The Barbican Centre, a vast concrete estate of 2,000 flats and a leading arts complex, is a prime example of brutalist architecture, softened a little by time and rectangular ponds of friendly resident ducks. The lakeside terrace and adjoining café are good spots to take a rest from visiting the art gallery, cinema, theatre, concert hall or library within the complex. The art gallery on the third floor stages exhibitions on design, architecture and pop culture, while on the ground floor, the Curve is a free exhibition space for specially commissioned works and contemporary art. At the core of the music roster, performing 90 concerts a year, is the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). The annual BITE season (Barbican International Theatre Events) continues to cherry-pick exciting and eclectic theatre companies from around the globe. The Barbican regularly attracts and nurtures experimental dance, and the Pit Theatre is a perfectly intimate space. Find out more about the past, present and future of the Barbican with our complete guide to the Barbican Centre.
After a top-to-toe refurb, the Barbican Centre cinemas are back and better than ever. Screen One, inside the main Barbican complex, is a 280-seat auditorium screening the best new blockbusters and high-end arthouse films, while the two smaller screens around the corner on Beech Street have been kitted out with plush, comfy chairs and a friendly, welcoming café-bar serving coffee, cakes, beer, wine and pizza. The programme also includes plenty of festival screenings and classics, many of which are chosen specifically to tie in with art and music events happening elsewhere in the Barbican complex.
The Ciné Lumière in South Kensington is the cinema of L’Institut Français du Royaume-Uni – or the French Cultural Institute, for English speakers. The venue offers a good mix of new releases (focusing on foreign, independent and, of course, French films) and retrospective seasons. Given its close association with the French government and cultural establishment, the Ciné Lumière regularly plays host to French filmmakers, in town to discuss their work. It’s an attractive venue more generally too. The cinema is welcoming and well equipped, while downstairs there’s a grand lobby area with a marble staircase and a café-restaurant that’s good for hanging out before or after a movie.
A popular member of the Curzon family. This intimate five-screen cinema is located on the eastside of the Brunswick Centre, where there are a variety of shops and restaurants to satisfy you before settling into a film. Curzon Bloomsbury is also home to Bertha Dochouse – the UK's first dedicated documentary theatre.
The Curzon Mayfair is the only cinema where Time Out has ever been told off by a fellow moviegoer for eating popcorn too loudly. Which just goes to show what a classy venue this grade II listed cinema is. The bigger of its two screens is a beauty – a 311-seater still in possession of its two original Royal Boxes. The smaller screen is a snug 83-seater. The programme is as brilliant as you'd expect from the Curzon group, a mix of arthouse films, live events and docs, while the bar is suitably stocked with fancy snacks and wines.