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Holborn area guide

Explore the literary history of nearby Bloomsbury and discover Holborn’s best restaurants, bars and pubs in WC1 and WC2

Holborn starts at the western boundaries of the historic City of London, and its central location makes it a popular place to work. But that also makes it a great place to play. Holborn restaurants serve a range of international cuisine, from Korean to North American. The bars and pubs in Holborn comprise some of London's most historic hostelries as well as cutting-edge drinking spots. The shops in Holborn tend to be independent places that specialise in unusual stock. Where else can you buy an umbrella with a hickory crook when it unexpectedly rains on your way to the office?

What are your favourite Holborn haunts? Let us know in the comments. 

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Barrica

Barrica, with its canary-yellow walls, rich wood and marble, brings Fitzrovia's new media crowd a little taste of laidback Spain in the non-stop West End. But as sunny and playful the decor may be, the drinks menu is nothing but serious: there are 16 sherries on offer, all served by the glass, ranging from the intensely sweet to the bone-dry and salty. And if you can't choose between that lot, there's the wine list: around 30 Spanish vinos have been picked by the bar's oenophile owner. Despite its extensive alcoholic offerings, Barrica is not a place to get legless – it's a smart bar on Goodge Street, not a nightclub in Magalluf. Be sure to pick a few dishes off the brilliant tapas menu to keep things civilised.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs

Bradley's Spanish Bar

Don't be fooled by the name: this red and yellow boozer just off Oxford Street's ropier end is not a hotspot for sherries and fine tapas (see nearby Barrica for that). In fact, it’s not even a bar. Bradley’s is definitely a pub, and with its jumble sale decor and tattered furniture, it sure puts the 'shabby' in 'shabby chic'. But don't be put off: Londoners love Bradley’s for its low-key and unpretentious vibe. At the tiny two-floor venue, the atmosphere is warm and friendly (except for when there's a Spain v England football match on), the drinks are a fair price for area and, the real showpiece, there's a vinyl jukebox pumping out Motown classics and disco bangers in the ground-floor bar. So fond of this place are the locals that in summer months the thirsty post-work crowd forgo chairs and tables (and walls) and take to the street outside, much to the annoyance of taxi drivers who use Hanway Street as a sneaky shortcut.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

Bloomsbury Coffee House

Russell Square is an inevitable part of student life in London. Most students can, on cue, moan extensively about the lack of characterful but cheap places to eat in the area – especially ones where you can use free wi-fi to your heart’s content. Bloomsbury Coffee House is a daytime basement café that solves this problem. Owned by a young couple, the café has two rooms, wooden floors and quaintly mismatched furniture and crockery. The menu is short, but sufficient: three or four lunch options plus a selection of cakes, most made on the premises. On weekends classic breakfasts are served. Our full-bodied tomato soup with chorizo was almost stew-like, and the welsh rarebit was made with proper bread. Our chocolate brownie was like a cake but somehow even better for it, and the pumpkin pie featured well-made pastry. The ‘coffee house’ moniker is no false claim. The beans are from Allpress, and both our espresso and cappuccino were full flavoured and expertly made. Bloomsbury Coffee House is a cosy place to hang out with your laptop, read a book, and nibble some cake. The prices are hard to beat too, and even better if you flash a student card for a 10 per cent discount.  

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Shopping

Revival Retro Boutique

From the ’20s to the ’60s, Revival Retro will have something in the style of each decade.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Museums

Grant Museum of Zoology

The Grant Museum may have moved in 2011 into new premises – a grand room in a former library in the UCL complex – but it looks as if this zoological museum, the only one of its kind in London, has been here for a century or more. Such is the transporting effect of seeing avenues of display cases stuffed to the gunnels with animal skeletons, taxidermy specimens and creatures preserved in fluid, like a true Victorian wunderkammer. Nods to current trends in museum display – iPads attached to displays invite you to ponder questions about the role of science today – are discreet; the museum doesn’t need to distract or over-explain when its exhibits are among the most engrossing (and very occasionally gross-out) in London. From a jar of tiny moles to a huge elephant skull that helps to explain the Cyclops myth (its large central cavity could well be a monocular eye socket), there is plenty here to draw gasps of amazement. Grimly fascinating is the museum’s collection of bisected heads, created by Sir Victor Negus, which appear quite normal on one side but can be turned to reveal the brain within. They immediately bring to mind the work of Damien Hirst, and the overlaps between science, nature, art and design don’t stop there – a skeleton of an anaconda twists round a branch like a zen modernist sculpture, sections of shark vertebrae look as if they could be maquettes for Constantin Brancusi’s ‘Endless Column’. Created in the mid-1800s, Leopold and Rudolph Blashka’s glass models of

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Eating and drinking in Holborn

Restaurants

Holborn restaurants

The restaurants in Holborn offer outstanding food with a side of adventure. Take in some burgers, milkshakes and bowling at All Star Lanes, or enjoy afternoon tea at Bea's of Bloomsbury. Read the Time Out guide to Holborn restaurants and cafés to find the right one for you.

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Bars and pubs

Holborn bars and pubs

If you fancy a pint after work or simply want a drink in central London, Holborn is a superb place to go. Try the Princess Louise to get a sense of what it was like to drink in Victorian times. If you'd rather be surrounded by pearls when you have a drink, head to Pearl Bar. Read on to find even more great places to have a drink.Think we've missed a great drinking spot in Holborn? Let us know in the comment box below.

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Comments

3 comments
Maria
Maria

My favourite place in Holborn is The Square Pig, nice pub, un-fuzzy down to earth food and friendly atmosphere. It also helps that they have a nice outside area.

DAVID SANCHEZ
DAVID SANCHEZ

i would enjoy being there in Holborn.. I really want to go and stay on this amazing area of london..

Luz Khan
Luz Khan

I have lived in Holborn for 25 years, and I would not change it for any other neighborhood in London. The progress in this area is amaizing. You are just a walking distance to Covent Garden, Oxford Street, London Bridge, and theBritish Museum. At night time is tranquil, refreshing and very safe. I LOVE HOLBORN....!!!!