Having survived two world wars, London is a city steeped in military history. Visitors hoping to learn more about wartime Britain will find fascinating WWII sites right in the capital—and here are our picks for the most interesting ones.
Imperial War Museum London
The pièce de résistance of England’s wartime treasures, the Imperial War Museum (IWM) London is devoted to telling the wartime stories of British soldiers, the Royal Air Force, and UK citizens, and to educating younger generations on the Great Wars. The vast permanent collection of war memorabilia includes a re-created World War I bunker and exhibits on both world wars.
Churchill War Rooms
Part of the Imperial War Museums, the original Churchill War Rooms explore the workings of the UK’s WWII-era government. The rooms were home to Britain’s government during the Blitz (1940 and 1941) and include the Cabinet War Room, where Winston Churchill once declared, “This is the room from which I will direct the war.” Today the museum—a maze of rooms hidden deep underground—explores the life and legacy of Churchill, and includes stories, speeches, photos, and documents that serve to bring to life the secret history of Britain at war.
This mighty World War II warship, moored on the south side of the Thames since 1971 and now part of the IWM, contains nine decks of exhibits and restored living and working quarters. Visitors can explore onboard the HMS Belfast, climb the sailor’s ladders, peek into the operations and engine rooms, and learn about life at war and at sea from WWII to 1963.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
The magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral is not only an architectural masterpiece and one of London’s most memorable landmarks, but it was also a symbol of hope during WWII, when it famously survived the Blitz. Also of note is the American Memorial Chapel, paid for entirely by public donations and displaying a Roll of Honour containing the names of over 28,000 Americans who gave their lives during the Second World War.
Winston Churchill’s Britain at War Experience
An interactive re-creation of Britain at war during the Blitz, this museum offers unique insight into British history and life in the war. Visitors have the chance to experience what it was like in an air-raid shelter, listen to wartime news via the underground cinema or the BBC radio studio, learn about life on the home front, and even dress up in wartime clothing.