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Visit a real submarine

Did you know that you can visit a real submarine in The Netherlands? When I discovered this, we hopped on a train to Den Helder in North Holland that same weekend to see it. It was so much fun and I can highly recommend this day trip.

The submarine is known as De Tonijn and you can see all 78 metres of it, inside and out, at the Marine Museum (Dutch Navy Museum) in Den Helder.

Visit a real submarine

De Tonijn was decommissioned in 1991 and apart from a few areas closed off for safety reasons, everything is as it was when it was a working undersea boat. This submarine had a crew of 67 who had to live with each other in a sea of retro green interiors beneath the waves, often for six-week periods.

What I loved about De Tonijn is that the museum allows people to climb inside and explore the submarine – you feel like you had an opportunity to visit a real submarine instead of just seeing it from the outside!

You can climb into it, push buttons, pull on levers, test out the beds and get a good idea of what life was like in this compact space. This is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in The Netherlands.

See a real submarine in Den Helder
Visit a real submarine in Den Helder.

In this video former crew members of submarines just like De Tonijn talk about life in a submarine.
(Source: Marine Museum)

What stood out for me was what Tom Geiger said about the smell on board. When I climbed inside I could immediately smell what he describes in the video.

“You have to become accustomed to the smell. A sharp diesel smell. Lovely, yes,” he said.

Tom Geiger, Telegraph operator

Facts about De Tonijn

  • The submarine belonged to the Royal Netherlands Navy.
  • De Tonijn is one of four submarines built for the Royal Netherlands Navy after World War II.
  • It had eight torpedo tubes (underwater missiles) on board.

How to get there

We took the train to Den Helder and then walked through the town towards the museum. You can use the NS travel planner to plan your trip.

Marine Museum
Hoofdgracht 3
1781 AA
Den Helder

If you’re searching for more memorable experiences in The Netherlands, I would suggest a visit to Avifauna Bird Park, the first dedicated bird park in the world. The facilities are outstanding and the birds are extraordinary.

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