Literary, legal and scholarly, this is the brainy quarter of London. Dominated by two towering institutions, the British Museum and London University, and bolstered by the Inns of Court, it could hardly be otherwise. It is an area of elegant squares and Georgian façades, of libraries, bookshops and publishing houses. Most famously, the Bloomsbury Group, known for novelist Virginia Woolf lived here during the early decades of the 20th century. Fitzrovia’s reputation as a raffish place was enhanced by the characters who drank at the Fitzroy Tavern, such as the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914–53) and the painter Augustus John (1878–1961).

Bloomsbury Connections

Many Bloomsbury streets and squares are named after members of the Russell family – the Dukes of Bedford. The first duke features in Shakespeare’s Henry V. In 1800, the 5th Duke sold the mansion in Bedford Place and retired to the country. The current Duke has turned the family seat, Woburn Abbey, into a huge tourist attraction.


  1. British Museum

  2. British Library

    Located in the heart of St Pancras, the British Library holds copies of everything published in Britain, as well as many historical publications from around the world. Members have free access to these, while non-members can enjoy the magnificent space and the regular exhibitions put on here. A dazzling, permanent display in the John Ritblatt Gallery includes the earliest map of Britain (1250), a Gutenberg Bible (1455), Shakespeare’s first folio (1623), Handel’s Messiah (1741) and many breathtaking illuminated manuscripts. The glass walls in the core of the building reveal the huge leather volumes from the King’s Library, donated by George III. There are regular talks and events, a café, restaurant and, of course, a well-stocked bookshop.

    • 96 Euston Road NW1

    • Open 9:30am–6pm Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri, 9:30–8pm Tue, 9:30am–5pm Sat, 11am–5pm Sun & public hols

    • Permanent exhibitions are free.

    British Library
  3. Sir John Soane’s Museum

    A particular pleasure of this unique museum is watching visitors’ faces as they turn a corner and encounter yet another unexpected gem. Sir John Soane, one of Britain’s leading 19th-century architects, crammed three adjoining houses with antiques and treasures, displayed in the most ingenious ways. The basement crypt, designed to resemble a Roman catacomb, is particularly original. The Rake’s Progress (1753), a series of eight paintings by Hogarth, is another highlight.

    The houses are on the northern side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the heart of legal London, where gowned and bewigged lawyers roam. Lincoln’s Inn, on the east side of the square, is one of the best preserved Inns of Court in London, part of it dating from the 15th century.

    • 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields WC2

    • Open 10am–5pm Tue–Sat, 6–9pm first Tue of month

    • Free

    Sir John Soane’s Museum
  4. Charles Dickens Museum

    Home to Charles Dickens from 1837–39, during which time he completed some of his best work (including The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby), this four-storey terraced house offers a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of the great Victorian author and social reformer. Some rooms have been laid out exactly as they were in Dickens’ time. Nearby Doughty Mews provides another step back to Victorian times.

    • 48 Doughty Street WC1

    • Open 10am–5pm Mon–Sat, 11am–5pm Sun

    • Admission charge

  5. University College London

    Founded in 1836, UCL is the oldest college of London University and owns several fine academic collections. In the Petrie Museum is one of the largest collections of Egyptian archaeology in the world. Etchings, engravings and early English Mezzotints from the college’s art collection are exhibited in the Strang Print Room. Check out performances at the college’s Bloomsbury Theatre in Gordon Street.

    • Gower Street WC1

    Petrie Museum

    • open 1–5pm Tue–Fri, 10am–1pm Sat

    • Free

    Bloomsbury Theatre

    • 020 7388 8822

  6. Wellcome Collection

    The medical collection of American businessman and philanthropist Sir Henry Wellcome (1853–1936), who founded one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, explores the connections between medicine, life and art. Exhibits include Charles Darwin’s walking stick and Fakir’s sandals.

    • 183 Euston Road NW1

    • Open 10am–6pm Mon–Fri, 10am–4pm Sat

    • Free

  7. British Telecom Tower

    At 190 m (620 ft), this was the tallest building in London when it opened in 1965. Sadly, the revolving restaurant on top has been closed for security reasons, but the Tower Tavern in Cleveland Street has a good large-scale diagram explaining the tower’s constituent parts (as well as hand-pulled beer).

    • Map D2

    Telecom Tower
  8. Pollock’s Toy Museum and Shop

    This delightful child-sized museum is a treasure-trove of historic toys. The shop below is crammed with old-fashioned playthings including Victorian toy theatre sheets, originally published by Benjamin Pollock.

    • 1 Scala Street W1

    • Open 10am–5pm Mon–Sat

    • Admission charge

  9. St George’s Church

    This church was described in a 19th-century guide book as “the most pretentious, ugliest edifice in the metropolis”. The steeple is topped with a statue of King George I posing as St George.

    • Bloomsbury Way WC1

    • Open 10am–5:30pm Mon–Fri and for services on Sun

  10. St Pancras International Station

    One of the glories of Victorian Gothic architecture, this railway terminus was designed in 1874 by Sir George Gilbert Scott. Most of the frontage is in fact the Midland Grand Hotel. The Eurostar International Terminal moved here from Waterloo Station during 2007, when the Channel Rail Tunnel Link was completed.

    • Euston Road NW1

    Façade, St Pancras International Station

    Carved figures, St Pancras Parish Church
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