History lovers looking for WW2 sites in London will find a wealth of museums at their disposal. It’s probably not the sole reason people will visit London, but if you enjoy learning about WW2 you’ll find plenty there to keep you occupied.
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Having a son who loves learning about World War 2 we’ve almost always sought out places to learn more about it and if you’re in London you’re in luck because there are a host of WW2 things to see in London. As well as museums you’ll find a number of memorials in the city centre dedicated to those who served.
These are by no means just for the history buffs amongst us but they can be great for those with just a passing interest and for visitors of all ages. All of these places tend to have child friendly sections so don’t worry too much about taking kids – obviously use your discretion if your child is sensitive to war stories.
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World War 2 Museums in London
You’re always spoilt for choice in London when it comes to museums but even more so when it comes to WW2 museums! Some of these are solely about WW2 and others might just have small sections dedicated to them
Churchill War Rooms
Number one on most people’s list to visit when coming to London is a visit to Churchill’s War Rooms. It’s one of the few sites in London that has been preserved from war time.
Inside you can see how Winston Churchill, Britain’s Prime Minister for much of the war, ran the campaigns and strategised. As it lies beneath the streets of London it also provided shelter for him and the workers from incoming bombing raids. You cannot see the war rooms from street level, except from the entrance.
The museum contains:
- a maze of corridors and rooms that held top secret messages and plans
- rooms that looked just as they did during WW2 – the map room is as it was left when war ended in 1945
- exhibitions of artefacts from WW2
- an exhibition about the life of Winston Churchill – he lived to 90 and although is remembered mostly for his WW2 contribution, he also had a part to play in many other world events both before and after WW2
- an audio guide in included in the ticket price – definitely use this to get the most out of your visit
Leave a good couple of hours for looking round the museum and beware that it can get really busy in the summer months. If you can, head there early or late to avoid the crowds and definitely buy your ticket online in advance to skip the queue.
It’s open from 9.30am – 6pm with the last admission being 5pm. The museum is located in Westminster and the nearest Tube stop is St James’s Park or Westminster
Buy tickets here: Churchill War Rooms Tour
Imperial War Museum London
Just south of the River Thames sees the Imperial War Museum London and as the name suggests, its focus is entirely on war.
So that means that it’s not specifically just about WW2, although there’s plenty there to satisfy that if that’s your sole interest.
The building is pretty impressive and can’t be missed as it has 2 large guns (from the ships HMS Ramillies and HMS Resolution – both WW1 ships) outside.
The history of the Imperial War Museum actually goes back before WW2 as it was set up after WW1 as a place to house the artefacts from the time. It originally was based in Crystal Palace but moved to its current home just 4 years before WW2. It had to be closed for most of the war and even sustained some damage from bombs as well.
In the museum there are some permanent World War 2 exhibitions and some temporary exhibitions too so do take a look at the website before going to check what’s on.
The museum is free to enter and it’s open every day except 24th, 25th and 26th December from 10am – 6pm. Nearest Tube Stop is Lambeth North or Elephant & Castle
You can’t miss HMS Belfast, a WW2 naval ship moored on the River Thames and if you ever need to convince any travel companions to go with you on your WW2 museum trips just mention the amazing vies of London you can get from here!
You have Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and The Shard as your backdrop so perfect for some photo memories or Instagram pictures!
Of course, if you’re here to learn more about World War Two then none of that matters and what matters is what there is to see aboard!
HMS Belfast is one of only 3 surviving ships from the D-Day bombardment of Normandy shores and that period was the last time she fired a shot and is one of very few ships from WW2 left.
When visiting you can explore all the decks of HMS Belfast and get a feel of what life was like aboard. There are also some exhibitions about the history of the ship and what she went through.
HMS Belfast is open every day (excepth the 24th, 25th and 26th December) from 10am – 6pm with the last admission beign at 5pm. You’ll want to allow a good couple of hours for your visit at least. Nearest Tube stop is London Bridge or Tower Hill (this one is the other side of the Thames though you can walk over Tower bridge to get there easily)
Get tickets here: HMS Belfast Tickets
National Army Museum
The National Army museum is a free attraction that is located in Chelsea. As you can imagine it covers solely the British Army and the history of it so we’re talking about a lot more than just the second world war.
If military history is something you find interested then I’d highly recommend a visit here. There have many changing exhibitions at the museum so even if you’ve been before you’ll likely see something new.
Check their website to see what’s on.
The museum is based in Chelsea and the nearest Tube stop is Sloane Square. While you’re there, why not visit the Royal Hospital Chelsea – home of the Chelsea Pensioners, veterans of the UK army – there’s a museum here also and it’s perfect if you’re interested in our Armed Forces.
RAF museum Hendon
Heading out of Central London and North we have the RAF museum in Hendon – another amazing free museum.
Like the National Army Museum it covers this branch of our Armed Forces and also covers times both pre and post WW2. It contains hangars of planes and aircrafts, exhibitions about the history of the Royal Air Force and different events as well (some have admission charges).
Check the website to see what’s on when you plan to visit. There are many planes on show from all countries, not just RAF aircraft. Some examples of World War 2 aircraft on display are:
- Supermarine Spitfire Vb
- Junkers Ju87G-2 “Stuka”
- Messerschmitt Bf-109E-3
- P51 Mustang
- Lancaster Bomber
- Bristol Beaufighter
- B17g Boeing Fortress
- Curtiss Kittyhawk IV
The museum is open every day from 10am -6pm (March – October) and 10am – 5pm in the winter (November – February). Last admission is 30 minutes before the closing time.
As it’s outside of central London it takes around 30 minutes by tube on the Northern Line – the station you need is Colindale (this is a Zone 4 station). There is also parking at the site if you’re coming from afar and want to take a car. There is a parking charge.
WW2 Memorials and Statues in London
There are a number of memorials and statues in London dedicated to WW2. Most of them are located within walking distance of each other so it could make a nice afternoon stroll if you wanted to take in them all.
Animals in War memorial
Location – North East end of Hyde Park. Nearest tube stop – Marble Arch.
Bomber Command Memorial
Location – West side of Green Park along Piccadilly. Nearest Tube stop – Hyde Park Corner
The Women of World War II statue
Location – Whitehall. Nearest Tube stop – Westminster
Sir Winston Churchill Statue
Location – Parliament Square. Nearest Tube stop – Westminster
Monument to the RAF – Battle of Britain
Location – Next to River Thames just up from Big Ben. Nearest Tube stop – Westminster
Royal tank regiment Memorial Statue
Location – Whitehall Place, next to Horeseguards . Nearest Tube stop – Embankment
Other WW2 sites of interest in or near London
St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral was a huge symbol of hope during WW2 for Londoners especially during the Blitz. It stayed standing, although was slightly damaged, even though many of the buildings around it had been bombed. Inside the cathedral there is an American Memorial Chapel which is dedicated to the soldiers of D-Day.
Get tickets here – St Paul’s Cathedral Fast-Track Entrance
Walking tour of WW2 sites
There are some great walking tours that take place in London and they are really well worth the time. Some cover the Blitz and some cover Winston Churchill and sometimes both. If you want a knowledgeable guide to show you round then take a look at these:
- 3-Hour WW2 Blitz Private Tour
- WW2 Westminster walking tour and Churchill War Rooms
- Wartime London – Guided Small Group Tour
Although not in London itself it’s a short train journey from the city and so it’s worth including I think!
Bletchley Park is the location of where the codebreakers worked in WW2 and it had a huge impact on the course of the war. It helped to intercept messages from both sea, air and land battles. Unfortunately I’ve not made it to here first hand but I’m hoping to get ourselves there soon and I’ve heard some great things about the place.
There’s a lot to see in the museum and so well worth it for a slightly different story to be told of what went on in the war.
See their website here for more information. It’s open from 9.30am – 5pm and 4pm in winter (Nov-Feb). Trains go from Euston Station to Bletchley and take around 45 – 60 mins. I like Trainline for booking tickets and find it best to see what options are available.
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