Bloomsbury - London's Literary Village
“Since the early 20th century, the central London district of Bloomsbury has been feted for being the epicentre of the Bloomsbury Set: Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Clive and Vanessa Bell, John Maynard Keynes and several fellow travellers. Literary and artistic – and infamously unorthodox in their relationships (as the saying goes, 'they lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles') – they lent the area a raffish and lofty air which in large part it still maintains. In these wide Georgian streets, you can still almost hear languid conversations about art and society echoing down the ages.
Of all the London areas, it’s most like the great university cities of Oxford and Cambridge
Indeed, look up and you’ll find evidence of those heady days in the various English Heritage blue plaques, scattered from Bloomsbury to Fitzroy Squares - Bloomsbury is a series of grand urban squares, planned in the 18th century. With the University of London and British Museum presiding over the area, as well as still hosting a huge slice of the British publishing industry, Bloomsbury retains a rather charming sense that it’s a bit of an ivory tower. Of all the London areas, it’s most like the great university cities of Oxford and Cambridge.
At the same time, Bloomsbury is very close to the great shopping areas of Covent Garden and Oxford Street, and is open to many other influences. Go to the small grid of streets south of the British Museum and you’ll find a highly browseable collection of galleries and bookshops, punctuated by busy cafes and clothing stores, and thousands of tourists. At Gower Street – birthplace of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 – you can cross towards Tottenham Court Road and after a browse in its furniture stores, head west into the district of Fitrovia on Bloomsbury’s western flank, known for its art galleries and restaurants, and for being poet Dylan Thomas’ bibulous stamping ground in the 1930s.
Go the other way, and you’ll pass handsome Queen’s Square, home to TS Eliot’s publisher Faber & Faber, past the famous children’s hospital in Great Ormond Street into East Bloomsbury, where Lamb’s Conduit Street is laden with independent clothes shops, galleries and delicatessens. Then track north, and you’ll find pretty Marchmont Street and the Brunswick Centre, an open-air shopping centre amid a modernist housing block, with a range of glossy retail and dining options. Even the most culturally-minded stroller deserves a good lunch.”
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