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Literary and artistic Bloomsbury

In the words of the famous British writer Virginia Woolf (1882-1941): ‘All the people I most respect and admire have been what you call Bloomsbury.’ She was only one of many who have cherished the Bloomsbury neighbourhood. The quiet and stately district became a hub of literature, art and science in the first 3 decades of the 20th century when it was the geographical home of the Bloomsbury Group.

The renowned Bloomsbury Group gave the district its intellectual reputation. Small book shops, galleries, ateliers and literary pubs still remind us of the days in which associated writers, artists and great thinkers met here every Thursday evening to philosophise. Together they reacted against Victorian morals and attitudes. A plaque at Bloomsbury Square with the greatest names, including Virginia Woolf, recalls the famous sessions. The neighbourhood, which also features the British Museum and the University of London, is still loved by writers and artists alike.

Bloomsbury house at Gordon Square
Bloomsbury house at Gordon Square

London

Writers’ walk

Virginia Woolf met her husband Leonard Woolf at the Bloomsbury Group. Together with her sister Vanessa and her husband Cliff Bell, a post-impressionist painter, as well as art critic Roger Fry they helped create acceptance of their ideas and art in Great Britain. Other important members included economist John Maynard Keynes, biographer and critic Lytton Strachey, and painter Dora Carrington.

Look closely and you’ll still find many traces of the lives of these Bohemians. Blue plaques on the façades indicate where the members used to live. Some resided around Gordon Square for a while. Bertrand Russell lived at number 57, Lytton Strachey at number 51 and Vanessa and Clive Bell, Keynes and the Woolf family at number 46. Strachey, Dora Carrington and Lydia Lopokova (Keynes’ wife) each lived at number 41 for some time. Virginia and Leonard Woolf also resided at 29 Fitzroy Square for 4 years.

Plaque at Virginia Woolf’s home

Nostalgia in Noho

Another area associated with Bloomsbury is within walking distance of popular tourist areas such as Soho, Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden. Charlotte Street is a charming street with a mix of trendy and traditional restaurants and bistros. It was already quite popular during the heyday of the Bloomsbury Group. The Fitzroy Tavern at number 16, frequented by many great writers and poets, is probably the district’s most famous venue. Through the years it became an extension of SoHo, and it is now also known as Noho (North Soho).

“Dine with the locals in Charlotte Street to feel like a true Londoner”

The colourful Charlotte Street Hotel
The British Museum

The world’s oldest museum

The British Museum, the world’s oldest museum, is probably the main tourist attraction in Bloomsbury. Its 94 rooms feature treasures from over 12 million years of world history. The Egyptian mummies are the most famous pieces; dozens of well-preserved specimens in sarcophagi are on show. It is interesting to compare them to the Lindow Man, a naturally mummified body that is estimated to be some 2,000 years old and which has a skin that is nearly intact. Another must-see is the Lindisfarne Gospels, a superbly decorated manuscript from around the year 700.

Photo credits

  • Plaque at Virginia Woolf’s home: Christian Luts, Flickr
  • The colourful Charlotte Street Hotel: Garry Knight, Flickr
  • The British Museum: Dan Breckwoldt, Shutterstock