Family fun in and around London

National Army Museum

Posted by on Tuesday, 9 May, 2017 in Featured, Museums, Rainy day, Soft play

National Army Museum

Before it closed for refurbishment the National Army Museum was one of our top picks for a day out due to its amazing soft play area. Now it’s back after an enormous facelift and we’ve been along to check it out.

The National Army Museum is found in Chelsea – next door to the Royal Hospital, home of the red-liveried Chelsea Pensioners. As you pass the gates of the Royal Hospital you can’t miss the brand new, plate-glass fronted Museum building looming over you. It’s a lot more modern, airy and welcoming than its predecessor, with floors of galleries opening onto a large atrium featuring a striking sculpture Desert Rat (made from scraps of vehicles from Afghanistan).

The Museum’s collection is now presented in themed galleries focusing on different aspects of the British Army – from the varied emotions, experiences and daily life of soldiers through the ages to the Army’s influence on wider society through advertising, art and fashion – you don’t have to be an army enthusiast to find it engaging. There are lots of interactive exhibits and hands-on activities for kids, such as exploring vehicles, learning to drum, choosing rations and creating an emblem. There is a kids’ trail and activity sheet that you can pick up from the front desk and there are special workshops in the school holidays.

We also pre-booked a session in the new Play Base (£4.50 per child, 1 hour session) – a new soft play area located on the ground floor. If you visited the previous version in the basement you will find that some of the play equipment is familiar. We were sad to see that the traditional rocking horses are no more, but the boys enjoyed the well-stocked quartermasters’ stores and army canteen. Imaginative little ones can grab a knapsack and fill it with all kinds of supplies before setting off on an adventure around the climbing frames, slides and tent. Answering the videophones that are positioned around the play base was also a hit – when you pick one up, another one rings and then you can make friends with whoever answers it.

I think that the sessions are timed about right. Unless you have a very imaginative child, they will have exhausted the play equipment by the end of an hour. The recommended age is under 8, but I think this play area is really best suited to little ones up to about 5/6 years of age. For very little ones, there is a separate baby corner, with interactive sound wall and soft play objects.

Interest rating

The National Army Museum is looking great after its makeover and is well worth a visit. The varied collection has been designed to appeal to a range of interests. Make sure you pre-book online if you want to visit the Play Base soft play, as slots are limited and tickets sell out quickly.


The new café is a sunny and attractive place to sit and watch the world go by. It’s at the pricier end of museum cafés, but then again you are in Chelsea…


Admission to the Museum is free. Admission to the Play Base costs £4.50 per child.


The Museum is accessible with plenty of space for pushchairs, brand new facilities and lifts to all floors. There are baby changing and feeding areas and high chairs are available in the café.

Contact details


Telephone: 020 7730 0717

Getting there

Address: National Army Museum, Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London SW3 4HT

By rail: Nearest stations are Sloane Square (Circle and District Lines) and Victoria (Victoria, Circle, District Lines and National Rail)

By bus: 170


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