Way back at the start of 2022, I as invited to join the Homage Premium Club from The Waldorf Hilton, there was a joining fee to pay but I was impressed by the benefits which included a one night free stay at The Waldorf, dinner for two and a bottle of wine. It actually took me ages to get around to booking it but in November, my husband and I finally made it and we had a really fabulous 24 hours in London. Typically the day we were visiting there was a tube strike! The black cab from Marylebone to Aldwych was very expensive but never mind the weather was mild and we had some lovely plans to look forward to.
One of the museums I had been keen to visit to for some time was the Churchill War Rooms part of the collection from the Imperial War Museum. Some years ago we visited Chartwell House - another recommended day out - and along with watching some of the famous movies about Sir Winston Churchill, plus a big interest in the history of WWII, we have both loved learning more about this inspirational statesman. We also really enjoyed a day out, many years ago now (I was pregnant with Emily) at Dover Castle, the Secret Wartime Tunnels are hidden deep into the White Cliffs of Dover and bring to life the dramatic rescue of the wartime forces from Dunkirk. Must go back!
Having looked at the map, the location of The Waldorf meant that including a visit to the Churchill War Rooms would work perfectly!
This blog post includes PR tickets.
Staying at The Waldorf
The Waldorf is an iconic London hotel and an imposing presence right on Aldwych in the centre of the buzzing London theatreland, it is only a few minutes walk from the Royal Opera House and Covent Garden, and not far from Somerset House and Trafalgar Square. It is a fabulous, central place to stay! Some of the best shopping streets are easy to walk to, the London Eye isn't far away, and as we discovered the Churchill War Rooms, Downing Street and Horse Guards Parade are an easy and pleasant walk away.
Plus The Waldorf has a fantastic cocktail bar, a stunning restaurant, and there is a swimming pool, sauna and steam room too. And staying at one of London's most well known hotels is a must do on the bucket list.
After dropping our bags in our standard double room (well this was a freebie) and although compact, it was a very comfortable room - we headed across to the opposite side of Aldwych to have lunch and a drink at the Radio Rooftop Bar. We were lucky the weather was still mild and the roof terrace was open, it is heated but during the cooler months, the canvas sides are in place, meaning the view isn't as clear. We delighted in identifying the sights around us, there is an impressive view of the River Thames and Somerset House, the Shard, the London Eye and South Bank. I attended an event in the ME Hotel Penthouse Suite a few years ago so I had been keen to go back and enjoy the rooftop bar.
Dinner that evening was in the Homage Restaurant within The Waldorf. We had a drink first in Good Godfrey's Bar and Lounge. I've been here before pre-theatre with my friends. I enjoy sitting in the big windows and watching the red London buses and black cabs pass by and people watch as Londoners and tourists go about their day. It is a fun bar to just sit and relax in, watch the barmen show off their cocktail making skills and chat to friends.
The Homage Restaurant is impressive with it's stone columns and big chandeliers, it is very much a grand café, and although it is a big space, it was quiet and intimate for dinner and we were very well looked after and the food was excellent. Breakfast was a little more chaotic and noisy and we had to ask to move to a quieter table, sitting by the door to the kitchen wasn't ideal at all but they were very accommodating.
The Waldorf on Aldwych, an iconic hotel that is well worth a visit.
Walking from Aldwych to Whitehall
When I started planning what to do during our stay in London, I was delighted to learn the Churchill War Rooms were just a 20 minute walk from the hotel.
We loved the walk from The Waldorf, along Aldwych, past Charing Cross to Trafalgar Square and into Whitehall - we stopped at Horse Guards Parade and were lucky enough to be able to see the Changing of the Guard which takes place at 11.00 am every day and 10.00 am on a Sunday. We had a gorgeous sunny, mild day to enjoy the walk. On our way back we walked past Downing Street and the Cenotaph which was set up and ready for Remembrance Sunday.
We were lucky to catch the Changing of the Guard on our way to the Churchill War Rooms.
Visiting the Churchill War Rooms
At the Churchill War Rooms you get to walk through the top-secret corridors and witness where history took place. You can catch a glimpse of what life was like for the brave men and women working here during the tense days and nights of the Second World War.
I remember scenes from famous movies, Churchill and Darkest Hour and when you visit the Churchill War Rooms you can see where Sir Winston Churchill oversaw the operations that led to victory in the Second World War. Winston Churchill was a revolutionary, charismatic and inspirational leader and I lap up the history related to these life-changing moments of British and World history.
Visiting the Churchill War Rooms
Images: Imperial War Museums
Walking through the underground rooms felt breathtakingly real and massively thought provoking. The map room was locked the day after VJ day in August 1945 and not reopened again until more recent times, opening to the public in 1984 - meaning that the documents it contained, well time stood still and that is quite spine chilling, you feel like you are witnessing that history first hand.
I didn't realise how close to Downing Street and Whitehall these historical basement rooms were, and I could imagine the arriving and departing staff back in c.1944. The rooms were not purpose built and although adapted to offer as much safety as possible they would not have withstood a direct hit from a bomb. Sometimes staff needed to stay overnight and the conditions were pretty basic. The more senior members of the Government were provided with accommodation next to their offices but it was still pretty lacking in luxury. Sir Winston and his wife Clementine had their own rooms but also had secret access to a flat in the same building and would mostly stay there.
The museum has really been able to recreate that feeling of tension from life in the midst of the wartime cabinet - there are personal stories and details of the men and women who sacrificed so much of their time to dedicate to winning the war and providing us with the freedom we enjoy today. The rooms were either left intact or recreated as closely as possible to how they were during the war.
As part of your ticket entry you are given an audio guide, which is very easy to use, as you walk through these corridors of power you listen to the corresponding number on your handset and are told the important facts of history and real stories.
I loved seeing Winston's 'transatlantic telephone room' - disguised as a bathroom - where he used to call the US President. It just feels so emotional to witness the actual place that these important communications took place. And Churchill's bedroom and the map room is overflowing with detailed maps featuring exactly what was going on in Europe and around the World. Thought provoking stuff. If you love a map - you must go!
There's also the BBC Broadcast Room, it looks so out of date now, but wow this is the exact place that Sir Winston Churchill spoke to his fellow countrymen and kept them motivated and the fighting spirit alive.
Included in the tour is the Churchill Museum which is a beautifully put together insight into the life of this amazing man. The museum is interactive and details his life from his birth at Blenheim Palace in 1874 to his State Funeral in 1965.
I am always moved by a Winston Churchill quote and have Never Never Never Give Up in a frame. And who remembers that rousing speech acted so well in the movie Darkest Hour ... We shall fight them on the beaches, even though it was only a recreation for a movie I still wanted to get up and clap!
It is impossible to really relate to just what this man did for Great Britain but a visit to the Churchill War Rooms at least gives us some insight into his achievements and who he was as a person. He was clearly a very difficult man at times but for all his foibles he really was the most successful statesman this country has ever known.
Up there with our marvellous Queen Elizabeth II, surely we will never see history like it ever again.
You must go! If you are even only vaguely interested in history, please go. And an interactive exhibit like the Churchill War Rooms really brings history to life. I absolutely recommend making some time to visit, you need to allow probably 3 hours inside to really appreciate it all but it is such a super area to explore, make sure you have a whole day to see everything.
Other places of interest near Covent Garden
I love the area around Covent Garden, there is so much to do, both to visit and to enjoy walking, wandering, shopping, drinking, eating, relaxing and people watching!
Covent Garden Market
London Transport Museum
Royal Opera House
London Film Museum
The atmosphere at Covent Garden is buzzing and I recommend visiting during the day and in the evening - and their decorations at Christmas time are some of the best, the tree is beautiful and they have a snow machine. Stopping a while and enjoying the street entertainers is also a must do! Grab a glass of wine in one of their many outdoor terraces, book a table at The Ivy Covent Garden or grab a drink on the rooftop at The Royal Opera House.
The view from Radio Rooftop Bar, Somerset House and Covent Garden.
I am putting the finishing touches to this blog post during 'twixmas' that odd time of the year when we are just waiting for the next bit! Being patient and waiting isn't one of my strong points. This year I am determined to make the most of the quiet time, first on my list of things to do is to start planning our summer holiday.
Lots of love
Disclaimer: I was gifted 2 x entrance tickets to the Churchill War Rooms, I was under no obligation to write a blog post. All images of the Churchill War Rooms supplied by the Imperial War Museum.
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Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my 50s. I started this blog in 2016 with the purpose of helping other women at this stage of life. I’m delighted that my blog has grown to over 13k visitors per month. Visit my Work with Me page and request my Media Kit for details of product reviews, blogging services and social media content creation.
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