Things To Do In London: The Imperial War Museum
What is The Imperial War Museum?
The Imperial War Museum is one of my favourite attractions in London. From the time you see the humongous decommissioned warship guns outside of the entrance, you know you are going to enjoy yourself. The best part is that visiting the museum is completely free and you only have to pay if you want to visit special exhibits.
History of The Imperial War Museum
The War Museum has moved several times since it was founded. The Museum was set up originally in 1917 following the First World War in order to document and display artifacts of the War and to illustrate Britain’s contribution. Opened by the King, the original site of the museum was Crystal Palace, the museum relocated to South Kensington in 1924, before outgrowing these premises and being moved to it’s current location in Southwark on the site of the former Bethlem Royal Hospital in 1936.
The museum now houses exhibits documenting both World Wars as well as conflicts in more recent times.
Visiting The Imperial War Museum
As soon as you walk into the large atrium at the start of the Imperial War Museum you will understand why this is one of my favourite museums in London.
Seeing the huge tanks, planes and various rockets/ missiles used during the wars really makes you appreciate how scary it must have been to be living during the time of these two conflicts.
As well as documenting the two wars separately, there are also exhibits detailing life for people back home during times of War and also an interesting section on the formation of the Secret Service for those interested in Spies and the important roles they played during the War (and since!)
As the history buffs will know, the two World Wars played out very differently. A lot of World War I was fought in the trenches and to illustrate the conditions that our soldiers went through living in the trenches the museum has created an interactive exhibit called ‘Terrible Trenches’ which is well worth a visit. Notice the smells and noises within the exhibit as well as the cramped conditions that the soldiers had to live and fight in.
During the Second World War, London and many other major cities across Europe were subject to intense German bombing, which we refer to in London as The Blitz. There is a fantastic interactive exhibit that helps you to understand what it what like to be living in London during the blitz. Highly recommended!
Finally there is a permanent exhibition to the Holocaust, documenting the persecution of the Jews and other cultural groups by the Nazi’s during World War II.
You could easily spend several days in the museum so I would recommend getting there early if you want to pack in a full day. Check out the offiicial site of the Imperial War Museum for details of temporary exhibitions.
There is a cafe should you want to grab a bite to eat there.
Where is The Imperial War Museum?
The Imperial War Museum is located in Southwark, on Lambeth Road.
The museum is open 10am till 6pm every day except 24-26th December.
How do I get to the Imperial War Museum?
The best option is to get the London Underground to either Lambeth North (Bakerloo Line) or Elephant & Castle (Northern line or Bakerloo Line) tube stations and walk from there. The Imperial War museum is well signposted so you shouldn’t get lost.