When Germany intensified their offensive efforts during World War II, Winston Churchill decided to built a bunker in Central London to stay able to govern the country and lead the troops also in case of attack. While this place has already been protected by the British government in 1948, you are able to access it as a museum since the 1980s. I visited this interesting piece of history in early January 2019.
Churchill War Rooms – Location & Admission
The Churchill War Rooms are location right below HM Treasury in the heart of London, close to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben or the Changing of the Guards. You can access the subsurface governance structures from the St. James’s Park side of the building.
A single adult admission is 22 GBP. I felt this is a bit too much on the pricey side, maybe just bearable due to the low Brexit exchange rates to Pound Sterling. The admission includes an audio guide, which you can configure to several languages. The audio guide one is of the very common devices you find in several museums.
Churchill War Rooms – The Exhibitions
After passing a bomb hanging down from the ceiling, the first room features one of the key exhibits, the war cabinet. Like most places in this below-ground place, the setup has not changed significantly since the end of WWII. You also learn a lot about the members of the cabinet as at a deciding meeting in October 1940. The audio guide gives you a lot of additional information, for example that Churchill hated too much noise. For that reason, there were extra-silent typewriters in the war rooms.
You pass a lot of offices. and functional rooms until you hit the “Life in Churchill’s Bunker” exhibition, which has a lot of items of the bunker’s ages – including the typewriter. From there, you divert to the Churchill Museum (see below).
After you visited the Churchill Museum, there are a lot of interesting rooms in the bunker left. For example, there are the living rooms of Churchill and his wife. There are also functional rooms like the commanding headquarters or communication facilities. Most of them are quite untouched since the end of usage of the bunker. One key exhibit is the map room, which was the strategic center of the British war command.
From there, you head to the gift shop and thus finished a very interesting exhibition.
Churchill War Rooms – Churchill Museum
The Churchill Museum, which is like a museum within the War Rooms museum, gives you like a second place to visit. I personally liked this one even more as it tells a lot about Winston Churchill’s life. You are free to walk around, there is no fixed route through this place. Typically, though, you start with Churchill during the war years, go back in time to his childhood and then visit a part about his post-war life and death. I liked that the exhibition is quite critical and for example criticizes the British role in the Munich Agreement, which “allowed” the Nazis to take parts of Czechoslovakia.
A very interesting key exhibit is the an interactive timeline, which allows you to review masses of stages of Churchill’s life with a lot of digital documents. If you are a Churchill-addict, I am sure you can spent hours just at these long touchscreens ranging across the whole room.
Churchill War Rooms – Services
Due to the limited space in the museum, there are not too many services. Sanitary services are close to the entrance. Roughly, in the middle of your bunker visit, you may divert to a cafeteria for a snack.
Churchill War Rooms – My View
I did not know about the War Rooms at all before I happened to find a review about them on TripAdvisor. I feel that it is absolutely interesting to visit the place. The Churchill Museum adds great value to your visit. The value for money, though, is why I felt that the Churchill War Rooms are not a Top Pick, but “just” a very good place to visit. I feel that places like this should be cheaper to access so that more people, also from abroad, are able to explore the story of this place and World War II to London.
Overall, it is well presented. The audio guide gives too long explanations, which I already mentioned for other places. You should be aware that this place still seems to be linked to in-use government buildings – there were even people pushing a bike through the bunker, which felt quite strange to me.
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