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A tour of the Churchill War Rooms and the Imperial War Museum London

Beneath the streets and buildings of London are the bunkered offices where Winston Churchill directed much of the World War II. It's a step back (and a few downward) into history. Across the Thames lies the Imperial War Museum, with relics from more than 100 years of conflict.

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Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

On the streets of London you can't throw a scone without hitting a dozen museums. One, though, isn't on the streets. It's below.

The Churchill War Rooms are actually two museums in one. The Cabinet War Rooms are an underground complex where the businesses of government and war were conducted in relative safety beneath steel, concrete and stone. The other part is the Churchill Museum, chronicling the life of the man himself.

Not too far away is the Imperial War Museum London. It's a gorgeous building inside and out that details over a century of conflict, and the weapons of war.

Here's a tour of both.

Around the corner from Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster lies the War Rooms' entrance, wedged between some stairs and a grand stone building. It looks out of place, to say the least. Down you go, picking up your handheld voice guide for your tour.

The rooms themselves, no less impressive for being behind glass, range from small and cramped, to medium and cramped. Only a few could generously be called "spacious."

The first room you see is the War Cabinet Room. In it, Churchill and his war cabinet made crucial decisions about the the war, across the Channel and above the skies of home.

Through narrow corridors you can see more rooms, the lesser-known but still crucial governmental machine. Radio rooms, a top secret transatlantic connection to the White House, and more.

Then there's the Churchill Museum, a multimedia detailing of the life of one of the most famous Brits in history.

Check out the gallery for the full tour.

Imperial War Museum London

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Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

A few stops on the Tube (or a great 30-minute walk), is the Imperial War Museum, London. Housed in a former hospital, the museum announces its intent with a pair of massive naval guns, one each from two different ships that served during World War II.

Inside is a huge atrium with displays in every dimension. The bottom floor has a new and extensive exhibit dedicated to World War I, documenting the horrors of that war, and the modern technology that made it so deadly.

As you ascend the floors, it's like ascending through time. World War II, the Cold War, conflicts in Ireland, the Middle East, the Falklands and more. Tanks and trucks, bombs and guns, planes and drones and so on. It's a fascinating collection of important pieces from the modern era of war.

Check out the gallery above for the full tour.

Bottom line

While admission to the Imperial War Museum is free, admission to the Churchill War Rooms is a rather steep £17.50 ($28). Both are absolutely worth it (as is the nearby HMS Belfast, which I toured on a previous trip). The history in both these museums is as fascinating as it is humbling.