London's Imperial War Museum (IWM London) offers an all-encompassing introduction to Britain's war history, complete with military aircraft hanging overhead, army tanks flanking the central exhibition hall, and a recreated World War I bunker to crawl through. Exhibits spotlight not only military equipment and strategy but also the wartime experiences of soldiers and civilians.
The IWM London is a popular sight for military buffs. With so much to take in throughout the museum's exhibitions, most visitors explore independently, often arriving via hop-on hop-off bus. The Thameside HMS Belfast warship, which lies on the Thames River roughly two miles from the museum, is also part of the IWM, as are the Churchill War Rooms in central London (housed in the former prime minister’s secret WWII bunker).
Things to Know Before You Go
- Entrance to the museum is free, but small donations are appreciated.
- The museum is wheelchair accessible—lifts and ramps are available on all floors.
- Visitor facilities include restrooms, baggage lockers, a gift shop, and a café-restaurant.
- Note that some exhibits, notably the Holocaust exhibition, may not be suitable for young kids.
How to Get There
The Imperial War Museum is located on Lambeth Road in London’s Southwark borough. Take the Tube to Lambeth North station (Bakerloo line), Waterloo station (Bakerloo, Jubilee and Northern lines), or Elephant & Castle station (Bakerloo and Northern lines). Bus routes (3, 12, 53, 59, 148, 159, 344, 360, 453, and C10) also serve the museum. Driving is not advised; not only will you find it difficult to secure parking, but if you visit during the week, you’ll have to pay the London congestion charge.
When to Get There
The museum is open year-round from 10am to 5pm but can get crowded during the peak summer months, when it's best to arrive early and opt for a weekday visit if possible.
Exhibitions at the Imperial War Museum
Thanks to a multimillion-dollar renovation in 2014, the museum features a revamped WWI section, with exhibits on the Eastern Front and the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, plus a completely redesigned World War II section. Among the many highlights are the popular display on the 1916 Battle of the Somme; the moving Holocaust Exhibition; the Lord Ashcroft Gallery of Extraordinary Heroes, which honors some of Britain's greatest war heroes; and the Secret War exhibit, which focuses on espionage and the covert operations of MI5 and MI6, as well as cyberterrorism.