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Churchill War Rooms – Everything you need to know

If you are interested in exploring the history of World War II, then a visit to the Churchill War Rooms in London is a must. This underground complex was used as a British government command centre during the Second World War and is also home to a museum dedicated to Churchill himself.

The facility was used 24 hours a day until 16 August 1945, when the lights were turned off in the Map Room for the first time in six years. In 1984, the War Rooms were opened to the public for the first time. They can be visited to this day and large parts remain largely unchanged from the dark days of WW2.


Origins of the Churchill War Rooms

Location and Construction

You can find the Churchill War Rooms beneath the streets of Westminster in London. Construction of the Cabinet War Rooms began in 1938, and they became fully operational on 27 August 1939, just one week before Britain declared war on Germany. The location was chosen due to its proximity to the Houses of Parliament and Downing Street, where the Prime Minister’s residence is located. The underground complex spans over 30,000 square feet and includes a maze of rooms and corridors. The site was chosen for its reinforced concrete walls, which provided protection and an element of secrecy.

Activities and Operations

The War Rooms were used for a variety of activities and operations, including planning military operations, conducting intelligence operations, and coordinating communications between the government and military commanders. The Map Room, for example, was the nerve centre of the War Rooms and was used to track the progress of the war and to plan military operations.

The site was equipped with the latest technology, including encrypted telephones and radio equipment and a transatlantic phone line to ensure secure communication between government and military leaders.

The facility was staffed by a team of more than 500 people. The staff included military officers, civil servants, and support staff who worked in shifts to ensure that the War Rooms were always operational.

The War Rooms also played a key role in the planning and execution of Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings in Normandy.

Tour Guides Top Tip

“The War Rooms were not actually bombproof”

The underground location helped keep the War Rooms secret, and this secrecy was their main defence. Whilst they were certainly sheltered underground, a direct hit would likely have still destroyed them

Tour Guide

What Can Visitors see in the Churchill War Rooms?

The whole complex of the Churchill war rooms is divided into two main sections. Firstly we will consider the war rooms themselves, which are largely unchanged in appearance since the war. Secondly, there is a large museum to Churchill himself which was added to the complex in 2005.

For visitors looking to enhance their visit, we offer a Private WW2 Tour. Including the War Rooms and a walking tour of notable war memorials around Westminster. Let our expert guides lead you on a journey back to war-time Britain!

The War Cabinet Room

The War Cabinet Room is the heart of the Churchill War Rooms. This is where Churchill and his key ministers and advisers met to make important decisions about the course of the war. Once again the rooms have been preserved exactly as they were during the war, and visitors can see the actual furniture, equipment, and documents used by Churchill and his staff.

This room gives a fascinating insight into the workings of the British government during the war. Visitors can see where Churchill and his advisers met. 

The Dock

Below the main floor of the Churchill war rooms hides the area called “the Dock”. This would provide shelter to all the staff when it was too risky to return home. A limited amount of beds were available and staff would spend some nights down below the main floor.

It was a very safe place however the conditions were far from desirable, no fresh air, high humidity and the occasional vermin running through are just a few examples of what it looked like. Some staff refused to sleep down in the dock and would rather risk their lives to return to the comfort of their homes.

The Transatlantic Telephone Room

The Transatlantic Telephone Room was used to make secure phone calls between Churchill and other world leaders, including President Roosevelt.

The room was equipped with state-of-the-art technology that allowed for encrypted communication, ensuring that the content of the calls remained confidential.

The system known as “SIGSALY” was too large to be housed in the war rooms, so the unit was kept in the basement of Selfridges department store on Oxford Street. It worked to scramble the user’s voice before it was broadcast by radio, the signal would be received in America and decoded by a similar device.


BBC Broadcasting Room

The room was staffed by a radio operator who would transmit Churchill’s speeches to the BBC headquarters in London. From there, the speeches would be broadcast to the nation and the world.

The significance and historical importance of the BBC Broadcasting Room cannot be overstated. It was here that Churchill delivered some of his most famous speeches

The ability to broadcast Churchill’s speeches to the nation and the world was a crucial factor in keeping morale high and inspiring the British people to continue fighting against the Axis powers.

The Map Room

The Map Room is a large rectangular room, with maps covering the walls and tables. Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East were all shown on these maps, providing Churchill and his staff with a clear view of the war’s progress.

The Map Room was one of the most important rooms in the Churchill War Rooms complex. This room was constantly staffed, by one officer from each of the Royal Navy, Army, and Royal Air Force.

The Map Room was also where Churchill spent the entirety of D-Day. Receiving updates on the progress of Allied Forces and making critical decisions.

Today visitors can see the original maps and charts used during World War II. The room has been preserved exactly as it was left when the lights were turned off in 1945.

Churchill's Bedroom

Churchill had his own private bedroom in the Cabinet War Rooms, located next to the Map Room. The Prime Minister used it for work, to host meetings and take his hour-long afternoon naps.

The bedroom is designed in a simple and elegant style, it looks noticeably more comfortable than any other room. The room features a single bed, a bedside table, a dressing table, and a wardrobe. The walls are decorated with light-coloured wallpaper, and the floor is covered with a plain carpet.

Items not to miss in the Churchill War Rooms

When visiting, make sure you don’t miss these unique pieces.

  • Chemical Toilet – there was no plumbing system in the Churchill war rooms, so the options were either a chemical toilet or a chamber pot.

  • “Windy” sign – If the weather sign showed “Windy” it meant London was subject to an air raid

  • Gas mask – there was a constant threat of a chemical attack, and all staff of Churchill War Rooms were trained in use of gas masks

  • Clementine’s room – never used by Churchill’s wife, nevertheless always ready

  • Kitchen – the prime minister had his own fully equipped kitchen

  • Poignant graffiti – find a hand-drawn graffiti of Adolf Hitler in the Chief of Staff meeting room

Tour Guides Top Tip

“Track Churchill’s incredible life from birth in Blenheim Palace to his state funeral at St Paul’s

Make sure you don’t miss the world-class Churchill museum, which is part of the Churchill War Rooms

Marina Pechiborshch Blue badge Guide
Tour Guide

The Churchill Museum

If you are interested in learning more about the life of Winston Churchill, then the Churchill Museum is the perfect place for you. This biographical museum explores the life of the British statesman and is located within the Churchill War Rooms.


The museum contains a variety of exhibits that showcase Churchill’s life, including his childhood, political career, and personal life. One of the highlights of the museum is the interactive exhibit that allows you to step into Churchill’s shoes and experience what it was like to be him during some of the most critical moments in history.

The Churchill Museum features a collection of his personal items, including his famous cigars and his iconic bow tie. Additionally, some displays highlight Churchill’s achievements, such as his Nobel Prize for Literature, and his contributions to the war effort during World War II.

One of the most fascinating exhibits in the museum is the Lifeline, which is a timeline that charts Churchill’s life and career. The timeline features photographs, documents, and other artefacts that help to tell the story of Churchill’s life.

Our other favourite pieces found in the Churchill Museum are:

  • Flight suit – the favourite piece of clothing worn by Winston Churchill.

  • US passport – Winton Churchill was made an honorary citizen of the USA and was issued an American passport.

  • Funeral video – experience the State Funeral through the video, taking you back to 1965.

  • Nobel prize – admire the silver cover of the book for which Winston Churchill received a Nobel Prize for Literature.

  • Childhood photos and toys – see how Churchill changed from his infant years to adulthood.

  • How I escaped from South Africa – read this fascinating story about how Winston Churchill escaped from a South African Prison.

  • Door to No 10 – see the original black door leading to No 10 Downing Street when Winston Churchill resided there.

What else can I see in the area?

Memorials and statues dedicated to Second World War

  • The Battle of Britain Memorial – along the River Thames stands this moving bronze memorial dedicated to the Battle of Britain

  • The Cenotaph – “empty tomb” a place of annual war commemoration

  • Winston Churchill statue on Parliament Square – Statue of Churchill proudly looking towards the Parliament building

  • Monument to the Women of WW2 – Women of all occupations are commemorated in this art piece.

Imperial war museum

Located within easy reach of the Cabinet War Rooms visitors can find another war museum. The Imperial War Museum offers an in-depth insight into WW1, WW2 and other world conflicts. If you’re interested check out our  Imperial War Museum Guide.

Visiting Logistics and FAQs

Opening Hours and Admission Fees of Cabinet War Rooms

The Churchill War Rooms are open daily from 9:30 am to 6 pm, with the last entry at 5 pm.

Ticket Prices-

Adult: £32

Child: £16

Getting There

The Churchill War Rooms are located at Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AQ. The nearest tube stations are Westminster (Jubilee, District and Circle lines) and St. James’s Park (District and Circle lines). If you’re driving, there is no on-site parking, but there are car parks nearby.

Accessibility and Facilities

The Churchill War Rooms are fully accessible for wheelchair users, with lifts and ramps available throughout the site. There are also disabled toilets and baby-changing facilities. Visitors can borrow wheelchairs and mobility scooters free of charge, but these must be booked in advance. There is a cloakroom where you can leave your bags and coats, and audio guides are available in several languages.

Contact us 

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like help planning your visit to the Churchill War Rooms or to find out more about our WW2 tour.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I take photos inside the Churchill War Rooms?

Yes, but no flash photography is allowed. All of the pictures you can see on this page were taken during a visit.

Can I bring food and drink inside the Churchill War Rooms?

No, but there is a cafe on-site where you can purchase food and drink to enjoy while taking a short break.

Are there any restrictions on what I can bring inside the Churchill War Rooms?

You cannot bring large bags or suitcases inside the Churchill War Rooms, there is not a cloakroom on site to store baggage.

How long does it take to visit the Churchill War Rooms?

We would advise leaving 1.5-2 hours to enjoy the experience, but you are free to take as long as you like 

Is the Churchill War Rooms suitable for children?

Yes, there are interactive exhibits and activities designed for children, and children under 5 can enter for free.

About the author

Denisa holds the highest UK qualification for tourist guiding, the Blue Badge. She also holds a Management in Tourism degree and a National Tour guiding certificate for the Czech Republic. Denisa’s employment history has covered many roles within the tourism sector, she couples this with the ability to speak several languages. Denisa runs our customer-facing business, she frequently enjoys days spent guiding clients and authors our blogs.

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