This past Monday April 28 was Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah). While the UK holds most of its commemorative events in January, there’s still plenty to do if you’re interested in England’s role in World War II. Exploring wartime England is not only an interesting way to spend an afternoon or weekend, but a great way of discovering how the city grew into what it is now.
- Churchill War Rooms (in Imperial War Museum) – While the Imperial War Museum London itself is an impressive visit, one of its best features in the Churchill War Rooms which show you the original Cabinet War Rooms used by Churchill and his team during World War II. This bunker kept Churchill and his Cabinet safe during the Blitz and allowed them to continue their work underground as London fell under attack [temporarily closed until mid-summer 2014to undergo improvements, but that doesn’t stop you from coming back later!].
- Museum of London Docklands– While the Museum of London does have a great array of exhibits regarding London’s history, the arguably lesser known London museum is based in the Docklands, which was in many ways the heart of London’s WWII efforts, and thus has an intimate connection to the time and impressive exhibits to show what life was like in wartime London.
- National Maritime Museum– In World War II the Royal Navy played in important role in keeping the seas open for Allies and closed to the Axis powers, and NMM holds several relics from the war at sea. Truth be told, the museum’s WWI collection is more impressive, but for anyone fascinated with the navy, this is a must-see.
- Royal Airforce Museum London– The Royal Airforce Museum features several spectacular aircrafts and exhibits, including an exhibition titled “Our Finest Hour” which tells the story of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz during WWII. In addition to the planes and artefacts on display, “Our Finest Hour” features a 13-minute film that comes to life in the exhibit’s darkened hall, taking visitors back to the Battle with the roar of engines and rattling of guns. A great way to experience history and feel as though you’d been a part of this heroic effort yourself.
- Walking Tours- If you want a more guided approach to London’s history, try a walking/bus tour. One wallet-friendly option is choosing one of the blitzwalker’s tours which typically cost about £9 per person. They divide their walks by region and cover everything from Chelsea to Bermondsey, depending on your preferred historical wander, supplemented by photographs and artefacts. You can read about the blitzwalkers themselves here. Alternatively there’s the Evan Evans bus tour or for those willing to splurge, keep an eye out for exclusive tours which pop up now and again, such as the past Hitler’s London tour with Joachim von Halasz.
London has played a central role in European history for centuries, keep an eye out for other recommendations for how you can explore the city’s history. Think of it as dating: before you can commit to a steady relationship with London, be that renting or buying a home here, you need to get to know it. If you need help setting up the first date, check out our pre-home finding service and settling-in & orientation assistance which provide an introduction and a safe space to help you get acquainted with London. After that, it’s up to you if you want a second date, and all of the above venues make for a great day out with our fair city.
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