Discovering the World's Best Maritime Museums

Feb 22, 2024 · 7 mins read ·

Fun Stuff
The Cutty Sark at Greenwich maritime museum

Whether you’re looking for something to do at the weekend, during the school holidays, or even while you’re abroad on vacation, if you have an interest in ships, seafarer jobs and life at sea, why not pay a visit to a maritime museum?

And maritime museums aren’t only for fans of ship life, they also provide a fascinating glimpse of the rich tapestry of history as it relates to the ocean. From ancient seafaring civilizations to modern naval innovations, these institutions offer a captivating journey through time, showcasing the triumphs, challenges, and cultural heritage of maritime exploration and trade.

Wondering what some of the best maritime museums in the world are? Check out our list and see if any of them are worth adding to your own bucket list of places to go and things to see and do. 

And of course, a disclaimer, there are countless maritime museums around the world that are well worth a visit and this list represents just a tiny fraction of some of the better known ones.

What are some of the best maritime museums to visit?

In no particular order, here are some of the world’s best known museums about the history of shipping. 

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (London, UK)

Located in the historic maritime district of Greenwich, London, the National Maritime Museum stands as a beacon of maritime heritage and exploration. Housed within the magnificent Queen's House and surrounded by the iconic Cutty Sark and Royal Observatory, this museum boasts a vast collection of artifacts, artworks, and interactive exhibits spanning centuries of maritime history. 

Highlights include the uniform of Admiral Nelson, intricate ship models, and the world's largest maritime library, making it a must-visit destination for maritime enthusiasts visiting London.

The Museu Marítim de Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain)

Nestled along the bustling waterfront of Barcelona's Port Vell, the Maritime Museum of Barcelona, or Museu Marítim de Barcelona in Spanish, offers a fascinating glimpse into the city's seafaring past. 

Housed within the historic Royal Shipyard, this museum showcases the maritime legacy of Catalonia through a diverse collection of ship models, navigational instruments, and archaeological artifacts recovered from ancient shipwrecks. Visitors can explore full-scale replicas of medieval vessels and learn about Barcelona's role as a maritime powerhouse during the Age of Exploration.

The Mariners' Museum and Park (Newport News, Virginia, USA)

Situated on the banks of the scenic James River in Newport News, Virginia, the Mariners' Museum and Park is one of the largest and most comprehensive maritime museums in the United States. 

Spanning over 90 acres of lush parkland, this museum features a vast collection of over 35,000 artifacts, including ship models, maritime art, and Civil War naval exhibits. The crown jewel of the museum is the USS Monitor Center, which houses the iconic turret of the USS Monitor, a revolutionary ironclad warship from the Civil War era.

The Australian National Maritime Museum (Sydney, Australia)

Located in the heart of Sydney's Darling Harbour, the Australian National Maritime Museum offers a captivating exploration of Australia's maritime heritage and culture. 

From Indigenous seafaring traditions to modern naval technology, this museum celebrates the nation's deep connection to the sea through immersive exhibitions, interactive displays, and outdoor maritime vessels. 

Highlights include the replica of Captain Cook's HMB Endeavour, the HMAS Vampire destroyer, and the opportunity to climb aboard a historic submarine.

Maritiem Museum Rotterdam (Rotterdam, Netherlands)

Situated in the vibrant port city of Rotterdam, the Maritime Museum Rotterdam, or Maritiem Museum Rotterdam, offers an engaging exploration of Dutch maritime history and innovation.

Housed within a stunning modernist building overlooking the historic Leuvehaven harbor, this museum showcases a diverse collection of ship models, maritime artifacts, and interactive exhibits. Visitors can embark on a virtual voyage through the Port of Rotterdam, learn about Dutch maritime trade routes, and discover the city's iconic maritime landmarks.

The Museum of Maritime Science (Tokyo, Japan)

Tucked away in the bustling waterfront district of Odaiba, the Museum of Maritime Science offers a captivating journey through Japan's seafaring heritage and maritime traditions. 

Designed by renowned architect Fumihiko Maki, this futuristic museum features a striking glass and steel structure inspired by the shape of a ship's hull. Inside, visitors can explore immersive exhibitions on Japanese maritime history, shipbuilding techniques, and maritime culture, making it a must-visit destination for maritime enthusiasts visiting Tokyo.

Which maritime museums are on YOUR bucket list?

From Europe to Asia and from the Americas to Oceania, the world's maritime museums offer a fascinating window into maritime history and culture. From ancient seafaring civilizations to modern naval innovations, these institutions celebrate humanity's enduring relationship with the sea, offering immersive experiences and captivating exhibits for visitors of all ages. 

Whether exploring the iconic collections of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich or discovering the maritime legacy of Sydney's Darling Harbour, each museum invites visitors to embark on a captivating journey through the seas of history.

The only question that remains, is which maritime museum is YOUR favorite, and which are still waiting to be checked off your bucket list? Why not let us know on social media? You can find Martide on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter / X.

Eve Church

Eve Church

Eve is Martide's content writer, publishing regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea. Eve has been writing professionally for more than two decades, crafting everything from SEO-focused blog posts and website landing pages to magazine articles and corporate whitepapers.


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