Churchill War Rooms (London)

https://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/churchill-war-rooms

One place where you actually feel as if you’ve time traveled back in history is the Churchill War Rooms. It’s a must-see historical site when you’re in London!


History

The Churchill War Rooms are situated underneath a Whitehall government building near Westminster and are where Winston Churchill ran the war effort during World War II. The site was chosen before the war but it wasn’t until after the beginning of the Blitz that the rooms were secured with a layer of steel-reinforced concrete to protect them from the falling bombs.

The basement rooms are preserved just as they appeared in August of 1945 when victory was declared over the Axis powers. The war rooms also contain a museum dedicated to Churchill’s life and legacy.


Visit

It’s amazing to step into history as you do when you enter the Churchill War Rooms. If your older kids and teens are WWII history enthusiasts, they will love this behind-the-scenes look at one of the most important military nerve centers in history. I first visited back in 1996 when it was called the Cabinet War Rooms and never forgot it! I was so excited to bring my own children back!

Tickets for the war rooms go quickly so be sure to book your timed-entry tickets in advance here. Your ticket includes an audio guide that will lead you through the museum. The one-way tour can go through some narrow hallways so younger children and strollers may have difficulties. Save this tour for your older elementary aged children and teenagers! 

You’ll enter the rooms underneath a suspended bomb!

The first room is the cabinet room where meetings were held – be sure to note Churchill’s chair at the front!

Your kids will be fascinated with the next stop – the stairs leading to the sub basement rooms where the advisors and secretaries slept in bunks. Rats, no flushing toilets – yikes!

The tour will take you past the various rooms such as Churchill’s private secretary’s office and direct telephone line to the White House.

Before you get to Churchill’s rooms, you’ll enter the excellent Churchill Museum. You could spend hours here viewing artifacts and learning more about his life before and after the war.

My favorite artifact was the original door from 10 Downing Street from 1735 – 1991 when it was replaced with a blast-resistant door. 

Anyone who’s watched movies about Churchill during the war knows how important his typists were. I just kept picturing Lily James in the excellent movie, Darkest Hour!

You’ll see rooms belonging to Churchill’s closest advisors and secretaries. You can tell their ranking by how nice their decor is – rugs, etc. Note the chamber pots!

I wish the walls of the chiefs of staff conference room could talk!

Wind your way through the maze of rooms, including Mr. and Mrs. Churchill’s bedrooms, leading to the most important room – the map room. This was the epicenter of the war effort, and the room is preserved as it was on August 16, 1945 when the war ended. 

As you leave, don’t miss the amazing gift shop!

The Churchill War Rooms is a must-see site when visiting London. To actually walk in the footsteps of one of the greatest military efforts in history is truly remarkable and one that your kids won’t forget!


Helpful hints:

  • Cost: £27/16 and older; £13/ages 5-15; free/under 5
  • Recommended: ages 10 and up
  • Tour time: 1 – 2 hours
  • Gift shop located onsite and online 
  • Transportation: The museum is near the Westminster Tube stop and is within a short walk from sites in Westminster, Whitehall, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square.
  • Dining options: For an atmospheric lunch, eat at The Red Lion where politicians and famous Londoners have gathered since the 15th century! If it’s a nice day, you can grab a sandwich and have a picnic in the adjacent St. James’s Park. The dozens of restaurants at Trafalgar Square are a short walk away as well.
  • Nearby hotels: See my London guide for ideas of lodging in London. Hotels in Westminster or Trafalgar Square are closest.
  • Nearby attractions include: St. James’s Park, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square with its wonderful Churchill statue, Whitehall Street and 10 Downing Street, Horse Guards Parade and Household Cavalry Museum, and the Banqueting House

Books to Read:

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