Alex Valentine
24th May 2024

Is there a better way to while away an afternoon than a wander around a museum? The centres for fascinating history, art and culture are always warm and welcoming, whether it’s their knowledgeable tour guides or friendly café staff! We’re so lucky that here in Kent we have an abundance of interesting museums, historical sites and memorials, from the historic and famous to the quirky and unique, so celebrate National Museums Day on 18th May with us as we walk you through our top cultural hotspots…

Set sail for the museum 

When it comes to lessons in the Age of Sail, The Historic Dockyard Chatham has it covered! Discover the place where mighty ships were built, traverse centuries as you test your sea legs on everything from a Cold War submarine and the Victorian HMS Gannet to a Second World War Destroyer and the incredible archaeological discoveries of the Namur and the Invincible.  Tie up the day with a visit to the Victorian Ropery and watch those Master Ropemakers use centuries old techniques and you’ll have stepped through the dockyard’s intriguing history, learning of the people who have worked here and the ships that have been built here. 

Seaside stories

Along Kent's east coast, you can spend the day exploring some of the magnificent history that makes this corner of the county oh-so-special. See the Sandwich Magna Carta from 1300 AD at the Sandwich Guildhall Museum, where you can see the towns origins, all the way up to present day. At the Dover Museum and Bronze Age Boat Gallery, you can see what is thought to be the world's oldest going sea-boat, breaking records at 3,500 years old! From rails to mines, see what else the White Cliffs Country has on offer to celebrate this year's National Museums Day. 

For the culture vulture

Newly opened after a huge £22 million refurbishment, we're excited to return to The Amelia, a centre for learning and collaboration in the heart of Tunbridge Wells. Enjoy their weekend family trails, Rhyme Times classes, and curator talks to get behind the scenes of the museum. Delve into Kent's creative side as you head over to the Maidstone Museum, where you can try your hand at life drawing, needle felting, or sit back and watch a movie at one of their screenings. Meanwhile at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, state-of-the-art exhibition spaces will be showcasing photography exhibition "Beyond Limits", telling the stories of those from the county. 

Ashford through the years

All you history buffs in the county just need to put Ashford on your bucket list for a day out this year. With six museums to choose from, you can get to know the area through a range of interactive experiences, talks, exhibitions, and more. First on the stop is the Ashford Museum where (clue's in the name), you can learn all about the local history of the area. Award-winning model railways await at the Model Railway Education Centre, or explore the impressive display at the CM Booth Collection of Historic Vehicles. Discover the rest of the museums in the area to make your day of learning well and truly impressive! 

An aviation education 

At The Battle of Britain Memorial in Capel-le-Ferne, you have the chance to bring Kent's strong aviation past to life at their interactive onsite Scramble Experience exhibition. A moving film that depicts what life was really like for The Few during in the summer of 1940, and with hands-on things to do, including the chance to shoot down enemy aircraft from a mock-up Hurricane, fledgling historians will have a front-row seat as they discover how the Battle changed the course of history. Explore more of Kent's aviation past at RAF Manston History Museum, which takes you back to over 100 years of the of the airfield site's history through exhibitions and even a Spitfire Simulator! 

📍Where to stay: The Breakers, Sandgate 

A short drive to the Battle of Britain Memorial, this sea-front property is the ideal spot for a trip to the coast. With wrap-around beach access, you and the family have just found your next home-away-from home. 

Kent Police Museum

Telling the story of the Kent Police throughout the years, take a trip to Faversham at the Kent Police Museum. With material and archives from its long history, you're in for an unforgettable day out as you unpack the tales and discover the lives of people who have worked on it force. 

That's ancient history...

Explore the ancient town beneath your feet as you go back 100 years with each step down to the Roman street level at Canterbury Roman Museum. Relive the past as you stroll through the marketplace where you will see what people would have bought and how they lived. Pop your head into recreated Roman rooms to learn all about life during this ancient era. As you wander through this museum you will uncover a hoard of once buried treasures including the remains of a Roman town house with preserved mosaics. The museum holds one of the UK’s only remaining Roman pavement mosaics which has not been moved from its original place, and it provides a fascinating insight into life in Roman Britain.

Celebrate our famous faces

This year take a trip back in time to Victorian England with the Charles Dickens Great Expectations Trail at the Rochester Guildhall Museum. The Making of Mr Dickens is a permanent exhibition where visitors can enjoy an exciting and immersive journey through Dickens’ life in Medway, while exploring the people and places which shaped his complex personal and public life and inspired him to create some of the most beloved stories in English literature. Finally, go deeper into Dickens’ Kentish life at The Dickens House Museum to explore Dickens’ relationship with Broadstairs through his letters and personal items.

Explore further afield

Similarly, hidden within Quex Park is The Powell-Cotton Museum. Founded in 1896 by a former resident of Quex, Percy Powell-Cotton, this natural history museum showcases a huge personal collection of taxidermy and artefacts from his travels in Asia and Africa. Many of the animal specimens are displayed in dioramas with painted backdrops, which are considered to be the most impressive in Europe.

The weird and wonderful!

Need a way to get the kids off the screens and out into the world? We think a trip to The Micro Museum is exactly what you need! It’s the place to discover computer history, see old tech and play on forgotten, and much loved, retro videogames! Learn about the inventors of the digital age, and finally explain to the kids that yes, Pacman really was *everything* to us once! For more of the weird and wonderful, head to This Museum is (NOT) Obsolete - an interactive museum celebrating obsolete/experimental electronic technology, and only in Kent will you find Europe’s #1 Crab Museum. Yep, that’s right! This satisfying tourist attraction is one of our favourite spots for a unique and quirky day out learning all there is to know about the decapod.

Recall your religious history 

We couldn’t not mention UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canterbury Cathedral, as one of our key historical sites you must visit on your travels in Kent! The fascinating exhibition in Canterbury Cathedral’s Crypt allows visitors to explore up close a unique collection of artefacts – including the battle shield, gauntlets and jupon of medieval warrior Edward The Black Prince, and fragments of Thomas Becket’s shrine – that tell the complex, and often violent, story of Church-State relations. Peek behind the scenes in their magnificent collection of manuscripts, historic records, and photographs in the Archives and Library.

📍Where to stay: Sycamores, Canterbury 

Perfect for your next family getaway, this countryside spot just outside of Canterbury has got everything you could ask for, with entertainment, spots for socialising, and perfectly plumped pillows to rest your head. Who's ready for a trip to remember? 

Uncover local roots

Margate Museum covers over 5000 – yes, 5000! – years of the town's history. The Cells and Magistrates Court hold a unique collection of Margate history, including that of the Borough Police from 1857, sea bathing & bathing machines, the 1815 arrival of Paddle Steamers, Cobb's Brewery & Bank, Punch & Judy, and Donkeys on the Beach. There are exhibits about Margate during the two World Wars, Roman-British history, Dr. David Jarvis' Wooden Jetty of 1824, and Eugenius Birch's Iron Jetty of 1857. Likewise, discover some fascinating local history in Sevenoaks this year, with fantastic year-round exhibitions showcasing the best of the local talent. 

History told through the arts

At the Royal Engineers Museum, you can discover stories of times gone by through magnificent art forms. With upcoming  shows such as the Spring Exhibition, Broken Cities, and Concrete Castles, you can discover so much, from Second World War defenses to depictions of natural disasters, to community art projects, bringing together people from throughout time and space all into one place. 

Exploring the Caves of Margate

Take a wander below modern day and explore underground 200 years of history in Margate. Below lies the Margate Caves showcasing the various ways they were used throughout the years. 

Sit Back and Relax in Broadstairs

Take a look at Broadstairs' outstanding Grade II Listed cinema and dive in the films of the town with your snacks enjoying looking through the eyes of home movie makers in the 1930s - 60s. Listen to one of the talks and explore the 'astounding invention' which was the home movie camera!