Worldwide icon-chevron-right Europe icon-chevron-right United Kingdom icon-chevron-right England icon-chevron-right London icon-chevron-right Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum

Museums, Military and maritime Lambeth Free
4 out of 5 stars
(37user reviews)
 (© Michelle Grant / Time Out)
© Michelle Grant / Time Out
 (Ministry of Food poster © Imperial War Museum)
Ministry of Food poster © Imperial War Museum
 (© Jonathan Perugia / Time Out)
© Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
 (© Imperial War Museum)
© Imperial War Museum
 (©Michelle Grant / Time Out)
©Michelle Grant / Time Out
 (© Roman Halter)
© Roman Halter

Time Out says

The IWM London has had on a major refit - by Foster & Partners architects - which opened in 2014 to coincide with the centenary of the start of World War I. The Central Hall is still the attention- grabbing repository of major artefacts: guns, tanks and aircraft hung from the ceiling (not least a Harrier GR9 that saw action in Afghanistan). Terraced galleries allow this section of the museum to also show a Snatch Land Rover from Iraq and an Argentine operating table from the Falklands. The already extensive World War I gallery has been expanded, and leads into the original displays for World War II.

The museum’s tone darkens as you ascend. On the third floor, the Holocaust Exhibition (not recommended from under-14s) traces the history of European anti-Semitism and its nadir in the concentration camps. Upstairs, Crimes Against Humanity (unsuitable for under-16s) is a minimalist space in which a film exploring contemporary genocide and ethnic violence rolls relentlessly.

Read about our favourite exhibits from the Imperial War Museum or see more of London's best museums



Address: Lambeth Rd
Transport: Tube: Lambeth North
Price: Free
Opening hours: 10am-6pm daily
Do you own this business?

What's On

Pick a date


Please select two valid dates

The first date can't be after the second date

No events found for the selected dates

  • Until Sunday January 5 2020
  • Until Sunday January 5 2020

Users say (37)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:20
  • 4 star:11
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:2
1 person listening

A wonderful museum in Lambeth. You can spend an entire afternoon here. Four floors to explore about World War I, World War II, war heroes and more. There are interactive displays to bring the exhibition to life. You can get up close to a shell of an atomic bomb, a nazi signage and vehicles deployed during times of conflict. Don't miss the Holocaust exhibition which recounts the horrific story of concentration camps. I highly recommend visiting. Free to enter.


If you are a history geek like me then the Imperial War Museum is the perfect go-to place for a cultural morning, afternoon or evening. You will find plenty of information on all conflicts that involved the UK, from World War I to the present day. I believe it has a good mix of historical artefacts like journals, clothes, official documents: media (videos and short documentaries) and information leaflet, making it a perfect museum for everyone who is interested in knowing more about our history, both children and adults. My favourite part was the one dedicated to WWII as I found it the most interesting and equally sad part of all. This is not the museum that you visit once and that’s it, as it also has plenty of temporary exhibitions. The museum in itself is free and close to the station, so don’t miss it!


I am thoroughly in love with this museum. Having visited almost twice a year since I was little, the older I get the more I seem to appreciate it. Although the Holocaust exhibition is an emotional experience, it is truly fascinating! I would recommend allowing yourself half a day at the very minimum, I spent an hour and a half in the Holocaust exhibit alone. 

I recently went back to the museum for an after-hours guided tour, and cannot express how friendly and knowledgeable the staff and guides are - it was amazing!

If you're after grabbing some food when you're there, the cream teas are lovely! Plus the gift shop has some really cool souvenirs in there, much more than the pencil and rubber you'd get on a school trip (they do have these as well tho, if that's your thing) 


I've been to this interesting museum many times before but never had a guided tour.  What a difference that made - with excellent individual headsets - the best I have encountered.  Our guide on this visit brought the exhibits alive - absorbing stories about the weapons and damage of war.  A superb museum about man's never-ending need for conflict, set in an historic building (previously a mental asylum) and surrounded by lovely gardens.  A museum  which is as imposing inside as out.


This is one of my favourite museums and it is my go to when people are visiting London (I guess most of my friends are fascinated by War and the periods of tine they existed in).

We arrived at about half past 1 and managed to see all of the exhibitions about from the one on the top floor, which I had already seen (if you’re into medals this is the one to see).

We saved the Holocaust exhibit until last and it is so deep and hard hitting, it really makes you want to drag every last person that you see in there and open their eyes! Especially these days!

The First World War exhibit in the ground floor is my favourite though, the artefacts and the way it is set out is clear and easy to follow- the silhouettes of the soldiers with projected images next to the field gun is really hard hitting!


I had been to the museum a few times in the past but this was my first time back since the revamp and I was very impressed with the whole look of the building.

The museum is divided into different sections across four floors and it is suggested that it takes half a day to work your way around all the galleries. I really wanted to see the holocaust exhibition and was truly blown away by the size and vast amount of information in the one section, it is like a museum in itself! Unfortunately you can not take photos in this particular exhibition but it is filled with photos, personal stories, posters, models, film and so much more. The recounts of survivors are particularly moving. Children under the age of 14 are not allowed in but this is understandable with the sensitive nature of the subject.

The imperial war museum is a must see for anyone interested in history and particularly students as there is so much to learn while there.


Like the reviewer below, I have lived in London for almost three years and I hadn't visited the Imperial War Museum until this past spring. WOW. What had I been doing?!

I didn't take any history courses past grade 10 (year 9) so I wasn't sure that I would know exactly what I was looking at within the walls of the museum, let alone appreciate the items, so I went with two teachers who happen to have history degrees :) However, the actual items had good explanations next to them and everything flowed really well. I was pleased to see a piece of the Berlin wall (all graffitied over) outside the doors of the museum as well!

There happened to be an exhibit on the sort of hidden heroes of wartime at the top level of the museum, which was neat to see. Lots of medals on display with a detailed story of bravery next to each person's photo. It was nice to see women and people of colour represented!

The Holocaust section is worth a visit. Granted, it's for people 13 years of age and older, and for good reason, but it is so incredible. It really puts things into perspective... there weren't too many people who didn't leave without crying, or at least without a look of incredulity on their faces. The mix of film and sound and actual items was astounding, and I wish I could have taken my students (I'm a teacher; they're too young) as we were studying WWII at the time.

This museum is worth a visit, definitely. I can't believe it's free...!


I have lived in London for almost three years and had never been to the Imperial War Museum. I've come away from this experience wondering why I let so much time pass before I made it here! It's an incredible museum.

You don't need to be a history buff to understand what's going on as there is enough in terms of explanations to make it easy to follow the stories presented. The World War I exhibit on the first floor is incredibly well made. It is interactive and fascinating and some of the things they have managed to collect and exhibit are really something. You get a chilling sense of what it might have been like and there's even a section that replicates a trench that you can walk through. The World War II exhibit really falls short in comparison however. It's clearly been curated by a different person and it's not as well put together or as in-depth.

There is also a section on the Holocaust on the last floor that is definitely worth a visit. It's heart-breaking and challenging to face these realities of humankind but it's important that we do and the museum presents them with the detail they merit and in a way that does them justice. There's no glossing over anything for the comfort of the visitor, which I think is excellent. 

There is a cafe serving nice pastries and also really nice gift stores selling all sorts of interesting things, including old war propaganda posters. Also, with the exception of some special exhibitions this museum is free so there's no excuse not to go! 


I was slightly dreading this day, as my history knowledge is very poor and I am not very keen on weaponry (very similar to the reviewer below me!)

However, I was so pleasantly pleased when I arrived! The museum was so interactive and full of so much accessible and engaging information. I spent all day with my partner and came out feeling so knowledgeable. A standout section was the Holocause exhibition, which was so raw and sombre. There were a variety of shoes and objects from the Jewish victims, which had been retrieved from Auschwitz. I've never been to Auschwitz, but this is the closest I've come. The text, displays and sounds all came together to give a shocking and moving experience of how the victims would have gone through.

I learnt so much and was left with a yearning to learn more, fuelled by new found empathy. What added to the learning was a bomb shelter replica, which you could sit in and hear bombing replica sounds and feel the shelter shake. There was also a WWII survivor, who had ration tokens and gave his first account story of the war. 

It was incredibly moving and educational. Definitely a grown up history tour everyone should take at least once!


I am not a big fan of weapons, wars' materials so I went to the IWM with quite low expectations, just because my friends were going. I was pleasantly surprised how interesting it was. Exhibits are from WW1, WW2 and other military items such as tanks,hanging aircrafts, ships and so on. One of the top floors is the Holocaust Exhibition. I found it very disturbing. Makes you feel somehow vulnerable as you look and listen what someone can do to a human and can't comprehend it, makes you fell sad and angry. I was very shaken. I don't think it is for children under 14's. 

The shops are worth the visit as well with so many funny and cool items so they look like extensions of the museum. 


Visited the Imperial War Museum’s exhibition Real to Reel: A Century of War Movies, which was awesome. Walking through the exhibit it feels as though you’re walking on a film set of a war movie. That was really cool. I’ve never had a stark interest in war movies, and have really only seen a few (Saving Private Ryan, Atonement), but I found the exhibit incredibly interesting, a good mix between film and history. I also found the psychology of it all really intriguing as well. The exhibition discussed the reasons audiences are so interested in filming war, romanticizing the stories, and seeing war play out. Also (and this is an afterthought) but there were so many cool gifts in the gift shop! Who doesn’t love a gift shop, eh?


First visit since the refurbishment and thought they have done a really good job. Lovely walking around on a cold wet London day - highly recommend to war buffs and non-history geeks alike!


I can remember the last time I came to the IWM, I was an unappreciative 9 year old with all my school friends, just wanting to go to the gift shop! It has been hugely revamped over the past 20 years since that school excursion.

And only now, on a casual Sunday afternoon, do I truly appreciate and regale in awe at the exhibits held in this immense catacomb of war history.

The entire basement level covers the Holocaust, the sheer volume of collected pieces and accounts was overwhelming, I found myself walking around with a constant lump in my throat, a comprehensive reminder of one of the most pivotal moments in human history.

The First World War section, has a replica trench which is INCREDIBLE. There are also tanks and trucks on most of the floors and aircraft hanging down from the ceiling, ranging from Spitfire planes to Bombers!

A whole day can be spent here and you can also take a break, recoup with some food or drink in the café on the lower ground, and then get straight back out there.

It’s safe to say that the IWM is a brilliant day out for everyone of any age, kids will love all the pieces on display and adults will find themselves beholden by all the things they never knew or paid attention to in school!


A fascinating, free museum that's ideal for both families or just to wander round in a spare couple of hours. The revamped World War I galleries are moving and really well done, and the exhibition on the Holocaust is very moving. An essential for any Londoner.

Staff WriterStaff Comp

One of the best curated museums I have been to anywhere! We spent well over 2 hours just in the WW1 area and plan to go back for the other areas sometime soon. The way that they've mixed audible, visual and interactive exhibits is ingenious. I will be recommending this to Londoners and non-Londoners alike!

Staff Writer

What an incredible museum?! You need a few days to walk around as there is just so much to see. Hard to believe all of this is history and not props from a movie. 

it is free. it is packed full of awesome. and the cafe is decent too! I love this place, it really paints a picture of how life was from times of the first world war and at times is truely harrowing. The reconstruction of the trenches is particularly poignant. The only bad thing i can say about this is the walk to it from the station doesn't really showcase London at it's finest! 

Its got everything .. rain or shine ... roses ..swings ... fruit trees .. walks .. cafe .. aeroplanes ... bombs.. you name it


Upon arrival, for my first visit, my partner declared that the new refurbishment had gutted the soul out of the museum and had removed a lot of the natural light that previously lit the main area. Having never seen the previous incarnation, I cannot comment on the validity of this view.

That said, I was blown away by the revamped World War One exhibit, which provides incredible detail and insight into the conflict whilst remaining engaging for all ages. The use of computer touch screens, sound, and vision all comes together for a lasting experience that can't help but move anyone who goes around it.

Following this we entered the holocaust exhibit. This certainly isn't for the feint-hearted and even offers early exit opportunities for anyone who is struggling with the deeply disturbing content. By disturbing, I mean the insight into the true evil that human kind is capable of. This exhibit will have a lasting effect on many people who visit it and I certainly won't view the world the same again.

The museum is mostly free with one or two paid for exhibits. There is so much to see and experience that you'll never cover all the free areas in one visit. The art galleries are regularly updated too, to ensure there is always something new to see. 

A great day out for all the family.


This is the perfect place to spend a rainy day. It does leave you a little drained emotionally after, but it is really eye-opening. I went for 3 hours one day, and I saw the temporary exhibit "Fashion on the Ration" and it was really good. They have free temporary art exhibits as well, always on the basis of war and conflict. After a couple of hours you feel more cultured and educated and you're definitely inspired to learn more. Its worth going just to see the building and the park alone. 

The Museum has changed in design over the past few years, I visited it a few years ago. The building layout is not as efficient as I remembered, but the content is still very interesting with the primary focus on the World Wars. The Holocaust exhibition is particularly shocking and is very well detailed. It is a shame they got rid of the old WWI Trench feature, as I had always felt that this was one of the primary attractions of the museum. It is arguably a bit one dimensional in terms of the artefacts and historical information on show – I found there was too much text to read. Whilst this is perfect for a war historian, it does not branch out to the public so much. An enjoyable and informative experience nonetheless.

Staff Writer

One of my favourite museums in London. Everytime you visit you come away learning something new and discovering things you didnt know before. I visited both before and after the major refit and in all honestly i preferred it before the refurb as it was alot easier to navigate round the building. However, since the refurb they've got a new area dedicated to wars of the modern age and covers tragic events such as 9/11 and the war in Iraq - Steve McQueen's art installation for all the fallen soldiers from the Iraq war is a very moving and touching tribute.

Staff Writer

Went there with my partner on a lazy rainy sunday and really enjoyed it. Of course it's all around war /military so you get to see tanks, airplanes, weapons, some interesting part of History that we shouldn't forget. Def recommend it. 

The IWM used to be my favourite museum in London, even sneaking ahead of the much larger and grander Natural History Museum.  However, as Abe C has said and I mentioned on their website pre-refurbishment, the new building works have almost ruined it.

Before you were struck with awe as you entered the museum and saw all the tanks seemingly rolling towards you and the planes flyinh up above, silhouetted against the great glass ceiling.  When I enter it now I feel like I am in some sort of building site with the natural light blocked out by a huge and currently empty platform.  It is too grey, dark and most of the best vehicles have been removed from the entrance.

This then had the upsetting effect of making the galleries for the later conlicts tiny and again having had most of their major attractions removed in favour of random pieces of modern artwork to symbolise war.  Additionally, and for me the worst thing a museum can do, the upstairs exhibits had a paucity of information, especially about each object.  On my first visit they didn't even put the information next to what object they described, instead sticking it all on one small sign in a corner.  This has since been corrected but still leaves much do be desired.

Most upsetting for me, as someone who loves the First World War, is that they have spent this fortune only to make the exhibit worse.  There is too little information and everything is dumbed down.  Even the wonderful tank that had been in the museum entrance no longer has the same effect because you are forced to view it from below and at only one angle while standing in the pitiful new trench that conjures nothing like the sense of foreboding that terrified so many young children in the old model trench.


The refurbishment is poor, and the new curation pretty awful too - a superb museum has been seriously undone.

The museum formerly had light galleries either side, lit from the ceiling mainly by daylight, and large terraces in front of the main stairs at the end of the hall, which had space for exhibits and for visitors to look out at aeroplanes from both wars and a V2, and down onto the main floor where there were tanks from both wars and a WW1 era bus for driving soldiers to the front.

Now the roof's daylighting is mostly obscured by a new screen and everything is mainly artificially lit.  The main floor has been lowered to basement level by excavating, and two new steel staircases have been added, one at the terraces end in front of the terraces, and the other at the main door end.  These stairs do not easily allow visitors to look out over the hall, whilst at the terrace end they obscure the view from the terraces too.  The P51 and all WW1 planes are gone.  A huge Harrier jump jet occupies most space, and is too big to view.  You can no longer view from the earlier small terrace at the front end - it has been removed.  The WW1 tank and bus are gone (why, especially in the centenary of WW1's outbreak?!?) and the main hall accommodates many fewer exhibits.

The sides of the halls have inexplicably had clunky great columns added, from which peer the snout of a desert landrover and the front of a Dunkirk jolly boat (why? We can't see them well, and they're made to look ridiculous.)

Many of the exhibits are big glass cases rearranged in GCSE History manner.  For example a map of the North Sea, a tiny model of a surface vessel, and a piece of tailplane from a shot down Heinkel.  Why?  Can't we think for ourselves?

The lighting is harsh, shadowed and disagreeable compared with its earlier, pleasant arrangement.

This museum is still worth visiting but there is no getting away from it - the museum has been badly damaged at vast public expense (I read £40m,) and is a shadow of its former self.  Fosters Architects should be absolutely ashamed - their work fails practically (the absurd, unneeded stairs, cluttering and obscuring, and the removal of daylight,) and stylistically (Fosters should have thought hard about the skill of their predecessors and the need to make any stylistic change whatsoever.)

To put it simply, to visit the Imperial War Museum is a must for every single person on the planet! At the very least a compulsory trip should be available for every British school child.

This is definitely my favorite museum in London, to come alone or to bring a date or a family member. The exhibition on Holocaust has left a lasting impression and the general variety of themes exhibited really taught me a lot that afternoon. Cannot wait to see what's new next time I visit!

Still love going here after first being taken on a school trip.

Excellent museum with no queues! I took two children 11 and 13 and they loved it.

I love the war museum - it is definitely my all time favourite in London. It not only is interesting but gets you involved too and the 'old' feel it has to it makes it even better. The smell of the war musuem is one never to forget either...

I would wait until the refurbishments are finished, all the big things are gone from the main attrium and the down stairs is closed. The holocoust exhibition is excellent and the medals gallery in the loft are both excellent. My previous visit would have been 5 star, but my kids were disappionted by the missing stuff.

Amazing for anyone with the slightest hint of interest in WWI & II. The cannons and shells out front are enough to make it worth stopping by. Also has a memorable section dedicated to the Holocaust. "The Blitz Experience" is a bit dated, but the museum would be fine without it. Couldn't of been happier to spend about 4 hours there.

Snap up exclusive discounts in London

Time Out's handpicked deals — hurry, they won't be around for long...