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Everything You Need to Know about the Imperial War Museum London

Are you fascinated by history and eager to explore the stories of those who lived through the world wars? Look no further than the Imperial War Museum London, a treasure trove of exhibits and artefacts which tell the story of some of the world’s major conflicts. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through “everything you need to know about the Imperial War Museum” – from the museum’s key exhibits to practical information and everything in between.

Short Summary

  • Explore the history of war and conflict at the Imperial War Museum London, featuring key exhibits such as First and Second World War galleries, Holocaust Exhibition & Witnesses to War Gallery.
  • Free admission with flexible access hours throughout the week. Wheelchair accessible & facilities are available.
  • Interactive exhibits, guided tours/talks for families/schools plus souvenirs from IWM Shop to commemorate your visit.

A Journey Through Time: Key Exhibits at the Imperial War Museum

Embark on a journey through time as you explore the principal galleries at the Imperial War Museum, including the First and Second World War galleries and the Holocaust Exhibition. Marvel at the impressive tanks, guns, and aircraft, some suspended from the ceiling in the Atrium.

Tour Guides Top tip

The museum’s location is on the site of the former Bethlem Royal Hospital. Known as “Bedlam” the hopsital was notorious for its poor conditions and, by todays standards, dubious treatment of patients.

Denisa Blue Badge Tour Guide

In addition to the main exhibits, don’t miss the Lord Ashcroft Gallery – Extraordinary Heroes, and Secret War, showcasing the stories of British or Commonwealth forces during various conflicts.

First World War Gallery

Step into the lives of soldiers, civilians, and families during the Great War in the First World War Gallery. Witness the impact of Lord Kitchener’s recruitment campaign, which saw more than half a million men signing up in the initial weeks. The gallery also features a letter from a nine-year-old boy from Dublin to Lord Kitchener, offering his services as a ‘dispatch ridder’ and demonstrating the reach of the war on children’s imagination. The War Office’s response to the boy’s letter serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting future generations.

Explore the gallery to learn about the uniforms of the time, such as the attire of a French Private of the 5th Infantry, and the consequences of the red fabric in this uniform, which made him an easy target for snipers!

Second World War Gallery

Delve into the global impact of the Second World War in the Second World War Gallery. Discover the significance of the Spitfire aircraft, flown by pilots during the Battle of Britain in 1940, and its place in the museum’s collection. Learn about the evolution of tanks, aircraft, and V-weapons, such as the pilotless rockets that caused nearly as much destruction in London as the Blitz.

The Family in Wartime Exhibition offers insight into the tribulations families faced during the war, including the challenges of rationing, with families surviving on restricted amounts of food like 4oz of bacon per week.

artefacts at the imperial war museum London

Holocaust Exhibition

The Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum London provides an in-depth study of the Holocaust, preserving, displaying, and interpreting stories of this devastating conflict. As the first museum in the world to have such an exhibition, it offers a unique opportunity to learn about the darkest chapter in 20th-century history.

Please note, this exhibition is not recommended for children under 14.

Peace and Security

The Peace and Security exhibit at the Imperial War Museum London offers a profound exploration of the major conflicts that took place from 1945 to 2014. This exhibit delves into the complex issues surrounding war and peace in the post-Second World War era. It presents a comprehensive overview of the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Falklands War, the Gulf War, the war in Afghanistan, and the recent conflicts in Iraq and Syria. The exhibit also covers the role of peacekeepers and humanitarian efforts in these conflicts. Featuring more than 50 personal stories from citizens, soldiers, and children, along with over 300 objects, including a piece of the World Trade Center from the 9/11 attacks, the exhibit provides a deep insight into how war has shaped the world we live in today.

Witnesses to War

The “Witnesses to War” gallery is a thought-provoking exhibit that presents a collection of significant war artefacts This includes a Harrier jet and a Reuters Land Rover that was damaged in Gaza. Suspended from the ceiling these artefacts, which are the first things visitors see upon entering the museum, are tangible reminders of the human cost of war and its far-reaching impacts on individuals and societies worldwide.

Imperial War Museum Spitfire

Practical Information for Your Visit

Before you embark on your journey through history, it’s essential to know some practical information about the Imperial War Museum.

  • Free admission to all visitors
  • Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm
  • Wheelchair accessibility
  • Cafe
  • Shop
  • Cloakroom for your convenience.

Visitors can explore the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions, which cover a range of topics.

Free Admission and Ticket Options

Not only is the Imperial War Museum free to enter, but you can also reserve timed (free) tickets to ensure entry. If you happen to arrive early or late for your designated entry time, don’t worry; the worst outcome would be a short wait, as the museum rarely denies access to patrons.

Opening Hours and Best Times to Visit

The Imperial War Museum is open daily, 10 am to 6 pm, with the last admission at 5:45 pm. To avoid crowds and have a more leisurely visit, we recommend visiting during the weekdays.

The museum offers a variety of activities and exhibitions, including interactive displays, audio-visual presentations, and more.

Accessibility and Facilities

The museum’s accessibility features include wheelchair access, lifts, and accessible toilets. For a break during your visit, the cafe is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Please note that the museum cannot accommodate large items of luggage or suitcases.

Imperial War Museum London

Navigating Your Way to the Museum

Now that you know what to expect at the museum, let’s discuss how to get there. The most convenient method of reaching the Imperial War Museum is to use the London Underground, alighting at one of the three nearby stations: Lambeth North Station, Waterloo Station, or Elephant & Castle Station.

Google Maps can be very helpful. It can give you specific directions from any location. Please note that driving to the museum is not advisable, as parking is limited.

Tube Stations and Train Connections

The closest tube stations to the Imperial War Museum are Lambeth North and Elephant & Castle. Both stations are approximately a 10 to 15-minute walk from the museum.

The nearest train station is also Elephant & Castle, which is conveniently located for those visiting the Crystal Palace.

Bus Routes and Parking

Route 3, 12, 53, 59, 148, 159, 344, 360, 453 and C10 are all served by buses to the museum. Travellers therefore have plenty of options when planning their trip. The closest bus stops to the museum are Kennington and Lambeth North Station.

If you must drive, limited parking is available near the museum at Waterloo through the JustPark service.

Nearby Landmarks and Attractions

While visiting the Imperial War Museum, consider exploring other nearby attractions such as:

Exploring Beyond the Main Exhibits

If you’re eager to delve deeper into the history of war and conflict, consider visiting the associated sites and special exhibitions related to the Imperial War Museum. These include:

Each of these locations offers a unique insight into the history of war and conflict and can offer a unique insight into the history of war and conflict.

HMS Belfast

Discover the fascinating history of HMS Belfast, an iconic London landmark and warship that played a vital role in WWII. Explore the nine levels of the ship and its remarkable stories of heroism and bravery.

HMS Belfast is a unique survivor from the Second World War and has a permanent home on the River Thames

Imperial War Museum Duxford

Venture to the Imperial War Museum Duxford, Britain’s largest aviation museum, renowned for its collection of historic military aircraft. The museum is located at a historic airfield used during the Battle of Britain and offers visitors the chance to get up close with enormous aircraft and learn about the history of aviation and conflict.

Explore the museum’s interactive exhibits, which include a replica of a Spitfire cockpit, and if you’re lucky watch the historic aircraft flying! Duxford can be found just south of Cambridge and is easily accessed from London.

IWM Duxford

IWM London Special Exhibitions

Immerse yourself in the IWM London Special Exhibitions, a series of temporary exhibitions that examine the influence of conflict on individuals’ lives. Keep an eye on the museum’s website for the latest exhibitions and events scheduled throughout the year.

Discover the stories of those affected by war, from the First World War to world wars and modern wars in the present day.

The Churchill War Rooms

Step into the underground bunker where Winston Churchill and his government operated during WWII at the Churchill War Rooms. Explore the subterranean complex and gain insight into the life and leadership of Sir Winston Churchill through interactive exhibits and audio-visual displays.

The Churchill War Rooms serve as a poignant reminder of the bravery and resilience of the British people during the war.

Family Activities and Educational Programs

The Imperial War Museum offers a range of family activities and educational programs, including interactive exhibits, workshops, guided tours, and talks for a more engaging experience.

The museum also provides educational resources for school visits, with learning sessions available to explore specific themes or periods in history.

Interactive Exhibits and Workshops

Get hands-on with the interactive exhibits and participate in workshops at the Imperial War Museum. These immersive experiences provide a deeper understanding of the stories and history presented throughout the museum.

Explore the museum’s collections and discover the stories of those who lived through the conflict.

School Visits and Educational Resources

The Imperial War Museum, a part of the larger Imperial Institute, offers a variety of options for school visits, with free self-guided visits or paid learning sessions with expert educators available. Learning sessions can be tailored to the needs of the school group and cover specific themes or periods in history.

Additionally, the museum provides a wide range of learning resources for all ages, including books and education packs to supplement school visits or explore the museum from home.

Souvenirs and Memories: The Imperial War Museum Shop

Before you leave the museum, be sure to visit one of the Imperial War Museums, the Imperial War Museum Shop, to browse a selection of souvenirs and keepsakes inspired by military history. From books and brochures to historic propaganda posters, the shop offers a wide range of items to help you remember your visit and continue learning about the stories and history presented in the museum.

The shop is a great way to take a memory of the museum home with you.


In conclusion, the Imperial War Museum London offers a unique and immersive experience for those interested in the history of war and conflict, indeed it could be referred to as the national war museum. From the powerful exhibits and galleries to the engaging family activities and educational programs, the museum provides an unforgettable journey through time. As you explore the stories and artefacts, you’ll not only gain a deeper understanding of the past but also an appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who lived through these tumultuous times.

FAQs about The Imperial War Museum

How long do you need at the Imperial War Museum London?

It is recommended to allow around 3 hours to visit the Imperial War Museum in London, though many people are content with 2 hours. To avoid crowds, we recommend you visit on a weekday.

Visiting the museum is a great way to learn about the history of war and the impact it has had on the world. It is also a great way to gain a better understanding of the human experience and its consequences.

What is the Imperial War Museum summary?

The Imperial War Museum London was founded in 1917 to honour those who fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth. It tells the stories of people’s experiences of modern war and conflict and provides for, and encourages, the study and understanding of the history of modern war.

Why is the Imperial War Museum important?

The Imperial War Museum is an important symbol of the impact war has had on Britain and her people, serving as a global authority on conflict and its impact. It collects objects and stories to preserve them for future generations while showing the progress in war-related technology that humanity has created.
The museum is a powerful reminder of the cost of war, and the importance of understanding its consequences. It also serves as a platform for discussion and debate, allowing visitors to explore the complexities of war and its effects on society.

Can you take a bag into the Imperial War Museum?

The Imperial War Museum offers lockers for small bags with measurements up to 45cm x 39.5cm x 60cm.
Larger suitcases can be secured in the pushchair storage area with a £1 deposit. However, wheeled cases, sports equipment and large items of luggage are not allowed in the museum.

Is admission to the Imperial War Museum free?

Admission to the Imperial War Museum is indeed free of charge for all visitors.

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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