Overview : This sightseeing tour starts in Bloomsbury, ends at St. Paul’s Cathedral and encompasses most of the things tourists want to... more »
Overview : This sightseeing tour starts in Bloomsbury, ends at St. Paul’s Cathedral and encompasses most of the things tourists want to... more » experience here: history, architecture, literature, pubs and even theater. You’ll see them all in an easy two-mile stroll. The walk itself takes only 90 minutes, but you can spend an entire day if you visit some of the museums, tour St. Bride’s Church, have a pub lunch and, if your timing is particularly good, take in a play at the Bridewell Theatre. It’s not the West End, but it is, as they say, cheap and cheerful. You may not have the energy to do justice to St. Paul’s by the time you get there, so save that for another day. less «
The closest tube stop is Russell Square. The Bernard Street exit is directly across the street from Brunswick Square, a small shopping... more » center. Most of the shops here can be found on any high-end street around the United Kingdom, but movie lovers should note the Renoir Cinema. It’s an intimate two-screen theater specializing in art house and foreign films.
This tour is best taken during a weekday as it's pretty quiet in London on the weekends when the lawyers and business people are off at their country homes. less «
It's a short walk from the tube stop to Coram's Fields, site of the Foundling Hospital that opened in 1745 and closed in 1954. Built by Thomas Coram, a retired sea captain, the park today contains a children's playground and the Foundling Museum, which is worth a visit. Adults are allowed into the playground only if accompanied by a child.
Across the road, look for the statue of a woman holding an urn. This marks the top of Lamb's Conduit Street, once a tributary of the River Fleet. The engineer who lends his name to the street, William Lamb, not only built the conduit in 1577, but had water pails provided to 120 poor women.
Among the notable places to linger on Lamb's Conduit Street is the Lamb pub. Note the etched privacy screens on the bar that once shielded upper-class patrons from the workingmen on the other side of the room.
Established in the 18th century, this later became a gathering place for members of the Bloomsbury Set, including Virginia Woolf. Across... More the street you'll find Persephone Books, an excellent small publisher specializing in "neglected fiction and nonfiction" by, for and about women.Less
Literary types may be interested to gawk briefly at 18 Rugby St., where the American poet Sylvia Plath and her husband, Ted Hughes, lived in 1960. Plath is best known for her semiautobiographical book, "The Bell Jar," popular among depressed college freshmen. Otherwise, you can turn back to Guildford Street and walk toward Doughty Street.
Doughty Street is filled with fine examples of 18th century Georgian townhouses including the Dickens Museum at No. 48. Charles Dickens and his growing family lived here from 1837-1839 and he wrote "Oliver Twist" and "Nicholas Nickelby" on the premises. As you continue down the block, Doughty becomes John Street and ends across from Gray's Inn.
48 Doughty St.
Gray's Inn Gardens encompasses one of London's four Inns of Court, the others being Lincoln's Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. Anyone training to be a barrister (as opposed to a solicitor--both are legal professionals but barristers plead cases in court and solicitors do not) must join one of these inns.
Charles Dickens worked here as a... More clerk to an attorney in his youth and wrote of his experiences in "The Pickwick Papers." The gardens, laid out by Sir Francis Bacon, are open to the public between 12:30 and 2pm; if you aren't able to walk inside, take Jockey's Fields as an alternative route to Lincoln's Inn.Less
Lincoln's Inn, built around a lovely garden square, is home to law firms and the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, a membership organization for lawyers. It's been around since the 15th century, the earliest of the Inns of Court.
Public tours are only offered one Friday a month, but you can walk around the grounds and admire the buildings from... More the outside. The archway through to Carey Street is closed weekends; take Serle Street instead.
If the weather is nice, wander around Lincoln's Inn Fields, the largest public square in London. Sir John Soane's Museum is also located here.Less
Seven Stars, a tiny pub opened in 1602, is a favorite of the legal trade given its close proximity to the Inns of Court and the back of the Royal Courts of Justice.
During the week, you may see barristers in their wigs and robes dropping by for a pint in between court sessions. The landlady is known for her temper and woe betide you if you... More question the menu or ask for a latte (it's espresso or nothing). Now that you've been warned, avail yourself of a sandwich and a beer as this is one terrifically atmospheric pub.
If you want to take a look inside the Royal Courts, a majestic building where you can view a fun exhibition of legal costumes throughout history, it's a simple matter of walking in. There's some airport-like security, but it's efficient and quick. Also, there are public toilets inside.Less
Fleet Street, named for the river Fleet, was a major byway in medieval London and later became known for the number of printers and publishers doing business in the area.
The juncture of Bell Yard and Fleet Street lands you near the site of an ancient entrance to the square mile that encompasses the city of London. Called Temple Bar, a gate... More marked the western edge of the city and it became a useful place upon which to display the heads of traitors. The spot is marked these days by a statue topped with a bronze griffin. Notice also the white bollards decorated with the red cross of St. George (the official flag of England and Wales) that define the border of the city of London.Less
St. Dunstan-in-the-West was first consecrated sometime around A.D. 1070. Samuel Pepys attended church here on occasion (he wrote in his diaries of his failed attempts at picking up girls during services) and the building even managed to avoid destruction in the Great Fire of 1666. This incarnation, rebuilt in 1831, is on a smaller plot of land,... More but some monuments from the 16th century building remain inside.Less
A short detour off Fleet Street brings you to the genuinely old Olde Cheshire Cheese pub and a bit farther on to Dr. Johnson's House. The pub's various rooms are worn and dark and will certainly leave you feeling as if you'd stepped into a Dickens' novel. In fact, Dickens was known to be a customer as were Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson and Sir... More Arthur Conan Doyle.
Continue down the alleyway to a small square where you'll find the beautifully restored home of Samuel Johnson from 1748-1759. Poet, editor, journalist, essayist and more, Johnson complied his Dictionary of the English Language here.Less
The steeple of St. Bride's Church actually was the inspiration for the tiered wedding cakes created by a Fleet Street baker named Mr. Rich in the late 18th century. But churches were located here long before the steeple was added to this Christopher Wren confection (another casualty of the Great Fire rebuilt by Wren), probably since the 6th... More century.
The crypt, which is now a museum, is well worth a visit as it includes Roman ruins excavated at this site. The church is dedicated to writers and journalists and you'll see many references to this inside.Less
Old Bell Tavern, built by Wren in the 1670s to house the workmen building St. Bride's, has an entrance on Fleet Street as well as from the alley near the church. Like most businesses located within the city of London, it's closed on Sundays.
The Bridewell Theatre, in a small space located over a former Victorian swimming pool, produces all manner of plays throughout the year including 45-minute versions of Shakespeare's works presented as lunchbox theater.
Check the website for plays/dates. If you can schedule in a play at 1pm during its season, you won't find better entertainment... More for £8 and you can bring a sandwich into the bar if you like. The Bridewell also offers evening performances, again at bargain prices.
14 Bride LaneLess
Our endpoint is St. Paul's Churchyard, specifically Wren's Temple Bar, which stood on Fleet Street for just more than 200 years until the street needed widening. The Corporation of London didn't want it destroyed, so it was taken down stone by stone, numbered and stored until 1880 when Sir Henry Meux, a Hertfordshire brewer, bought the lot and had... More it erected at his property in Cheshunt. A hundred or so years later, the gate, almost forgotten and in disrepair, was purchased by a trust, restored, and it now stands at the entrance to Paternoster Square next to St. Paul's.Less