Photo by Flickr / The Bloomsbury, London
London is a big, exciting city: it's one of the biggest and most exciting cities in the world, in fact. But in the middle of the bright lights and well-organized madness sits Bloomsbury, slowing things down a little and quietly going about its business. This is exemplified by its plush garden squares, all of which boast their own history and identity.
To kick off your day in Bloomsbury, you can't beat nosing your way around a few of these. Bloomsbury Square is a good place to start; besides carrying the name of the neighborhood, this is the oldest square in London, founded all the way back in 1665 as Southampton Square. Admire the architecture and then make your way to Gordon Square, famous for having been a gathering point for the Bloomsbury Group in the first half of the 20th century. Then there's Bedford Square, with its fine Georgian terraces; Tavistock Square, featuring a statue of Mahatma Gandhi; and Brunswick Square, as mentioned by Jane Austen in her 1815 novel, Emma. Taking a couple of hours to discover some of these dozen or so squares is one of London's great, understated pleasures.
There are loads of options for lunch, whether that's sitting down for a sandwich and a pint in The Queens Larder or warming up over a bowl of soup in a trendy, tucked-away cafe. If the sun's shining and you haven't had enough of walking around in squares, set off to discover more. Alternatively, check out the fantastic British Museum. The exhibitions here are diverse and engaging, not to mention great fun for children and adults alike. It can get busy, however, so if you want to wait until a bit later in the afternoon to avoid the worst of the crowds, consider first checking out the more niche Grant Museum of Zoology or the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. You might also want to pop your head around the door of one of Bloomsbury's independent book shops; Gay's the Word, Marchmont Books, and Persephone Books are just a few of them.
The evening will be approaching by now, so it's time to find somewhere for dinner. There are plenty of inexpensive, informal restaurants catering to the students of nearby University College London, so you can take your pick of the Italian, Thai, and Indian restaurants popular in the area. You'll always have the option of eating – and drinking – in a good old fashioned pub too, of course: the aforementioned The Queens Larder is one, and others include the Museum Tavern and The Bloomsbury. Bloomsbury might not specialize in trendy bars and clubs, but nearby Clerkenwell and Soho certainly do, so hop on the Tube at Russell Square – yes, another square – and you'll be partying in no time.
Where to stay
Never mind just visiting for the day: if you’re planning a trip to London for a few nights, you needn’t look any further than Bloomsbury for somewhere to stay. There are loads of great hotels in this centrally situated and well-connected neighborhood, and here are a few of our favorites:
Generator Hostel London
For a smart value option, consider the trendy Generator Hostel London, which offers both dorms and private rooms. The interior is clean and fresh, and the location – just minutes from the British Library and Russell Square – couldn’t be better.
The contemporary and cute My Bloomsbury provides four-star luxury in the heart of London and not only boasts an excellent restaurant but also an on-site bakery. Waking up to the wafting smells of freshly baked bread is a great way to start the day.
The Bloomsbury Hotel
Marble bathrooms, afternoon tea, a brilliant cocktail bar – oh, and wonderful rooms as well. The Bloomsbury Hotel is elegant and luxurious in equal measure but is family-friendly, with a range of services and treats on offer for young children and parents alike.