The Churchill War Rooms are where Churchill and the British High Command operated from during World War II. Right in the heart of Whitehall, unbeknownst to the Nazi’s, was the secret bunker that was making strategies and plans for the defence of the UK. Now part of the Imperial War Museum, a tour allows you to see into the heart of the bunker, how it operated and to walk in Churchill’s Footsteps.
The entrance to the Cabinet War Rooms is opposite St James’s Park on Horseguards Road, not far from the junction with Birdcage Walk and Great George Street. A fairly ordinary looking canopy “hides” the entrance to what used to be a top-secret bunker. The tour is self-guided and takes you through the bunker at your own pace using the audio guide that is included in your admission price.
As you explore the corridors and rooms you will see a lot of staged scenes to give a sense of how the bunker operated, personal artefacts from Winston Churchill and lots of information about this dark time in Britain’s history.
At the start of the tour, you’ll see a bust of Churchill and some facts about the Blitz and its devastating impact on London – some of these are projected onto a bomb that dangles menacingly over your head! You’ll then see the war room itself with the tables arranged in an odd shape. Some people were effectively sitting in the middle, a large map of the world hangs on the wall of the dimly lit room and pens and blotters are ready to be used.
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Winston Churchill’s office is next up, with a dummy shown deep in conversation – perhaps with the President of the USA?
You then enter a larger room which displays many items associated with or owned by Winston Churchill. His US passport after he received honorary citizenship (only the second person ever to do so) the flag that adorned his coffin at his state funeral which is a supreme honour for a “commoner”, and the medals he was awarded during his military career.
An actual front door from 10 Downing Street, an Enigma machine that the code-breakers at Bletchley Park so expertly cracked, shortening the war by years and a little more light-hearted, examples of Toby jugs of Churchills Head are further examples of artefacts that you’ll see in the large display room.
Leaving the large display room, the tour continues to show smaller rooms in the bunker such as the room containing bunk-beds for Churchill’s detectives and the Prime Minister’s dining room and kitchen. These rooms are set up to show how they would have looked during the war and they offer an insight into the place that Churchill would have spent so much time.
The tour ends with displays of the BBC Broadcasting room from where Winston Churchill could address the nation, and planning and administration rooms where the many military and other personnel would have worked. Maps cover the walls, including some still covered in small pins showing the positions of fronts in the war as the Allies pushed through occupied Europe towards Germany near the end of the war.
- The self-guided tour that takes you through the bunker, packed with interesting information on what you are looking at.
- The personal effects of Winston Churchill, as well as his private quarters.
- The maps and other authentic paraphernalia that adorn the displays as if the bunker was still in operation.
Plan Your Visit
- Prices – £17.25 for adults, £8.60 for children 5-15, and £13.80 for students and seniors. They also offer some family packages that can be found here. Imperial War Museum Members get free admission. One way to save on the ticket prices is by taking advantage of the “2 for 1 London” offer by Day’s Out Guide combined with a National Rail ticket if it is available when you are visiting. The Churchill War Rooms also included on the list of attractions if you purchase the London Pass.
- Open daily from 09:30 am and closes at 18:00, with the last admission at 17:00 but do double-check their website for any changes. The Churchill War Rooms are closed 24th, 25th and 26th December each year
- Being wholly inside, this is a great activity to enjoy if the weather isn’t so great.
Make it a Day
Looking for ideas for a whole day out in London after your visit to the Churchill War Rooms? Here are some suggestions~
In the Area
- Visit the final resting places of kings, queens, writers and scientists at Westminster Abbey and then enjoy the neo-Gothic architecture of the Palace of Westminster while learning all about the parliamentary system of government.
- Visit one of the homes of the current monarch with a tour of Buckingham Palace. You will have to plan this activity though as the tours are only offered when the Queen is out of town at the end of the summer, but it’s worth the wait. The palace is stunning!
- Enjoy a relaxing afternoon and a picnic at St. James’s Park in front of Buckingham Palace. Some consider this the most attractive of London’s green spaces with a footbridge the cross a lake, a pretty little cottage on an island, and views of the palace. It really is an enjoyable way to spend some time in London.
Imperial War Museums
- At the Imperial War Museum London, you learn about people’s experiences of modern war and you can visit their new First World War Galleries.
- If you like planes the Imperial War Museum Duxford is the place to go. They have several hangars with planes from different countries and it is Britain’s best preserved WWII airfield. You can even book a flight in one of their vintage aircraft. This museum is a day trip in itself and worth the trek out of London to Cambridgeshire if you have some extra time and a car.
- Back in London, you can visit HMS Belfast, a ship that saw active service in World War II and is one of only three ships remaining that supported the D-Day landings.
For more information on common (and some not so common) sights in London, as well as itineraries to help you plan your time, please visit our collection of London posts.
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