History buffs will love London, England for its incredible wealth of WWII history. Check out this detailed travel itinerary to take a self-guided WWII London tour of the best WWII sites in the city!
Thanks to my brother, Ryne, for writing this post! He’s been living in England on his own, and he has tons of great stories to share.
London is an amazing city, a crossroads of global cultures and truly one of the world’s most influential metropolises. Anything you could want you’ll find in London — hipster music, Victorian architecture, flashy modern buildings, and any type of food that you can dream up from around the world.
Another thing it has in droves: history! You could fill pages with the history that London has to offer, but today I want to focus on one of my favorite topics — London’s WWII history. Let’s explore some of the top WWII sites in London on this self-guided WWII London tour.
Self-Guided WWII London Tour Itinerary
With two World Wars and countless other wars and conflicts, Europe is full of scars of history to keep any war enthusiast busy.
I’m blessed with a rare opportunity to be stationed at a Royal Air Force base not far from London, so I decided to take advantage of it with a quick day trip to the capital city for my own personally-created “WWII History Tour of London”.
Because there are so many WWII historical points to see, I’ve meticulously planned out this route in order to fit it into one day. This self-guided tour will take you from West to East across the city. Read to the end of this post for a map of the route!
1. Bomber Command Memorial
The first stop is the Bomber Command Memorial near Hyde Park.
Hyde Park Corner has a number of monuments related to various wars and military organizations, including the Royal Artillery Memorial and the Wellington Arch. Across the square sits the Bomber Command Memorial.
The Bomber Command Memorial is dedicated to the airmen who manned and supported bomber missions during the war, and the 55,537 who lost their life doing so. While the fighter aircraft protected the homeland, the bomber crews ventured out over enemy territory to project the full power of the Royal Air Force (RAF).
I spent a few moments pondering the incredible sacrifice that these airmen made and reflecting on the oath I’ve taken to do the same to protect my own country. As I walk back through the Arch toward the Tube station, I hope that a world war never forces me to make the same sacrifice, but that if it does, I’ll have the courage to do so with the honor that these airmen did.
2. Victoria and Albert Museum
Our next stop is the Victoria and Albert Museum. You may wonder what an art museum has to do with WWII history.
Well, it’s actually what’s outside the museum that counts. During a campaign known as the Blitz, the German Luftwaffe (air force) peppered the UK with over 30,000 tons of bombs, killing over 40,000 citizens.
London took the brunt of the attack with over 70 individual raids on the city. The raid decimated the city and the country as a whole, but the British citizens carried on through it all with their characteristic toughness and steadfast demeanor.
Most of the damage has been repaired or torn down with time, but it just so happens that one bomb landed outside the Victoria and Albert Museum. Being dedicated to history, they decided to leave the damage as an exhibit.
To find the bomb damage, walk down the left exterior side of the building. It’s hard to know what you’re looking for until you suddenly see chunks of stone missing from the side of the building and damage to the railing. As you walk further, the damage increases.
Stand for a few moments and take an opportunity to ponder both the immense power of the bombs to cause damage to such a solid stone structure as well as the feeling of what it must have been like to live through such attacks night after night.
Related tour: Private Guided Tour of The Victoria and Albert Museum
3. No. 8 Lord North Street Air Raid Shelter
Our next stop is related to that feeling of living through the attacks. Head off the beaten path to Lord North Street.
You’ll find yourself in a quiet neighborhood secluded from the hustle and bustle of tourists just a few streets over. There, just to the left of Number 8 Lord North Street, is a fairly well-preserved air raid shelter sign pointing down to the basement.
For the eight months of bombing raids, the citizens of London dealt with the ever-present threat of attack. Any normal night could change in an instant when the air raid siren wailed.
When that happened, citizens across the UK took whatever shelter they could — a crude bunker dug in the back garden, a basement, or even an internal closet (as little protection as that provided).
In London, community air raid shelters were set up across the city. The most famous were simply Tube stations that allowed hundreds of citizens to sleep on the platform after train services had ended for the night. Others were set up in private basements. There used to exist signs across the city guiding the way to the nearest station, but they are fast disappearing as they become painted over or destroyed.
The sign at No. 8 Lord North Street is one of the few left in the city. The private home is clearly no longer open to shelter-seeking strangers, but it’s incredible that they’ve kept the sign preserved.
4. Churchill War Rooms
The Churchill War Rooms is an immense museum dedicated to the wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, his life, his time in office, and his command of the British war effort in WWII.
Even more amazing, it’s located in the exact underground bunker used by his War Cabinet while planning the war. The underground labyrinth of rooms is amazing, even if it doesn’t appear strong enough to withstand a bomb hit (I question the term “bunker” for this particular location…but it’s still incredible to see first-hand where the decisions were made).
There is so much history here that you could easily spend hours (as my sister can attest to after my dad and I forced her to accompany us as we spent 2 hours picking through every morsel of history available).
Also in this area is a Monument to the RAF, located just north of Westminster Pier, if you’re interested in taking a short detour.
5. St Clements Danes
Our next stop is St Clements Danes Church, dedicated as the “Royal Air Force Church”.
St Clements Danes Church sits in a traffic island in the middle of the busy London street known as The Strand.
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren (who also designed St Paul’s Cathedral) and originally built in 1682, St Clements Danes was all but destroyed in 1941 by bombs from the Blitz.
In 1958, the restored church was re-consecrated as the official church of the Royal Air Force. It now serves as both an active church as well as a memorial to RAF airmen who have given their lives in service of their country.
6. St Paul’s Cathedral
Just a short walk from St Clements Danes is another famous church that was central during the Blitz bombings: St Paul’s Cathedral.
The cathedral is so famous and such a powerful British symbol, that Winston Churchill ordered it protected at all costs in order to preserve the morale of the British people.
Since Churchill’s orders were followed, the cathedral itself doesn’t really have any war scars.
Related tour: St Paul’s Cathedral Admission
7. Firefighters’ Memorial
On either side of St Paul’s Cathedral there are more gems to be found.
On the southern side stands the Firefighters’ Memorial. A simple statue of men battling a blaze, the memorial serves to honor the firefighters who extinguished the flames caused by Blitz bombing and helped the city survive.
In a beautiful bit of artistic vision, the men in the statue point their fire hose straight at St Paul’s, forever watching over the venerable landmark.
8. Christchurch Greyfriars Church
On the northern side of the St. Paul’s, just one block away, sits a less fortunate place of worship.
The 18th century Christchurch Greyfriars Church was completely gutted by bombing. The incomplete shell that remains surrounds a simple, yet beautiful, garden oasis in the busy city.
Self-Guided WWII London Tour Map
You can plot out this whole tour on Google Maps. Use the map below for the tour exactly as outlined in this post, or customize it to your liking.
You can click the star icon at the top of the map to save it to your favorites and open the route in your own Google Maps app.
Though there are plenty more historical sights to see in this magnificent city, this is where we complete our long tour of WWII sites. If you find yourself with a day to explore London, I highly recommend you take yourself off the beaten track and get to know some of the fascinating WWII history that London has to offer!
Top WWII London Tours (for when you want a guided tour)
Sometimes you just want a hassle-free guided tour, and we totally get it! Check out these great options for guided WWII history tours of London:
- Small-Group Wartime London Walking Tour
- Historical London Walking Tour — Westminster & Churchill War Rooms
- World War II History in London Private Guided Tour
- Winston Churchill and The Battle Of Britain — Full Day Private WW2 Tour
Historic Hotels to Stay at in London
Really dive into London’s WWII history on your trip with a stay at any of these historic hotels:
- The Dorchester — considered the safest building in London with its “bomb-proof” construction, Dwight Eisenhower took a suite here and made it his headquarters. Many other prominent political and military figures stayed here during the war.
- The Savoy — Churchill often took his cabinet to lunch at this hotel. The hotel was bombed during the Blitz but not have to close.
- The Ritz — Churchill, Eisenhower, and Charles de Gaulle met in at this hotel to discuss operations during WWII.
Save on London’s Top Attractions
Want to save big on London’s top attractions? With the Go City London attraction pass, you can save up to 55% on the cost of entrance tickets to museums, tours, and attractions all around the city! This is the perfect companion to your WWII London tour!
Visit bucket list attractions, enjoy top tours, and discover hidden gems handpicked by local experts. With one price and one pass, you have everything you need right on your phone.
More London Travel Tips
See more of what London, England has to offer with these fantastic itineraries:
- 2 Fun-Filled Days of Sightseeing in London, England
- Visiting the Tower of London
- Where to Eat in London, England
Ready to visit London, England? Plan your trip with these tips.
- Book Your Flight: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
- Find Accommodation: You can find top hotels in London using Booking.com.
- Start Packing: Check out my packing list resources so you’re prepared for your trip.
- Get a Guide Book: Check out the guide books from Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, or Rick Steves for in depth info about traveling to London.
- Save on Attractions: Save up to 55% on admission to London’s top attractions using the Go City London pass.
Did you find this self-guided WWII London Tour itinerary helpful? What are your must-see top WWII sites in London, England? Comment below!