Sightseeing Round Holborn, Central London
Holborn is on the Piccadilly Line and Central Line tubes.
Several bus routes also pass nearby, and it is easy walking distance from other parts of central London
I worked in the Holborn area for several years, and spent many happy lunch hours wandering round and discovering all number of fascinating places.
Holborn doesn't look particularly exciting when you come out of the tube station, but, as with many parts of London, just round the corner out of sight are many hidden delights, including a small park, a street market, the centre of the diamond trade, some Sixteenth Century buildings, some very interesting museums, a very old chapel, Inns of Court and the very imposing Gothic style Royal Courts of Justice. There are also plenty of hotels in the area, and it's not far from the popular shopping area known as the West End.
Charles Dickens featured this area in his novel, Bleak House and also in The Old Curiosity Shop.
Holborn is in the Centre of London
and easily accessible from
most areas and suburbs of London
Because all the sights listed below
are quite close to each other,
you could see them all in a day
Here's Your Itinerary Around Holborn
You wiill be walking round an area about half a mile square
All the sights listed below are quite close to each other, so you could come out of Holborn Station, turn left into Kingsway, then left down a little alleyway into Lincoln's Inn Fields, and take in a couple of small museums (an hour or less each).
Then wander through an archway into Lincoln's Inn, one of the barrister's Inns of Court, very old and very pretty, with a chapel and whitewashed buildings.
Wander through another archway to Carey Street, which is the back of The Royal Courts of Justice, have a quick peek through the door to view the impressive interior of this Gothic style building, then carry on along Carey Street, which hasn't changed much since it was the stamping ground of Charles Dickens, who was a lawyer before he became a journalist and author.
At the end of Carey Street, turn left into Chancery Lane , Walk along, passing the hallowed Law Society on your left, and Silver Vaults on your right, and carry on until you reach High Holborn. On your way you will pass several quaint alleyways and archways,
If you turn left up High Holborn, you will come to Staples Court, opposite Grays Inn Road. Staples Court is a fine example of a Sixteenth Century Tudor beamed building; cross over the road to get a better view.
Then go back the way you came, down High Holborn, and not very far down, by a traffic island, you will find Hatton Garden, the diamond centre, where you can buy jewellery, browse, or have your finery valued.
Close by is Leather Lane Market, a typical London Market, selling a bit of everything, and very Cosmopolitan. You can buy good food of many different nationalities, and there are many cheap market stalls, restaurants and cafes where you can get excellent value hot meals.
Lincoln's Inn Fields - A Small Park/Large Square, bordered on two sides by terraced Georgian houses
Lincoln's Inn Fields is a grassy area, with plenty of trees and pathways. There is a small bandstand, and several benches to sit on, with a few planted up flower borders. It is very popular for local workers who like to sit out in summer at lunch time to eat their picnic sandwiches, or just to bask in the sun, or get a bit of fresh air during their break.
Here, within an area of about 8 acres, barristers and some solicitors have their chambers.The older parts were built in the Fifteenth Century.
When you pass through the gates, you enter into a different world, a step back in history. There is an ancient chapel with intricate Gothic arches over the passageway leading up to it. There is an old panelled library, and tall white-washed houses which have been converted into modern offices behind the facade, bordering a large open space and garden.
If you didn't see this walled enclave for yourself, you would never know it existed - another of London's secret mysteries.
Sir John Soanes Museum onYouTube - Below are two videos to give you a taste of what the Sir John Soane's Museum is like.
Sir John Soane's Museum - No.s 12, 13 and 14 on the North side of Lincoln's Inn Fields
Many years ago I used to work a few doors away in another house in the same terrace of beautiful Georgian houses, which had been converted for office use by my employer, a barrister and prolific writer. I loved the buildings and the atmosphere and was a frequent visitor to the Sir John Soane Museum in my lunch-hours, Because the Museum is relatively small, iit was easy to get round in a short period.
Sir John Soane was a wealthy architect and Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy who bought and converted three adjacent houses between 1792 and 1824 to form a highly individualistic museum which he filled with his personal collection of artefacts, including scultptures, and the largest collection of the works of Hogarth in the country. Hogarth painted a series of pictures known as The Rake's Progress, as well as many 18th Century political cartoons. Hogarth depicted a somewhat depressing picture of the London of that era, with every kind of debauchery, poverty, neglect and drunkeness.
The Sir John Soanes Museum was created with many interesting mirrors, nooks, and balconies and, in the picture room, in order to house as many pictures as possible, there are pictures on shutters which, when opened by visitors to the museum, ingeniously reveal a further layer of paintings underneath, and, beneath them, a third layer of paintings. In his will, Sir John Soanes gave the museum to the State, provided that the house was not changed from the way he had designed it.
Be Warned - The Hunterian Museum is not for the Faint-Hearted
It houses a vast collection of medical specimens, and some of them are not a pretty sight, though fascinating if you have the stomach for it:
The Hunterian Museum - At 41 Lincoln's Inn Fields - The Royal College of Surgeons
The Hunterian Museum is housed within the Royal College of Surgeons building. It started off as the personal medical collection of a Scientist, John Hunter, which was purchased by the Government in 1799 and donated to the Royal College of Surgeons.
I worked briefly at the Royal College of Surgeons many years ago, and would occasionally slip into the museum to marvel at the bottled specimens of animals, and foetuses, preserved in formaldehyde (eat your heart out Damien Hurst).
There were mis-shapen foetuses, Siamese twins, and oddly shaped animals, as well as the skeletons of the very famous original Tom Thumb, who suffered from dwarfism, and the Irish giant, Charles Byrne, who was 7'7" tall.
You can just see the two skeletons in the tall central showcase at the far end of the hall, shown in the picture on the right.
The Hunterian Museum houses thousands of anatomical specimens, and also very old surgical instruments. I found it fascinating, and so did my son and 17 year old Grandson, but other members of my family refused to set foot in the place, being of a somewhat more squeamish disposition.
This was wriitten by a very fine author who has been widely acclaimed for his historical fiction and non-fiction.
Another guide book by one of the best-loved travel publishers
Books and Guides About London - Learn about London before you visit - you'll be glad you did
You can get so much more out of a short visit if you read up at least something about this wonderful city of London, which is steeped in history, packed with historic buildings, overflowing with wonderful shops, filled with many interesting large museums and idiosyncratic small museums which are the personal collection of just one dedicated collector. And there are numerous green spaces, some of them cropping up in the most unexpected places.
Then there are The Olympic Games, the Royal Jubilee, football, theatre and restaurants of every ethnicity imaginable. You'll love it.
The Royal Courts of Justice - From Lincoln's Inn, walk through the archway and passage on the Eastern side, leading to Wildy's Book Shop
You will come out into Carey Street, and the back entrance to the High Court and Chancery, known as The Royal Court of Justice.
The picture on the right is the view of Carey Street whilst standing in the back doorway of the Court.
This is the background to the court scenes and environs in Bleak House, by Charles Dickens, about a Chancery Court Case which spans three generations.
You'll find some delightful places off the beaten track with this book
The Royal Courts of Justice, Strand
You can walk right through the court, and when you come out at the front, you will be in Strand, and, if it is raining, the Royal Courts of Justice will look like the picture on the left.
But with a bit of luck, it will be bright and sunny, and you would get a view like the picture on the right, which is the Chancery Division of the Royal Courts of Justice
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Chancery Lane - Leading from Strand up to High Holborn
Turn left at the end of Carey Street into Chancery Lane. You will pass several historic buildings including the hallowed Law Society on your left, the London Silver Vaults on your right, and the oldest established personal tailors in London, who provide the distinctive clothes and wigs worn by barristers.
At the top of Chancery Lane, turn left into High Holborn. and walk up towards Chancery Lane Tube Station. If you cross over the road and continue up High Holborn, you'll find the Probate Registry, holding many historic documents.
On the same side as Chancery Lane Tube Station, where Gray's Inn Road meets High Holborn, you will see an old Tudor beamed building, Staples Inn.
Staples Inn in High Holborn - Tudor Buildings - still standing after Five Centuries
Hatton Garden - London's Diamond Center
Then turn round and go back down High Holborn. Carry on walking down the road, and you will come to Hatton Garden where the big diamond merchants work, and Leather Lane Market, which is open every week-day.
Hatton Garden has been the centre of London's jewellery trade for hundreds of years, and there are nearly 300 jewellery businesses there.
Not a lot to see, unless you are interested in diamonds, but worth a quick look, on the way to Leather Lane Market
Leather Lane Market - Just off Hatton Garden - ask for directions if you can't find it
Leather Lane Market is a morning market, running from 10.0 am to 2.30 pm, Monday to Friday, and is used mainly by local office workers.
Friday is the best day to visit, because on that day all the stall-holders are there selling their wares. It's a bit quieter earlier on in the week, with a few empty spaces.
It is quite varied and you can pick up some good bargains, including books, magazines, clothes, jewelry, bags, fabric, toys and food.
There are also stalls selling take-away meals, hot and cold, and quite a few cafes if you fancy something to eat after all your wanderings
Travel Information About London - London on YouTube
You'll find plenty of information about London generally on these two videos, not confined to the Holborn area, but helpful if you want to find out more about London
Links to London, English Language and Things to See
- 10 English Proverbs and Sayings About Eggs
English has many metaphors and you'd be surprised how many proverbs and sayings there are about eggs. .
- The English Tongue Twister
A tongue twister is a combination of words designed to be hard to pronounce. The individual words themselves are usually quite commonplace, and easy to pronounce, but, combined as a set of words, they are surprisingly difficult to say.