Visit the Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum, London
Imperial War Museum map

Free guidebook for Imperial War Museum Buy a London Pass and save money

Imperial War Museum , Lambeth Road SE1 6HZ
Work 0207 416 5000

Opening times and price

Opening hours:
10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun); Last entry 30 mins before closing
Visiting hours are subject to change
Ticket cost:
Adults free entry
Time required:
A typical visit to Imperial War Museum lasts 2-3 hours (approx)

Getting to Imperial War Museum

Find car parks near Imperial War Museum
Find minicab firms near Imperial War Museum
159, 360, 109, 344, 360
London bus fares
Lambeth North BKL
The closest train station to Imperial War Museum is Lambeth North
London underground fares
Imperial War Museum Easy to get to? Good for kids? Value for money? free Worth a visit? 2 0 3

  Imperial War Museum London

See all military events in London

See all museum exhibitions in London


Craig recommends… Here’s my latest Imperial War Museum review. If you’re interested in the Second World War then don’t forget Winston Churchill’s underground bunker. The RAF Museum has some more Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Lancaster bomber. HMS Belfast is worth exploring as well. Or how about seeing where they cracked the Enigma codes at Bletchley Park? Check out our calendar of military events in London.

The Imperial War Museum is No.8 in our list of London’s best museums.

The big naval guns on the forecourt of the Imperial War Museum are just a taster for what’s on display inside – every kind of military might that you can imagine: guns, tanks, rockets, bombs, bi-planes, boats and submarines from 1914 onwards.

Inside the Imperial War Museum

The exhibition covers both World Wars, the Suez crisis, the Falklands, the Gulf Wars, and practically every other battle involving the Commonwealth powers – from Korea to Vietnam.

First World War exhibition

The World War I exhibition explains the political tensions that existed in pre-war Europe, and how the balance of power was shifting as the empires waxed and waned, leading to new treaties and agreements that pitched the world into war.

The life-size Trench Experience recreates the day-to-day of life of a soldier in the sloppy mud and blood of a British trench.

Fighter jet at the Imperial War Museum

As you walk through the exhibit you’ll see the troop’s living quarters, the basic communications and medical equipment, and how terrifying it must have been as you climbed over the top.

Second World War gallery

World War II covers the Home Front and overseas operations, and recreates a full-size bomb shelter during the Blitz.

Planes at the Imperial War Museum

There are plenty of original military vehicles on display, from jeeps and planes to tanks and boats, many of which have stories attached – like the tiny dinghy Tamzine, which was the smallest surviving boat at Dunkirk. They’ve even got some German machines, like a V2 rocket and Enigma code machine.

They also cover the birth of the Nazi party and Hitler’s rise to power. Germany's relentless military build-up and isolation of the Jews is brought vividly to life through hundreds of photos, newsreels and newspaper articles.

Tank at the Imperial War Museum

Holocaust exhibition

This leads onto one of the most haunting floors in the Imperial War Museum: the Holocaust Exhibition. Depressing footage from the extermination camps, alongside sombre items like solitary shoes, give force to the survivor’s accounts.

Craig’s review of the Imperial War Museum

This review originally appeared in his London blog

I quite like the Second World War. It seems like it was a lot of fun… catching a boat across the channel and giving the Hun a good seeing to, etc. Take that Hitler! Take that you evil Nazis! Maybe I watch too many old war movies, but my visit to the Imperial War Museum today just made me like it even more. I think if I had a time machine then I’d hop aboard and travel back to 1925. That seems like the perfect year to be born.

Spitfire at the Imperial War Museum

When you step inside the main hall the first thing you see is a load of old tanks and planes swooping down from the ceiling: everything from an early Sopwith Camel, which looks like it’s made out of balsa wood and string, to a Mustang, Focke Wulf, and Spitfire Mark 1A.

Sherman tank World War II

They’ve got some original battle tanks as well, like the Sherman. You can’t go inside them, unfortunately, or even look inside them, which is a bit of a shame, but it’s still nice to get up close and imagine all the soldiers sitting on the tank tracks like they do in Band of Brothers. In every war movie you watch they’ll be sitting up there smoking a fag whilst they trundled through the towns, and you almost want to jump up and join them.

Atomic bomb and nuclear missile

They’ve also got a couple of one-man Japanese submarines, which are unbelievebly small. The sailor must have had to lie down on his stomach to drive those things, in a space not much bigger than my shoe. It’s hard to imagine him slicing through the pitch black and choppy freezing sea for five hundred miles. He must have been nuts!

A Nazi V2 rocket

The rockets and bombs are very impressive. The Nazi V2 rocket looks big enough to land a man on the moon, let alone London. It’s big enough to blow a hole in the world! Then you move onto the guns and grenades, medals and memoribilia.

I have to admit that I skipped a lot of the World War I exhibits, but I did enjoy the Trench Experience, which is like a long, dark trench in the middle of the night. As you walk through it you hear the bombs overhead and soldiers peering over the edge of the trench. You can look into the little rooms and see the people on the blower talking to their boss behind the lines.

The Trench Experience at the Imperial War Museum

The Blitz Experience was even better. It’s a ten-minute event for about twenty people, but luckily there were only four of them when I did it… but two of those were chatty women who didn’t shut up the whole time we were in it. If it was a real air-raid then I think I would have taken my chances out on the street, just to escape their non-stop natter.

It begins with you entering a dark and gloomy air-raid shelter, which has been decorated so it looks like you’re underground. Then they turn out all the lights so it’s darker than night (so you can’t even see your hand in front of your face!), and then a old guy and his missus come on the speakers as if they are chatting by your side… it’s as if you’re eavesdropping on their conversation whilst they sit chatting about the bombing raids outside.

An Enigma machine from the Second World War

Eventually the bombs drop and the mechanics shake the seat you’re sitting in (that’s when the two women screamed), and you get up and head out into the street. The next section is done up to look like a bombed-out street with debris strewn across the road. Search lights and smoke all add to the atmosphere.

An artillery gun at the Imperial War Museum

The Second World War section is okay. You’ve got all the normal kind of stuff in there that you’d expect to get: lots of uniforms, medals, guns, knives, etc. The stand-out pieces are a captured Enigma machine and the actual iron Eagle that stood upon the Reich Chancellery in Berlin – you can even see some bullet holes in it from where the Russians and Germans did the street fighting! One of the bits that I found the most interesting was a room full of old newspapers and radio broadcasts.

British army uniforms in World War II

The exhibits continue on through the 1950s with the Suez crisis, and all the way up to the Falklands and the two Gulf wars.

After that it gets a bit depressing because it’s upstairs to the Holocaust Exhibition. There’s a big sign out the front that warns you it’s not suitable for kids, but there’s stuff inside that I wouldn’t even show an adult.

German army uniforms from World War II

They’ve got pictures of the dead and dying, and people so starved that their bones are showing through their skin. The photo that I remember most was a big picture of a Russian so desperate to leave the camps that he’d jumped onto a barbed-wire electric fence. Another one showed a firing line, at the split-second before they pulled the trigger. One victim seemed to be begging and crying for his life, whilst another one just stood and smiled and begged them to get on with it.

I thought the most moving exhibit was a colossal model of Auschwitz, about fifty-feet long. They had every little detail done to perfection, from the steam trains driving in to the tiny little bits of razor on the barded-wire fence. You could see thousands of little model people disembarking off the train (literally thousands), and when you made it up to the end you could see the little building where they cooked the bodies… with smoke circling out the chimney. If it portrayed anywhere but Auschwitz you’d think it was the best model railway you’d ever seen, but instead it was the worst.

Awful 13% Poor 0% Okay 13% Good 50% Great 25%
  • ian meyer – “If you like war, like I do, then this museum is the place to go because you can actually see all the tanks and planes and armoured cars and bikes -- the real ones that they used during the war. The little artifacts dont interest me so much, the things like gas masks, ration books and anderson shelters, but they are there as well if you're old enough to remember those things. I love world war ii movies and going to the imperial war museum just brings all those old richard burton and richard attenborough movies to life because it brings it all home to you that these things actually happened. The spitfire is a beautiful machine. Look at one of them and tell me you there isnt a little bit of you that wouldnt like to go back and fly it in a battle.”
  • donald – “I didn'tknow this place was so big before I went there. It is absolutely huge, and it needs to be huge because of all the vehicles its got in it -- full size jeeps, tanks and even planes hanging from the ceiling. I only went to see the world war ii stuff because I’m a world war ii buff, and I must say that I was spoiled. I didnt bother with the holocaust exhibition because frankly that is too depressing, and they had a lot of other stuff that didnt interest me -- like what peoples 1940s houses looked like, with all the old fashioned soap and mangles, but even taking out all of that there was still loads to see., They had a mock-up of a trench and what it was like in the blitz, but the stuff that I really went to see was the machines. And they have got everything, even the little field guns. You cant help but be proud when you see that spitfire -- the most beautiful plane ever built. And some of the machines even had bullet holes and dents in them from actually fighting in the wa”

Talk about the Imperial War Museum

Exhibitions at the Imperial War Museum

   to Imperial War Museum London

If you enjoy this then try: Churchill War Rooms (walk it in 20 mins or catch a train from Lambeth North to Churchill War Rooms); HMS Belfast (walk it in 28 mins or catch a train from Lambeth North to HMS Belfast); National Army Museum (catch the tube from Lambeth North to National Army Museum) and National Maritime Museum (catch the tube from Lambeth North to National Maritime Museum).

Copyright © 2018 London Drum · Contact us · Cookies / Privacy policy · Search / Site map
London city guide