that include deck and ship models of a ship, a beach, and various other games.
Tate Britain is touted as the “home of British art from 1500 to the present day.” Throughout the years, it has also been variously called as the Tate Gallery, the Millbank Gallery, and the National Gallery of British Art (1897 to 1932). It is the oldest gallery in the Tate Group, and it is located on Millbank in London, having been built on the site of the former Millbank Prison. Tate Britain used to house both British and modern collections, but with the establishment of Tate Modern, many of the more modern collections were moved to the new site.
Historical and contemporary British art are still displayed in Tate Britain, which was consequently renamed because of this. Tate Britain holds works of artists such as William Hogarth, George Stubbs, Gainsborough and Reynolds, David Hockney, Peter Blake, Francis Bacon, and J.M.W. Turner, who bequeathed his entire collection to the nation. As with many of the museums in London, admission to Tate Britain is free, although tickets may be purchased for major exhibitions.
There are free, hourly tours available for sightseers, regular exhibitions, audio guides, interactive exhibits, lectures, and kids’ activities. Each year, the Tate Britain also hosts the Turner Prize exhibition, a popular exhibition featuring four artists under the age of fifty. This is a good second leg to a Tate viewing – a high speed boat ride can easily bring sightseers from Tate Modern to the Millbank Millenium Pier, which lies right outside Tate Britain.
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