Guide to Bloomsbury, London

Bloomsbury: London’s Literary Nirvana and Cultural Hub

Young, arty, and deeply literary, Bloomsbury is fast becoming the coolest undiscovered neighborhood in Central London with its vast array of coffee shops, cool boutiques, and a medley of delicious restaurants.

Luke Abrahams
20 May 2023

Bloomsbury has a reputation as being one of London’s most cultured neighborhoods. Home to both University College London and the British Museum, the bustling district is perhaps best known for its long and very illustrious list of former literary inhabitants: Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, TS Eliot, and Mary and Percy Shelley, to name just a few. Despite its grand central location, Bloomsbury is a slice of village life in the big city. Grand Georgian squares dominate, lush garden squares wow, and the shopping opportunities are simply endless. Home to folk, including myself, who champion self-expression through art, literature, and fashion, Bloomsbury is easily one of the most learned, exciting, and underrated neighborhoods in London. Here's our guide to all the things you need to check out in this scandalously underrated gem.

How to Get to Bloomsbury

Better to Walk

Skip the Tube – it's better to walk to this part of town as you'll see far more of London along the way.

The great thing about visiting this London neighborhood is its location. Bloomsbury is right in the center of London, so you can access it from virtually anywhere with ease. Piccadilly line services run directly to Russell Square Tube station (the heart and soul of the Bloomsbury), along with the Victoria line, with stops at Euston or King’s Cross St Pancras. Depending on where you are in the city, you can also walk or take a bus bound for Russell Square.

What to see and do Downtown

The Museums of Bloomsbury

Bloomsbury is home to a collection of unrivaled museums. The British Museum headlines the neighborhood’s top attractions and welcomes millions of visitors every year. Must-see exhibits include the museum’s fantastical Egyptian rooms, the Rosetta Stone, and the Parthenon marbles, alongside numerous exhibitions and the soon-to-be-open Reading Rooms (the former home of the British Library). Nearby, you’ll find the Foundling Museum, a must-visit for those that love period interiors and art. The former hospital has walls decorated with works from the likes of Gainsborough, Hogarth, and Reynolds, as well as memorabilia celebrating the composer Handel, once a benefactor of the museum. Continue a little further south and you can get a glimpse of what life was like in Victorian London at the Charles Dickens Museum. The building is full of the author’s personal belongings, including paintings and writing samples, and if you fancy trying something a little different, book yourself on to one of the museum’s immersive costumed tours.

Explore the Blue Plaques

Bloomsbury once used to be the home of many famous novelists, poets, artists, architects, state dignitaries, and more. All their former homes are commemorated by informative blue plaques spread throughout the neighborhood. Themed Blue Badge guided tours that show off all the highlights – from narrow alleyways to street art and unusual sculptures – can be booked online before you visit. Making a simple Google search can show you the starting point of the tour.

The Squares of Bloomsbury

This beautiful pocket of London life is exceptionally green and prime summer picnic territory. Gordon Square, the former home of the Bloomsbury Set (a group of authors and poets who lived in the area in the early 20th century), is a great place for an afternoon read by the camellia bushes. Right next to it, you’ll stumble on Tavistock Square where locals and city slackers go for coffee catch-ups and breaks in the shadow of a bust dedicated to f and novelist, Virginia Woolf. A skip or two down and a bit on the left is Bloomsbury’s most regal rectangle, Bedford Square. It’s one of the grandest and most complete Georgian squares in London, so it’s well worth looping for a dose of architectural history.

Discover a World of Literature at The British Library

Bibliophiles will love this spot. Home to the UK’s literary gems, the British Library holds well over 200 million items and counting in its vast underground vaults. The collection includes hundreds of thousands of original manuscripts, scores, sound recordings, stamps, and much more spread over 14 mammoth floors. The reading rooms are normally reserved for students (anyone can sign up, so if you want to see something, follow the registration process online) but the real draw in this booktopia is the Sir John Ritblat gallery. Everything on show is at the mercy of the curators and the library’s conservationists, but expect to see all sorts of paper totems in the form of lyrics from The Beatles, the works of Jane Austen, Shakespeare’s first folio, signed letters by Queen Elizabeth I, and the Magna Carta.

Where to Eat in Bloomsbury

Bloomsbury is the place to go when it comes to great food without the hefty price tag. If you want no-nonsense trattoria-style dishes, Ciao Bella serves up delicious pizzas and spaghetti vongole. On Lambs Conduit Street, it’s well worth trying Noble Rot for its excellent selection of wines and light and seasonable bites and colorful salads. If you’re looking for a cool bar, look no further than the Coral Room, a plant-flecked paradise decorated in candy-floss pink with works of art designed by Luke Edward Hall.

Love coffee? Check out Fork. The Marchmont Street independent sits under the former home of Mary and Percy Shelley and, aside from excellent cups of java, serves a tasty brunch and wine-themed supper club nights.

Where to Shop for Cool Arts and Crafts in Bloomsbury

The shopping in Bloomsbury is all about supporting locals. Most are set along the Victorian quarter of Lambs Conduit Street, a treasure trove of hole-in-the-wall shops selling all sorts of fine arts and crafts. 40 Colori specializes in making trousers, overcoats and knitwear inspired by their family roots back on Italy’s Lake Como. Down the road, hidden away on a street corner, the appointment-only Pentreath & Hall fill their petite shelves with an excellent array of stationary curated by owners Bridie Hall and Ben Pentreath. Just around the corner on Marchmont Street, it’s well worth nipping into Gay’s the Word, the UK’s only dedicated bookstore to LGBTQ+ literature, and if you continue further on toward the British Museum, the legendary L Cornelissen and Son stocks pigments, paints, brushes, and high-end gilding equipment from top brands for budding artists.

Where to stay in Bloomsbury

Bloomsbury is full of great hotels to suit any budget. All the big hitters, including IHG, Holiday Inn, Hilton, and more coexist alongside more upmarket options like The Bloomsbury Hotel. There are plenty of smaller boutique hotels and B&B options that charge way less.

Who Should Stay in Bloomsbury

Bloomsbury is my home. One secret spot to check out is St. George's Gardens. It's the perfect place to have a picnic, unwind, or simply have a snooze after a long day exploring.

Due to its endless amount of options, Bloomsbury is ideal for all kinds of travelers, from savvy business types to students and traveling families. If you’re pressed for time, its Central London location means you are closer to all the big sites, and depending on where you stay, you could end up saving big bucks on travel, too.

About the author

Luke AbrahamsLuke Abrahams is a London-based freelance journalist specializing in news, luxury lifestyle, and travel features. Luke was previously the features social media editor at the London Evening Standard. His work has appeared in more than 25 U.K. and U.S. publications, including British Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, The Times, Town & Country, The Telegraph, Condé Nast Traveller, Time Out, House & Garden, Suitcase, Elite Traveler, Insider, and more. So far, Luke has visited 82 countries. His favorite is Italy, and it always will be.