Bloomsbury's Best Bits: A Guide to London's Literary Neighborhood

  • 01 of 06

    Bloomsbury's Best Bits

    Gordon Square
    ••• Gordon Square in Bloomsbury. Mike Kemp/Getty Images

    Despite its proximity to crowd-packed areas like Oxford Street, Soho and the West End, Bloomsbury retains a sense of calm with its characterful back streets, residential pockets and leafy squares. The neighborhood has a rich history and was once home to the Bloomsbury Set, an influential group of writers, philosophers and artists including Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster. It continues to attract the world's finest thinkers to study at educational institutions including University College London and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The area is home to some of London's top museums and a number of lesser-known cultural attractions that deserve a visit. If you're planning a trip to the British Museum, make time to explore the fascinating side streets that make up this pretty corner of London. 

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  • 02 of 06

    Shop, Eat or Catch a Movie at The Brunswick Centre

    Brunswick Centre
    ••• Jack Taylor/Getty Images

    This architectural gem was built in the 1960s and is a fine example of modernist design. It's home to around 500 apartments as well as a number of upscale high street stores including Hobbs, L. K. Bennett and Waitrose, and reliable restaurant chains like Giraffe and Leon. The Curzon Cinema screens art-house and independent films, with one screen dedicated entirely to documentaries. It also hosts regular premiers, Q&As and special events. 

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  • 03 of 06

    Browse Boutiques on Lamb's Conduit Street

    Lamb's Conduit Street
    ••• Gerard Puigmal/Getty Images

    Follow in Charles Dickens's footsteps and explore Lamb's Conduit Street, a historic thoroughfare in the heart of Bloomsbury lined with independent shops, cafes and pubs. Shop for cool mens and womenswear at Folk; unique gifts at Volte Face; and rare titles by mid-twentieth century women writers at Persephone Books. Refuel with a pint at The Lamb, a Victorian pub where Dickens used to prop up the bar, or enjoy classic Italian dishes at Ciao Bella, a long standing family-run restaurant with an outdoor terrace. 

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  • 04 of 06

    Have a Picnic in a Pretty Garden Square

    Bloomsbury Square
    ••• Bloomsbury Square. Pawel Libera/London and Partners

    Bloomsbury is very much an urban area but it's dotted with pretty garden squares, many of which are open to the public (some of the smaller private squares can only be accessed by residents with keys). Russell Square is the largest square in the area and is a great spot for a picnic with its benches, water fountains and award-winning cafe that serves hot and cold dishes for breakfast and lunch. Bloomsbury Square dates to 1665 and is London's oldest square. It's a leafy hub with a well-kept lawn and is surrounded by Georgian buildings with grand facades. See statues of Gandhi and Virginia Woolf in Tavistock Square or time a trip to coincide with the annual Open Garden Squares Weekend and explore the area's gardens that are not normally open to the public. 

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  • 05 of 06

    Explore Top London Museums

    Charles Dickens Plaque
    ••• A Blue Plaque outside the Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury. Epics/Getty Images

    You could spend all your time exploring the millions of artifacts and artwork on display at the British Museum but there are some lesser-known alternatives in the area that deserve a visit. The Wellcome Collection is home to an unusual mix of medical relics and artwork and describes itself as 'the free destination for the incurably curious'. The permanent exhibition displays pieces from the founder, Henry Wellcome's private collection and the main gallery hosts a changing program of events. See British cartoon and comic art from the 18th century to the present day at the Cartoon Museum, a small space dedicated to cartoons, caricatures and comic strips. The Charles Dickens Museum is located in the author's former Bloomsbury home, where he wrote Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby. The rooms have been restored to their original Victorian state so you can get a feel for what life was like in the family home of one of the world's greatest storytellers. 

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  • 06 of 06

    Catch an Underground Show at The Horse Hospital

    The Horse Hospital
    ••• Mike Kemp/Getty Images

    Just off Russell Square, the Horse Hospital is a three-tiered not-for-profit independent arts venue that hosts regular avant grade exhibitions by emerging artists. It was originally built in 1797 as a stable for cab drivers's sick horses and the building has retained many original features like a horse ramp and the rings once used to tether horses. You can expect a quirky program of events including art exhibitions, screenings and live music. The venue is also home to the Contemporary Wardrobe Collection, an archive of post-war street fashion.