Bloomsbury is a beautiful and historic corner of London, renowned for its leafy squares, world-famous museums and literary associations, and is an integral part of why London continues to top the QS Best Student Cities Rankings as the best city for international students.
But behind the world-famous institutions and centres for learning, Bloomsbury is also home to some quirky, less-visited corners, which are every bit as interesting to uncover and explore.
Seek out these hidden gems of Alt-Bloom and you will find smaller crowds, shorter queues, and more fun.
Triffids in the shrubbery
Bloomsbury’s green parks and Georgian squares are justly revered, but for a quieter, more secluded haven to escape the bustle of the city’s streets, check out the sunken gardens at Malet Street Gardens. The space was acquired by the University of London in 1951, having formerly comprised the rear gardens of a row of houses in Gower Street, a long-term resident of which was Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, pioneer of the women’s suffrage movement.
What’s not to like about the preserved body of a famous lawyer, reformer and Utilitarianism philosopher?
When Jeremy Bentham died he left instructions in his will that his body was to be dissected, preserved and publicly displayed.
Visit the Auto-Icon of Jeremy Bentham at the South Cloisters, UCL Wilkins Building, Gower Street.
Hogwarts Express to Doncaster
In Bloomsbury, you are never far away from Harry Potter. As well as being home to J. K. Rowling’s publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing, it is also possible to pay a visit to Platform 9¾.
Don your best Harry scarf and glasses and pop along to the concourse of King’s Cross Station to have your photograph taken alongside the ‘magic’ luggage trolley, while waiting for the Hogwarts Express (or the 9.30 to Doncaster) to depart.
Although most notable for its Georgian architecture, Bloomsbury is no stranger to embracing the new. Fine examples of modernist, Brutalist architecture include The Brunswick Centre; the Institute of Education Building, and SOAS’s own Library.
A play on words
Well known for its literary associations, Bloomsbury is also well served by a range of excellent bookshops. A large branch of Waterstones is only a few paces distant from the main SOAS campus, but for a selection of secondhand and bargain books, Skoob Books is an ideal place to while away a pleasant hour, and to pick up a selection of classic book posters, ideal for brightening up any student residence.
‘Independent’ blue plaques
Bloomsbury must have one of the highest densities of English Heritage Blue Plaques of anywhere in the country. Famous residents such as Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and John Maynard Keynes are all celebrated with a neat blue circle on the side of their Bloomsbury abodes.
However, working on the principle that you can’t have too much of a good thing, the Marchmont Association has established its own series of ‘independent’ blue plaques to further raise awareness of the history of Bloomsbury. People commemorated by the Marchmont Association plaques include retailer Robert Dyas; author Jerome K. Jerome; and comedian Kenneth Williams.
The British Museum may be one of the capital’s most visited tourist attractions, but a collection of objects every bit as eclectic, and considerably more eccentric, can be found at the Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Sir John Soane was an energetic and enthusiastic collector of antiquities; paintings; sculpture; and non-western objects.
Attendance to the museum is free, although numbers are limited to 90 people at any one time.
Find out more
- Check out some more SOAS Gems
- Discover Bloomsbury – the Cultural and Academic Heart of London
- Find out what’s on at SOAS University of London