What is it?
The Imperial War Museum London is a historical museum dedicated to the First and Second World Wars. Find it by Waterloo Station on the south bank of the River Thames.
5 -8 / 9 – 12 / 12 +
Babies & toddlers, if you’re willing to push a buggy around all day
What’s on offer
Having undergone a huge renovation, the new and improved IWM hosts a variety of different exhibits, displays, films and galleries that explore the history of the World Wars, including the role England played in each. The museum has a number of different historical documents – pieces of paper, which essentially changed the world’s course – hidden behind glass.
There are real life personal diaries and letters from citizens who lived through and did not survive the First and Second World Wars and many other memorabilia.
However, the museum caters to the needs of families and as a result there are several children’s events, for which there is a fee. The free exhibits also include some interactive options, such as Object Conversations (where families can get involved and touch items in the museum). Check the official IWM London website for full availability of what’s going on and when.
There are lots of accessible toilets. There’s also a brand new tea room.
The Holocaust memorial is haunting and powerful yet essential viewing. The trip to Churchill’s bunker my also have a similar effect with an added dose of patriotism.
Seeing the document Adolf Hitler signed in order to take Poland is fascinating. These may be highlights for mum and dad, leaving parents ‘breathless’ or ‘emotional’, but will probably be lost on a baby or small child who has yet to study history in the classroom.
For the young ones, highlights include dressing up activities in the section ‘Introduction to the Holocaust’ and creative art ‘response’, where children are invited to draw. Families can make poppies together. Everyone will be enchanted by the postcards exhibit, which showcases postcards written between loved ones during the war.
It’s a lot slower paced than other museums, which means you can take a nice relaxing walk around if that’s what suits you and the kids.
Finally, museum is highly-praised for being home to well preserved documents and artefacts and therefore, a well preserved history. It’s informative, engaging and interactive, which is essential for an educational yet fun day out for all the family.
It’s incredibly organised, balanced in providing all perspectives and efficient in its content and layout.
What to watch out for
– Imperial War Museum London does NOT store buggies, even fold-up ones. There are locker facilities available, however.
– The museum site is enormous so if you want to see everything, put on some comfortable shoes and take short breaks when little feet get tired.
– If you want to see warplanes and army tanks, visit Imperial War Museum Duxford, too.
What the owners say
“IWM London tells the stories of people’s experiences of modern war and conflict. On 19 July 2014 we re-open with new galleries, exhibitions and an improved visitor experience so that you can find new ways to explore our diverse collections.”