Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia walk is a great chance to get to know a different side of Central London. Explore both for great architecture, good food, history and some other curiosities. Choose it for lunchtime exploration or come over the weekend when it gets quieter.
I don’t like saying that something is ‘typical London’ but it’s hard to resist using this phrase when you think of Bloomsbury. Three-storey houses with black doors, universities, small gardens, mix of tourists and local workers. As I walk through the area I can almost see gentlemen with derby hats, moustaches and a walking sticks with their ladies in crinoline dresses strolling on the streets.
Bloomsbury is the London we know from books and films. On the other hand, Fitzrovia is more modern and fast-paced. You can see business buildings and lots of shops there. The beauty of this walk lays in the contrast between the two. Within very short time you can experience so many different things.
I did this walk long time ago but I still remember it very well. It was one of the first walks (if not the first) that I did in London after moving to Reading. That time, it provided much needed time and space to relax, give my thoughts a rest and explore the awesome city. I hope it’ll do the same for you.
Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia walk: Along Tottenham Court Road
Bloomsbury is located east of and Fitzrovia west of wide Tottenham Court Road. At the sound of this name I can only picture tube station with the same name and an old sky-scraper that is grey and boring. But actually, as you go further along Tottenham Court Road (towards Euston Rd) it becomes much more enjoyable.
I like its wide pavements, plenty of furniture shops and, of course Tap Coffee. There are also some other food places worth visiting – Franco Manca with its sourdough pizza, Japanese Canteen and one of my favourite chain bakeries Kamps. Tottenham Court Road links together Oxford Street and Marylebone Road/Euston Road and that’s like being a bridge between two different worlds – hustle and bustle of Oxford Street and seriousness of Euston.
Tottenham Court Road links together Oxford Street and Marylebone Road/Euston Road and that’s like… Click To Tweet
Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia walk: The secret of Bloomsbury
The secret of the area, however, is in the backstage. Even if the front looks interesting and tempts you to stay, it is at the backstage that things are happening. And so, east from TCR there is Bloomsbury with its famous houses. None of them go higher than 3-4 storeys, I believe, and they are all finished with dark graphite bricks with creamy additions. Among them there is (not so) hidden University of London (with its massive senate building), British Museum and lots of hotels. Once you enter the area it seems you’re in a different world than the rest of the city. It’s a very touristic area but definitely worth visiting in your spare time. Gardens around Bloomsbury are open to the public and there are also free walks offered from time to time. Bloomsbury Festival that takes place in the Autumn is a great way to explore the area and get to know its history.
Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia walk: Eclectic Fitzrovia
If you go to the other direction from TCR you’ll find yourself in Fitzrovia. This name has always been attracting me – the reason for that is that it probably doesn’t sound very English to me (much like its other ‘–via’ sister – Belgravia). And the area itself has been to me a bit of a mystery.
It’s much more eclectic than Bloomsbury and more concentrated on the business than learning. The historically bohemian area was once home to such writers as Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw and Arthur Rimbaud.
You’ll see quite a few of business buildings – old and new, and you can have sneak peek into some of them, like I did at the one below…
I love the fact that you can stroll around narrow streets and feel a bit like in a labyrinth. You can be sure that no matter which way you turn you will find something if not a toy museum than a great newspaper kiosk with lots of interesting magazines you cannot get anywhere else.
Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia walk: The food
Fitzrovia boasts with a lot of art galleries and food places. I tried butternut squash and sweet potato soup with amazing sourdough bread at The Black Sheep Coffee. I absolutely loved the place after spending there only few minutes. Two girls that were serving me and other customers were friendly and chatty. Their coffee and menu of sandwiches, cocktails and quiches looked very tempting as well and I am a fan of the claim they put on the paper cups – “Leave the herd behind”. Weather permitting you can enjoy food and coffee outside sitting by the window sills. Next door, for those in more carnivorous mood, is the Wild Game Co, once very well reviewed by Time Out.
This walk was special in different ways. Just few days before I moved to Reading, so I appreciated any and every chance to come to London. This walk gave me a new energy and happened in a right moment. A few days before I was anxious and was rushing everywhere but on that day I was calm and receptive to little things. That’s how the London walks should be!
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Have favourite places in Bloomsbury and/or in Fitzrovia? Share them with us in the comments.