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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. 

The best bits of Holborn

14 reasons to go to Leather Lane, EC1
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14 reasons to go to Leather Lane, EC1

Don’t be fooled by its sartorial-sounding name: leather is no longer readily available here. Instead this scenic street, nestled between the hustle and bustle of Gray’s Inn and Farringdon Roads, and running parallel to the jewellery trade hub of Hatton Garden, is a haven for food lovers. Leather Lane mixes the best of traditional London with the new. Its down-to-earth weekday market – which has been operating for a staggering 400 years – is one of the city’s best and is constantly evolving, these days feeding the suited lunchtime worker crowd. Meanwhile innovative, independent, and – dare I say it – kind of hipstery restaurants and coffee shops are springing up on the street all the time. Surprisingly for somewhere so central, Leather Lane is also majorly residential, which has fostered a greater sense of community than you’ll find in most parts of the City. The Friends of Leather Lane Market group and Leather Lane Stars project work hard to preserve this; it’s them you can thank for helping to retain the lane’s unique character and independent spirit. Okay, yes, there is a Pret, a Subway and a Greggs, so you’re sorted for sandwiches – but apart from that, you’d be hard pressed to find any major chains setting up shop here. Drink this   A photo posted by Camylla Vitorio (@camytomylife) on Aug 5, 2016 at 8:16am PDT Microbrewed cask ales from the Sir Christopher Hatton, a cosy traditional pub with outdoor tables for those rare sunny days. Craft beer, obviously,

Five historical things to look out for in... Holborn
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Five historical things to look out for in... Holborn

Katie Wignall from Look Up London takes a look around Holborn.  This often mispronounced area of London gets its name from 'Hol' (middle English for hollow) and 'Bourne' (a brook, probably referring to the now-subterranean River Fleet). Wedged awkwardly between the West End and The City, Holborn was a borough in its own right, but after 1965 it merged with St Pancras and Hampstead to form the borough of Camden. On High Holborn you can spot street signs from the past and present. You also might want to look out for these sights the next time you're in the area:  Photo from Look Up London 1. St George's Church Steeple, Bloomsbury Way Built in 1730, St George's Bloomsbury probably has the most unusual steeple in London. A lion (representing England) and a unicorn (for Scotland) are locked in an eternal chase around a stepped pyramid, symbolising the contemporary political climate. There had been a Jacobite Rebellion in 1715 and the newly instated Hanoverians were feeling shaky, which is why England and Scotland are presented fighting for the crown. These symbols would've been well known at the time because of the popular nursery rhyme: 'The lion and the unicorn were fighting for the crown, the lion beat the unicorn all around the town'. The sculptures were removed in 1871 by Victorians scared that the unstable steeple would cause them to come crashing down. The originals are now lost but the current (10ft-high) ones were carved by Tim Crawley in 2006. Nice job, Tim. P

Restaurants in Holborn

Asadal
Restaurants

Asadal

With a discreet entrance just by Holborn station, Asadal has been the go-to venue for Korean food fans in central London for many years.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Great Queen Street
Restaurants Book online

Great Queen Street

A product of the noughties gastropub boom, Great Queen Street still turns out dishes in the tradition of its antecedents, and of the year it was founded (2007). Yet despite the casual feel, pub-like look and cacophony of voices, this is no pub – it’s a sit-down restaurant where bookings are almost essential.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Book online
Holborn Dining Room
Restaurants Book online

Holborn Dining Room

Venue says: “Enjoy Sunday lunch, with a choice of roast chicken, lamb or beef served with roasted potatoes, seasonal greens, Yorkshire pudding and gravy.”

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Book online
Roka Aldwych
Restaurants Book online

Roka Aldwych

Venue says: “Roka is a place where food and drinks are shared with friends, and heat, warmth and an all-embracing energy abound.”

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Book online
See all of the best restaurants in Holborn

Holborn highlights

Sir John Soane's Museum

Sir John Soane's Museum

When he wasn’t designing notable buildings (among them the original Bank of England), Sir John Soane (1753-1837) obsessively collected art, furniture and architectural ornamentation. In the nineteenth century, he turned his house into a museum to which, he said, ‘amateurs and students’ should have access. The result is this perfectly amazing place. Much of the museum’s appeal derives from the domestic setting. The modest rooms were modified by Soane with ingenious devices to channel and direct daylight, and to expand space, including walls that open out like cabinets to display some of his many paintings (Canaletto, Turner, Hogarth). The Breakfast Room has a beautiful domed ceiling, inset with convex mirrors. The extraordinary Monument Court contains a sarcophagus of alabaster, so fine that it’s almost translucent, that was carved for the pharaoh Seti I (1291-78 BC) and discovered in his tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. There are also numerous examples of Soane’s eccentricity, not least the cell for his imaginary monk ‘Padre Giovanni’. In May 2015 the Museum opened Soane's private apartment and Model Room to the public. The apartments had not been open to visitors for over 160 years, so guests paying a visit to the fully restored model room, bedroom, bathroom, book passage, oratory and morning room will get a true glimpse of London's past.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Buy tickets
Hunterian Museum
Museums

Hunterian Museum

The Hunterian Museum houses one of the oldest collections of anatomical, pathological and zoological specimens in the UK and is based on the items assembled by John Hunter, surgeon and anatomist (1728-1793). The collection comprises more than 3,500 anatomical and pathological preparations, fossils, paintings and drawings and also includes specimens donated by Edward Jenner and Sir Joseph Banks. Exhibits at the Hunterian Museum include the skeleton of the 7ft 7in tall ‘Irish giant’ Charles Byrne, a collection of surgical instruments dating from the seventeenth century, carbolic sprays used by Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery, the tooth of a megatherium (an extinct giant sloth) donated by Charles Darwin – and Winston Churchill’s dentures. Read about our favourite exhibits in the Hunterian Museum

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

Bars and pubs in Holborn

All Star Lanes
Restaurants

All Star Lanes

Styling itself on stateside ‘boutique’ bowling alleys, this retro-themed venue is the more upmarket of Bloomsbury’s two bowling dens (see also Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes). There are four lanes (plus two private lanes upstairs), diner-style booths, and a glamorous side bar with red leather banquettes, subdued lighting, an extensive cocktail menu and DJs at the weekends. Food is good old American diner fare – ribs, steaks, Texas chilli con carne – or just have a peanut butter and banana shake, which constitutes a meal in itself. Save room for dessert, though; it’s difficult to turn down Momma’s sweet potato pie, or a mississippi mud cake.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
The Duke
Bars and pubs

The Duke

Tucked away on a backstreet between tourist-trodden Bloomsbury and start-up central Clerkenwell, The Duke is a good place to escape museumgoers and media types alike. Decked out with scuffed wooden booths and painted an eye-watering rhubarb colour, it’s a throwback with a heart. The drinks selection is limited at best – don’t expect much more than San Miguel and Becks by way of lager – but they’re served with a smile; we got to sample each of the four ales on tap. Food is firmly of the pie-and-mash variety, but is priced accordingly. The starters will set you back less than a fiver and will do nicely as a snack. In an area overrun with either soulless chain-pubs or pricey gastro hangouts, The Duke offers relief from both. A place to go with a newspaper – providing the elderly regulars don’t bend your ear first.  

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Cittie of Yorke
Things to do

Cittie of Yorke

The copper sign swinging over pedestrians on High Holborn speaks of ‘beer brewed at Yorkshire’s oldest brewery’; the sign just out from a mock-Tudor façade above reads ‘established on the site of a public house in 1430’. So far, so faux, but the interior is authentically dingy, wobbly and warren-like, the kind of place in which to film a period drama. The main room is lined with conspiratorial dark wood alcoves, with old barrels over the long bar and framed portraits from Vanity Fair c.1870. Bright labels advertising beers and ales from the Sam Smith’s stable bring some colour to the brown tableau, a counter of taps (Alpine Lager, Pure Brewed Lager, Old Brewery Bitter) abutted by a food display (steak and ale pie, beef suet pudding). A cellar bar embellished with mounted caricatures and a smaller bar by the main door both offer intimacy.

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

Lamb

In operation for nearly three centuries, this Young’s pub boasts a glorious Victorian interior, dating back to a time when stars of the stage and music hall were regulars here. Publicity shots of Lillian Braithwaite, Seymour Hicks and contemporaries form two decorative rows across the walls of a cosy, varnished-wood interior, while the central horseshoe bar is ringed with original etched-glass snob screens, used to shield Victorian gentlemen when liaising with ‘women of dubious distinction’. They would have been wooed by tunes from the polyphon, a 19th-century music machine still standing in the corner. The Young’s beers are no more exciting here than in other pubs owned by the brewery (although they do seem to have improved since brewing was moved from Wandsworth). Still, the room is handsome enough to make up for it. Food, inevitably, is as trad as it gets.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
See all of the best bars and pubs in Holborn

Hotels in Holborn and Bloomsbury

The Bloomsbury Hotel

The Bloomsbury Hotel

If you’re looking to really immerse yourself in the refined Bloomsbury experience, then this upscale pad might be just the thing. The Edwin Lutyens-designed neo-Georgian building houses 153 rooms that blend luxurious textiles and classic British furniture with high-tech mod cons such as Nespresso coffee machines, iPod docking stations and heated floors in the Italian marble bathrooms. The Bloomsbury Club Bar celebrates the golden age of cocktails, in line with the 1920s/30s emphasis throughout, while the Dalloway Terrace is a relaxing spot for afternoon tea.

Check prices
Generator

Generator

Located in an old police station towards the King’s Cross end of Bloomsbury, the Generator is a good option for those on handcuffed budgets. The hostel has been part of a refit of the global chain, creating colourful dorms from £19 per night, as well as private rooms for around £70, and adding an in-house cinema and individual room lockers (to be fastened with your own padlock). There’s free wifi throughout, plus an urban-chic lounge that hosts regular gigs and DJs. The laundry, luggage store and hotel-style reception are all open 24/7.

Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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The perfect weekend in Holborn and Bloomsbury

See: Hunterian Museum
Museums

See: Hunterian Museum

Get grossed-out and go back for more at this vast collection of anatomical, pathological and zoological specimens

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Gawp and gulp: Princess Louise
Bars and pubs

Gawp and gulp: Princess Louise

Gaze at the incredible interior of this ornate Victorian boozer – then get to boozing

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Explore: British Museum

Explore: British Museum

Lose yourself in a magnificent national treasure of a museum

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Buy tickets
Drink: Lamb
Bars and pubs

Drink: Lamb

Step back in time, and order a drink while you’re there

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

Love London Awards: last year's winners

Homeslice, Fitzrovia
Restaurants

Homeslice, Fitzrovia

A second branch of the popular pizza spot on Neal's Yard. 

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Store Street Espresso
Restaurants

Store Street Espresso

The clientele at this coffee bar smack-bang in the centre of uni-land, just a minute from Tottenham Court Road, combines academia and commerce. Quite apart from the enviable location, there’s much to entice. First is the long, attractive room with bright walls and skylights at the back. Second is the food, which is a cut above many basic coffee bars and very reasonably priced by West End standards; most sandwiches and baked goods are around £1 cheaper than at many comparable places. You’ll even find that rarity, a top-notch vegetable quiche. Third is the service, which is unfailingly friendly and well informed. Finally, there’s the coffee, all of it espresso-based. Most beans come from Square Mile, but there’s a changing roster of guest beans well worth investigating. On our visit, it was a Yirgacheffe roasted in (wait for it) Detroit, Michigan. The espresso from these beans is possibly the best we’ve had all year: properly tiny, lovely crema, with a rounded sweetness that required no sugar. A flat white was also judged a triumph. Store Street? We’d rather call it Star Street.  

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Revival Retro Boutique
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
Sir John Soane's Museum

Sir John Soane's Museum

When he wasn’t designing notable buildings (among them the original Bank of England), Sir John Soane (1753-1837) obsessively collected art, furniture and architectural ornamentation. In the nineteenth century, he turned his house into a museum to which, he said, ‘amateurs and students’ should have access. The result is this perfectly amazing place. Much of the museum’s appeal derives from the domestic setting. The modest rooms were modified by Soane with ingenious devices to channel and direct daylight, and to expand space, including walls that open out like cabinets to display some of his many paintings (Canaletto, Turner, Hogarth). The Breakfast Room has a beautiful domed ceiling, inset with convex mirrors. The extraordinary Monument Court contains a sarcophagus of alabaster, so fine that it’s almost translucent, that was carved for the pharaoh Seti I (1291-78 BC) and discovered in his tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. There are also numerous examples of Soane’s eccentricity, not least the cell for his imaginary monk ‘Padre Giovanni’. In May 2015 the Museum opened Soane's private apartment and Model Room to the public. The apartments had not been open to visitors for over 160 years, so guests paying a visit to the fully restored model room, bedroom, bathroom, book passage, oratory and morning room will get a true glimpse of London's past.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Buy tickets
See the full results of last year's Love London Awards

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....!!!!