Visit the Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum map
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

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Lambeth North BKL
The closest train station to Imperial War Museum is Lambeth North
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Imperial War Museum Good for kids? Value for money? free Worth a visit? 203

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.

Imperial War Museum, London

The big naval guns outside 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.

The exhibition covers both of the World Wars, the Suez crisis, the Falklands, the Gulf Wars, plus the biggest battles involving the Commonwealth powers from Korea to Vietnam.

Inside the Imperial War Museum

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 quickly shifting as the empires waxed and waned, leading to new treaties and agreements that finally pitched the world into war.

Fighter jet at the Imperial War Museum

Second World War gallery

There are plenty of original military vehicles on display in the World War II gallery, everything from tanks and jeeps to boats and planes, many of which have stories attached like the tiny dinghy Tamzine: the smallest surviving boat at Dunkirk. There are even a few German machines like a captured Enigma code machine and full-size V2 rocket.

Craig’s review of the museum

This review originally appeared in his blog

Spitfire at the Imperial War Museum

I quite like the Second World War. I probably 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.

When you step inside the main hall the first thing you see is a load of old planes swooping down from the ceiling: everything from a Harrier JumpJet to the legendary Spitfire Mark 1A.

Tank at the Imperial War Museum

They’ve got some battle tanks as well but 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. In every war movie ever made there’ll be a scene of them be sitting up there smoking a fag whilst they trundled through the towns.

Sherman tank World War II

You can also see a couple of one-man Japanese submarines which are unbelievebly small. Imagine the Japanese lying down on his stomach to drive those things, in a space not much bigger than my shoe, slicing through the pitch black and choppy freezing sea for five hundred miles. He must have been nuts!

Atomic bomb and nuclear missile

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

A Nazi V2 rocket

My favourite part of the World War I gallery was the Trench Experience, which is like a long, dark trench in the middle of the night. As you walk through it you can hear the bombs whistling overhead and soldiers peering over the edge of the trench. You can ever look into the little rooms and see the people on the blower talking to their sergeant behind the lines.

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 Enigma machine from the Second World War

The Second World War section contains all the normal kind of stuff that you’d expect to find: lots of uniforms, medals, guns, knives and military equipment. 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 a few Russian bullet holes in it from the street fighting! One of the sections that I found the most interesting was just a room full of old newspapers and radio broadcasts.

An artillery gun at the Imperial War Museum

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

After that it gets a bit downbeat and depressing because it’s the Holocaust Exhibition. There’s a large sign outside that warns you it’s not suitable for kids, but there are items inside that I wouldn’t even show to an adult.

German army uniforms from World War II

They have photographs 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 camp 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 burnt the bodies. If it portrayed anywhere but Auschwitz you’d think it was the most incredible model railway you’d ever seen, but instead it’s the worst.

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  • 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”

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Exhibitions at the Imperial War Museum

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We’ve also got a big list of military events in London where you can find events today, tomorrow and at the weekend. Or search for military events in November, December and January

Have you seen our list of museum exhibitions in London? You can find exhibitions taking place today, tomorrow and at the weekend. We also have a guide to exhibitions in November, December and January

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

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