Bloomsbury – the hidden bohemian face of London

London possesses so many faces and holds so many hidden gems. That makes me think of my visits to  London as treasure hunts. My latest discovery is Bloomsbury.
I heard about Bloomsbury in Courtauld Gallery. This gallery in Somerset House has a permanent (I think) exhibition of the paintings and craft of the Bloomsbury Group artists. The Bloomsbury Group was a very influential artistic and intellectual society at the beginning of 20th century. The members were living, meeting and working in the Bloomsbury district of London. Interestingly, they were very much into crafts and created beautiful “objects for common life” in the Omega Workshop such as ceramic pieces, lamps and lamp shades, rugs and even painted furniture. 

Bloomsbury is in the centre of London, not far from the Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Two tube stations give access to the area – Russell Square and Euston.

Russell Square station is the funny one. It has spiral staircase of 750 steps to the exit but if you attempt to climb them a voice loudly pronounces “Will the passenger who is climbing the stairs please go back and wait for the elevator”. I immediately felt something special in the air. 

The first breath in Russell Square brings the sense of art, intellect and bohemia. It is very fitting  that the nearby pub is called “Bon Vivant”. Gorgeous Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian buildings and beautiful squares and gardens create the character of Bloomsbury.
I love Tavistock Garden. It is magnificent and somehow intellectually charming. In the middle of the rectangular shaped garden is the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. There is always a floral tribute on its pedestal. Cherry trees were planted in the garden in honour of the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 
In the south-west corner there is a bust of Virgina Woolf who lived in the area and was a member of the Bloomsbury Group. In the opposite corner is a memorial to the first British woman surgeon Dame Louise Aldrich-Blake. One Saturday afternoon I enjoyed a strange, exotic but very entertaining celebration by Japanese people at this corner.
Tavistock Garden is an oasis of tranquility and quiet relaxation. Until a big group of American students comes along. Bloomsbury is very academic. There are many universities and cultural institutions – The University of London, the Bloomsbury Institute, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University College London, the British Medical Association, the British Museum and the Bloomsbury Publisher. Serious young people walk around making the area vibrant, full of anticipation and excitement. 
That brings me to the other charm of Bloomsbury – its bookshops and galleries. The famous Skoob Bookshop sells second-hand books and you can spend hours browsing and discovering  secret jewels. Next to the Skoob bookshop is The Brunswick Art Gallery that promotes pop-art. It gives a different, I will say modern and not so serious perspective to life and I think I will buy something there. 
The bookshop and the gallery are part of the the Brunswick Centre. It is a Grade II listed residential and commercial building. Brunswick Centre does not really fit in. Its design reminds me of the 1960s and I heard that the building is not very much liked by the residents due to its modernist structure. However, the shops, cafes and restaurants make the area excellent for meeting up and shopping. 
It is time to go home. On my return, my husband Adrian felt he had a problem when I confidently announced we should move to live in Bloomsbury London. That may happen one day but until then frequent doses of Bloomsbury’s charm will do. 


  1. Lovely article Nina xx

  2. Very interesting Nina. I sometimes think we take too much of London for granted, especially if it has been our workplace. Xx

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