London: Places to Explore

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Bloomsbury and Holborn

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London can be a bit schizophrenic: Bloomsbury is only a mere couple of hundred yards from fun-loving, hedonistic Soho. Best known for the famous flowering of literary-arty bohemia in the early 20th century as personified by the Bloomsbury Group, the area encompasses the British Museum, the British Library, and the University of London. But don't let all this highbrow talk put you off: filled with beautiful historic buildings, Bloomsbury is simply a delightful part of the city in which to walk and explore.

Fundamental to the region's spirit of open expression and scholarly debate is the legacy of the Bloomsbury Group, an elite corps of artists and writers who lived in this neighborhood during the first part of the 20th century. Gordon Square was at one point home to Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes (both at No. 46), and Lytton Strachey (at No. 51). But perhaps the best-known square in Bloomsbury is the large, centrally located Russell Square, with its handsome gardens. Scattered around the University of London campus are Woburn Square, Torrington Square, and Tavistock Square. The British Library, with its vast treasures, is a few blocks north, across busy Euston Road.

The area from Somerset House on the Strand, all the way up Kingsway to the Euston Road, is known as London's Museum Mile for the myriad historic houses and museums that dot the area. Charles Dickens Museum, where the author wrote Oliver Twist, pays homage to the master, and artists' studios and design shops share space with tenants near the bright and modern British Museum. And guaranteed to raise a smile from the most blasé and footsore tourist is Sir John Soane's Museum, where the colorful collection is a testimony to the namesake founder.

Bloomsbury also happens to be where London's legal profession was born. In fact, the buildings associated with Holborn were some of the few structures spared during the Great Fire of 1666, and so the serpentine alleys, cobbled courts, and historic halls frequented by the city's still-bewigged barristers ooze centuries of history. The massive Gothic-style Royal Courts of Justice ramble all the way to the Strand, and the Inns of CourtGray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, Middle Temple, and Inner Temple —are where most British trial lawyers have offices to this day.

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