Bloomsbury is a fashionable, affluent Regency residential area, once a haven for publishing houses and intellectuals. Stroll through several beautiful squares, university departments, hospitals and the largest museum in the UK on this circular Bloomsbury walk. The walk also includes the largest building in the area, The Brunswick Centre.
Travel Essentials – Bloomsbury walk
Directions | Duration | Distance | Difficulty
Start point: Tottenham Court Road underground station – Zone 1. Northern or Central Line.
Finish point: Tottenham Court Road underground station – Zone 1. Northern or Central Line.
Map: TfL Tube Map.
Duration: 2 hours.
Distance: 5km (3.1 mile).
Notes: A circular, out and back route.
Quick facts about the Bloomsbury
- The name Bloomsbury originates from 1201.
- In 1660, Bloomsbury Square was the first square in London.
- Famous previous residents include Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and Bob Marley.
- Bloomsbury gave its name to the famous Bloomsbury Group.
- The British Museum, with 8 million historical objects, is here.
Bloomsbury walk – Points of Interest
- The world’s first YMCA.
- Bedford Square.
- Russell Square Gardens.
- The Brunswick Centre.
- The Foundling Museum.
- St. Georges Gardens.
- Charles Dickens Museum.
- Bloomsbury Square.
- The British Museum.
Route map Bloomsbury walk
1. The world’s first YMCA
Leaving Tottenham Court Road underground station, walk past the Dominion Theatre. The former cinema retains its 1920s light fittings and art deco plasterwork with a long history of hosting shows.
Turn right into Great Russell Street, on the left is the world’s first YMCA building, founded by Sir George Williams in 1844. Above ground level, the architecture looks old, although, at ground level, it hosts a modern fitness club.
After the YMCA, take the next left into Adeline Place, leading to Bedford Square.
2. Bedford Square
Perhaps one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in London with several blue plaques on display. Both Thomas Wakley, the founder of The Lancet and Thomas Hodgkin, the philanthropist, lived at number 35. Numbers 32-39 are part of the Architectural Association.
Walking along this side of the square, cross Gower Street into Montague Place. On this street is the main University of London building at Senate House, and opposite is the rear entrance of the British Museum. This entrance is from the early 1900s, although the museum dates back to 1759.
3. Russell Square Gardens
Leaving Montague Place, cross the road into Russell Square Gardens. Inside the entrance, the Russell Square Insect Hotel creates an ecologically healthy insect environment. Bees, ladybirds and carnivorous insects all live here.
On the east side of the square is The Imperial Hotel, its art nouveau design from the early 1900s. The statue of Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford, responsible for much of central Bloomsbury’s development, is on the edge of the square.
A diagonal path traverses the square with a Caffé Tropea at the opposite corner. The Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel is the corner of the road, a landmark hotel with a traditional exterior and a modern, contemporary interior.
Cross the main road with the hotel on your right and then past Russell Square underground station on the right. Turn left here into The Brunswick Centre.
4. The Brunswick Centre
This Grade II listed development of flats and shops completed in 1972 is an excellent example of Brutalist architecture. The centre replaced run-down Georgian era terraced housing, intending to paint the exterior cream, which never happened as the local council could not afford it.
The Brunswick contains 560 flats, shops, restaurants and the Curzon cinema. Due to its striking design, it often features as a filming location.
Opposite The Brunswick Centre is Brunswick Square. Overlooking it is The Foundling Museum and The School of Pharmacy. The house where Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes and Duncan Grant, who were members of the Bloomsbury Group, an association of writers and intellectuals, is here.
5. The Foundling Museum
The museum tells the story of The Foundling Hospital, the first of its kind in Britain for abandoned children exhibiting the history of The Foundling Hospital, known today as the Coram children’s charity. The Interior houses collections by Gainsborough and Reynolds. The hospital established in 1739 by Captain Thomas Coram gave rise to the museum. In the 1920s, behind the Coram statue lay the original hospital.
6. St. Georges Gardens
Walking along Hunter Street and then into Handel Street, proceed to St. Georges Gardens. The gardens are a burial place for St. Georges church. Near the exit, towards the back right of the gardens, is the pyramid-shaped tomb of Anna Gibson, the granddaughter of Oliver Cromwell. As well as his fight against the monarchy, in this case, Charles I, Cromwell also believed in providentialism. It is the belief that God controls all the events on Earth.
Exit the gardens, walk along Heathcote Street, and turn right into Mecklenburgh Street, a fine example of historic terraced houses. On the right side is Mecklenburgh Square. King George III named it in honour of his Queen, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Several poets and writers lived around the square.
7. Charles Dickens Museum
Mecklenburgh Street leads into Doughty Street with its linear perfectly-formed late Georgian houses. Number 48 Doughty Street is the Charles Dickens Museum, where he lived from 1837 until 1840. He wrote his first three novels, The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby here.
Continue along the street, turn right into John Street and right again into Northington Street. The Rugby Tavern, built around 1700, is at the end of the road on land owned by Rugby School.
Turn left at the pub into Rugby Street. Reaching the end of Rugby Street, turn right into Lamb’s Conduit Street. Halfway along, turn left into Great Ormond Street, the famous children’s hospital site completed in 1720. On the left, at number 23, before reaching the hospital, is the house of John Howard, the prison reformer. He lived here from 1726 until 1790.
Crossing the road into Queen’s Square, built during the reign of Queen Anne in the early 18th century. On the left is The Italian Hospital, which opened in 1884 for poor Italians. There is a coat of arms above the entrance.
Walk along Cosmo Place, past The Queen’s Larder pub. Queen Charlotte kept food for a ‘mad’ King George III at this pub. His treatment took place in Queen’s Square.
At the end, turn left towards Southampton Row and then right into Bloomsbury Place.
8. Bloomsbury Square
Along Bloomsbury Place, on the left is Bloomsbury Square. The Bloomsbury district and heritage started here in the 1660s. Sir Hans Sloane, the Anglo-Irish physician and collector and creator of drinking chocolate, lived at number 4 for about 50 years. He bequeathed 71,000 items to the British Museum and British Library.
At the top of the square is a statue of Charles James Fox, a politician and notorious speaker who died in 1806.
9. The British Museum
Further along from Bloomsbury Square is British Museum. The museum dating from 1753, has the largest and most comprehensive collection of history, art and culture today. During the era of the British Empire, these collections grew in size.
Opposite the museum entrance is Museum Street. Many independent and boutique shops provide ample opportunities for window shopping.
At the end of Museum Street, turn right and look ahead to see the 34-storey, 385 feet high Centre Point tower, almost directly above Tottenham Court Road underground station where the walk ends.
The verdict – Bloomsbury walk
Bloomsbury is a part of London that is well worth exploring. Stroll around the quiet streets and discover six squares, each with its character and feel. These include Bedford, Russell, Brunswick, Mecklenburgh, Queen’s and Bloomsbury Squares. The Grade II listed ones are Brunswick and Mecklenburg. Once the home for so many notable intellectuals and pioneers, the allure of Bloomsbury promotes creativity. The legendary Bob Marley lived at number 34 Ridgemount Gardens for six months in the early 1970s.
As a place of learning, Bloomsbury attracts several educational institutions, including The University of London, Birbeck College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. As a world-leading centre for public and global health research, the London School of Hygiene is critical in today’s global pandemic.
Several museums are part of this Bloomsbury walk, with the British Museum opened in 1759 being the largest. Just a few streets away from the main thoroughfares are the calm and tranquillity of beautiful squares peppered between many points of interest. If time permits, combine this with a visit to The British Museum.
Cabin Bags Only rating: 8.5/10
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