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Visit the Imperial War Museum

Updated: May 2, 2024

This post covers how to visit London's Imperial War Museum.

We include details about the main exhibits and what you can expect to see when you come here. 

In the video above, Sinead, a tour guide with us (Free Tours by Foot), takes you on a virtual tour of the museum.


WHAT IS THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM?

The Imperial War Museum is an organization comprised of five locations around England.

Together, these locations showcase the experiences of British people - as well as those from around the world - during wartime.

Relaying stories and experiences from various times of conflict, the military history showcased in these museums is the best to be found in the UK.

The galleries inside will display how both soldiers and civilians experienced war through the ages, as well as what future generations need to know to prevent recurring conflict.

Three of them can be found in London, including the Imperial War Museum London, which we will cover in this post as well as the HMS Belfast and the Churchill War Rooms.

However, when in London, references to the ‘Imperial War Museum,' or the IWM London, specifically mean the war museum in the southern part of town.


This photo of Imperial War Museum North is courtesy of TripAdvisor

One of the most powerful and impressive museums in London, the Imperial War Museum is a world-class visitor attraction and, best of all, there is no entrance fee!

This free museum is one of the best in the United Kingdom.

For more information on London during the Blitz, make sure to check out our fascinating World War II Walking Tour.


PLAN YOUR VISIT

The following section will include all the details you need to plan a trip to the Imperial War Museum.


Tickets

There is no ticket needed and there is no cost to enter the museum.

The Imperial War Museum is just one of many free London museums as well as one of several military museums in the city. 


How to Get Here

The Imperial War Museum is located at Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ. Use this Google Maps link for specific directions from anywhere.

Map of Imperial War Museum Location

This site is right across the street from St. George’s Cathedral and just a few blocks from the Westminster Bridge and other notable landmarks.

The easiest way to get here is to take the London underground to one of three nearby stations: Lambeth North Station, Waterloo Station, or Elephant & Castle Station.


Operational Hours

  • The Imperial War Museum is open 7 days a week.
  • Visitors are welcome from 10 am - 6 pm every day.

Admission is free for everyone. 


Best Time to Visit

Like most popular attractions in London, the Imperial War Museums are busiest during the middle of the day from 11 am - to 4 pm.

If you’re trying to avoid the crowds, you may want to consider a visit either earlier from 10 am - 12 pm, or later in the day from 4 pm - 6 pm.

Imperial War Museum London Hours

The Imperial War Museum is busiest on Saturdays in particular, so we recommend coming on a weekday if you can.

It is recommended to set aside around 3 hours to see everything, but many people seem to be satisfied with just 2 hours.

Weekend Hours Imperial War Museum London

EXHIBITS

This section will cover some of the more notable exhibits you may want to check out.

All of these exhibitions are permanent and free to enjoy. 

You will also find changing exhibitions in places such as the atrium, which are all based around the museum's ethos of showcasing the "extraordinary experiences of ordinary people."


First World War Galleries

If you want to learn more about WWI, this set of galleries covers a lot of the most notable moments during the battle.

There are over 1,300 artifacts on display including weapons, uniforms, films, artwork, and keepsakes.


Second World War Galleries

These galleries display over 1,500 items that "bring to life a war which affected millions of people."

Stories told her reflect the experiences of service personnel, weaponry, military vehicles, and many items relating to Winston Churchill.


Turning Points

With a variety of artifacts from throughout the era of 1934-1945, this exhibition gives visitors a look at some of the most notable items, objects, and people who played a role in changing the world during the events of WWII.


The Holocaust Galleries

The Holocaust Exhibition features photographs, artefacts, documents, films, and other important objects from this important historic event.

Holocaust Gallery, Imperial War Museum London
By Ardfern - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=116426475

There are also detailed accounts of people's experiences as well as recovered personal belongings.


Witnesses to War

This exhibit features nine important objects that played an important role in historic battles.

In addition to a V-2 rocket, there is also a Harrier jet, a Spitfire plane, a T-34 tank, and more.


Lord Ashcroft Gallery

Learn about some of the bravest and most heroic people who have ever fought for Great Britain in this special exhibit covering the stories of more than 250 courageous people.

This gallery also includes a lot of interesting artifacts from their past.


Peace and Security

Covering the 70 years after WWII (1945-2015), this exhibition reveals how battles and conflicts since then have changed the course of history.

It features information on modern-day conflicts such as the Cold War, and the Iraq wars, as well as those in Afghanistan, and Kosovo.


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About The Author

Jessica O'Neill

I'm Jessica O'Neill, and I am an expert in London's museums and culture. I love sharing my knowledge with my tour guests and my viewers on my YouTube channel, The Museum Guide. Read More... I first moved to London more than a decade ago to complete an MA in Cultural Heritage Studies at UCL, and continued my studies in memorials and contested heritage at the PhD level. I specialise in private tours of the East End, the British Museum, the National Gallery, and all kinds of oddities, medical history, and macabre history. I run the London Urban Oddities Facebook group. I hope to see you there! You can arrange a private tour with me by getting in touch with london@freetoursbyfoot.com , or visiting my website at The Museum Guide.
Updated: May 2nd, 2024
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