Literary London, London
If you are visiting London this summer you will see a lot of different colourful benches around town.
These benches are part of a trail and each one it has a unique design painted by local artists and famous people.
There are 50 book benches altogether in 4 different parts of London and its part of London’s Literary Heritage . They ran from 4th of July to 15th of September. you will find them in the City Greenwich, Bloomsbury and the riverside.
You can download the maps from their website and its great fun for children to discover, learn about them and even encourage them to read them. Also its a great way of exploring London.
After the 15th of September the benches will be auction off and all proceedings will go to the National Literacy, a charity dedicated to raising the literacy levels of disadvantage children and young people across UK.
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most enduring characters of literary London. The Sherlock Holmes walk of "London Walks" is in my opinion one of their very best. It does not lead to Baker Street 221b, but follows both the places where author Arthir Conan Doyle created the Holmes novels, as well as the spots where the fictional Sherlock Holmes solved cases. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and also well-informed on all cinematic and theatrical adaptions of the novels. The tour ends - no surprise here - at the Sherlock Holmes tour. A very worthwhile tour for all Sherlock-Fans!
Update April 2014: prices and information checked and updated
A few years ago I was lucky enough to be invited, through my work, to a private evening tour of Dr Samuel Johnson’s House – the first time I had visited this historic home. But there’s no need for you to wait for such an invitation as the house is open to the general public.
Dr Johnson was the author of the famous dictionary that bears his name, and by all accounts (or at least, according to all that our wonderfully informative guide told us) was quite a character. He actually lived in quite a few different houses in this part of town, but it was here that he actually compiled the dictionary. He lived here between 1748 and 1759, and the house has largely been restored to how it would have looked at that time. On display are numerous pictures of Johnson and his wide circle of friends, some furniture of the period and an extensive library. You can browse the pages of a replica of the first edition of the diary, and learn a lot about London life at that time.
Usually your visit will be self-guided (an audio guide is available for an additional fee), but if you can get together a group of between 10 and 25 people you can pre-book a tour (at the reduced admission rate of £3.50 per person, or £10 in the evening when the house is closed to other visitors). This is something I would definitely recommend based on the one we had. We learned so much about Johnson’s character, his life and the many other (mostly famous) people in his circle. You can book a tour by calling the number below or via the website.
The house is open Monday-Saturday, from 11.00 am to 5.30 pm May-September, and 11.00 am to 5.00 pm October-April. Admission for adults is £4.50 at the time of writing (spring 2014), £3.50 for seniors and £1.50 for children. You can get a family ticket for £10.00.
Outside the house, don’t miss the small statue of Johnson’s cat Hodge at the other (eastern) end of the small square.
In Elizabethan (1557-1603) London, William Shakespeare was writing some of the most famous plays in history, which are still popular today. The South Bank (of the Thames) is known for its arts & entertainment, and as recently as 1997, a new landmark was opened to the public. This is the Globe Theatre, a recreation of the original Globe, which was an open air theatre at the time of Shakespeare, many of his plays were premièred here. In the course of history the original theatre was demolished as Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth banned arts, and it was only after a visit by an actor Sam Wannemaker, that a plan to authentically reconstruct the Globe theatre in the same style. There is an open space in front of the stage, called the yard where the audience would stand and sometime heckle the actors, and surrounding the stage & yard were tiered seats. Plays were performed in daylight. However the theatre is as authentic as modern Health & Safety will allow. In order to help the financing of the theatre there are informative tours of the Globe, as well as a permanent exhibition of costumes, and Elizabethan musical instruments, a cafe & a box office. Tours of the theatre are included in the admission, and we were treated to a very informative tour, by Mel, who was so enthusiastic about her job, and we learned a lot about the history of the theatre from her anecdotes.
In the Harry Potter books, by J. K. Rowling,the starting point of the Hogwarts Express to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is Kings Cross. The train uses a secret platform 9¾ through the brick wall barrier between platforms 9 and 10.
Today a replica has been built on the main concourse and you can find this by walking past the ticket offices and towards the lost property/left luggage office.
It is very popular and people have their photos taken pushing the half submerged trolley 'through' the wall. Numbers are so huge a guide is on hand to assist and there is a strict queuing system but there is no charge.
There is a gift shop next to the attraction.
Visit 1 of the world’s most famous addresses!
This is where Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson lived between 1881-1904.
The house where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived was built in 1815 and is a listed building. It’s also a very interesting museum open to the public.
Closed on Christmas Day
Dr. Johnson lived here during some of the most productive years of his life, from 1748 to 1759 while he was working on his great "Dictionary of the English Language." The house is now a charming museum dedicated to the productive life of this great melancholy and irascible writer. One of the best preserved 18th century homes in London.
Books, what else? :p
Lots of students studying here. The reading room reminds me of the Victoria State Library (Australia) reading room with a similar dome, and the endless hours trying to cramp as much info as possible into my puny little brain in a short period of time when the exam's round the corner. Urgh!
Check out the display on the history and significance of the Room in the Viewing Area, and marvel at the azure-blue, cream and gold papier mâché interior of the dome.
The British Library quotes that they hold "14 million books, 920,000 journal and newspaper titles, 58 million patents, 3 million sound recordings, and so much more" (The British Library Website).
The British Library is UK's national library which houses a collection of over 150 millions covering a wide range of discplines and various formats. As well as the reading rooms, galleries and exhibitions, there are cafes and restaurants.
It's free to enter although everyone is subject to a security search.
The purpose of my visit was to visit the "Evolving English, One Language, Many Voices", an English Language Exhibition (12 November 2010 to 3 April 2011). I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition and took me half a day to see everything there and a lot of it compliments my English Lanugage Module I'm studying at the moment)
For further information: www.bl.uk/evolvingenglish
It was a warm Saturday afternoon; and there was live entertainment outside. Inside there are of course the Reading Rooms; which you need to register to use.
There are exhibitions, they are wonderful and excellent to visit. There are places to eat and use the free wifi.
Enjoy The Sir John Ritblat Gallery - see the Magna Carta.
The world-famous protagonists of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson have inhabited in this victorian style lodging house between 1881-1904, according to the novels.
In the house at number 239, built in 1815, a Sherlock Holmes Museum has been opened to the memory of the legendary Mr. Holmes, where everything has been installed, as it is known from the novels.
A frequently asked question by visitors whether Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson really lived in the house. Although there are no official records of the house early tenants, allegedly somebody, who was working here had a relative a certain Mr. Holmes; while in the neighborhood lived a Doctor Watson in the 1890-years, who was a false teeth maker .
However, from the brilliant stories published in the Strand Magazine, you can learn every little detail of Mr. Holmes and Doctor Watson's life, as if they would have been actually existing persons.
In the gift shop on the ground floor you can go for nothing and get many realistic trinkets of a never existing fictional person, but also all of the Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published between 1887 - 1927: A Study in Scarlet · The Sign of the Four · The Hound of the Baskervilles · The Valley of Fear · The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes · The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes · The Return of Sherlock Holmes · His Last Bow · The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes.
Also a favourite destination of Sherlockians is the small Sherlock Holmes Restaurant at the turn of Northumberland Street, in Westminster not far from Charing Cross . It's a bit of a tourist trap, but worth a visit.
Opening time: 9.30am - 6pm every day
Admission fee: Adults £6, children under 16 £4
This probably does not qualify as a "Thing to Do" tip because you probably cannot even get into the building, let alone do anything there, but I still thought that it was interesting. We passed it on a trip along the Thames and I later found out what it is. If you are a "spook," or a James Bond afficionado, you will probably find this building quite interesting, as I now do, but my original thought was about it looking like a power plant, or perhaps an observatory. Actually, it is the (relatively) new headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). (Think M, Q, 007, Miss Moneypenny, et al.) Regarded by many as an ugly structure, I imagine that we all must agree that it is a bit unusual.
While designing this building, which opened in 1995, British architect Terry Farrell had to deal with extensive government requests, like removing windows and adding moats (yes, really). So the many eyesores supposedly exist for safety reasons, with cameras lurking behind every nook and cranny. While I do not find it in any way similar to American CIA HQ at Langley, VA, I have discovered why the building looked a bit familiar even though it has opened since my last previous trip to this part of London. It has appeared in several James Bond movies made within the past decade, including Golden Eye, Die Another Day, The World Is Not Enough, and the most recent version of Casino Royale.
It was also attacked by someone with an RPG in September of 2000 but sustained only superficial damage.
Admittedly, I don't care for the architecture of the new British Library. When they moved from their historic (but overcrowded) facilities in the British Museum, I think they squandered an opportunity to create a structure that would truly celebrate the great British literary tradition; instead, they ended up with something that looks like a shoe factory, IMHO!
But they still have the great books and great exhibits that make the British Library one of my favorite places to visit in London. I love looking at the old - and very old - books and manuscripts - the charters of liberties from the Middle Ages, the first printed Bibles, the early editions of Shakespeare or the Bronte Sisters.
In the summer of 2009, there was a great exhibit marking the 500th anniversary of the coronation of King Henry VIII. It was a ticketed exhibition, but there were also plenty of free events taking place over the weeks and months of the summer. When I was there on one afternoon in June, for instance, there was a live concert of Renaissance music in the central lobby.
This fantastic museum is often overlook, or worse, mistaken for being inside the British Museum. Many people go to the British Library looking for the Magna Carta and when they find out its actually here, they do not come over for a visit. Also, most tours of London will not even mention its existence. It is a hidden gem of London and easy to get to! They have lots to see including:
• Two copies of the Magna Carta (1215)
• Two Gutenberg Bibles
• The only surviving manuscript of the poem Beowulf
• The Diamond Sutra - the world's oldest dated printed book
• An original copy of the Domesday Book
• The Codex Arundel - a notebook written by Leonardo da Vinci
• Working manuscripts by Composers Bach & Mozart
• The Lindisfarne Gospels (from the North East of England)
Mon 09.30 - 18.00
Tue 09.30 - 20.00
Wed 09.30 - 18.00
Thu 09.30 - 18.00
Fri 09.30 - 18.00
Sat 09.30 - 17.00
& English Public Holidays 11.00 - 17.00
Please note - no photography is allowed so my photo is a bit naughty.
If you are a Dickens fan, you would probably know about the Old Curiosity Shop. It is likely one of the oldest, if not the oldest, shops in London given that its been here since around 1567. Although this may, or may not be, true, the building is almost certainly one of the few buildings to survive the Great Fire of London of 1666 which is a wonder as it was made of wood from ships. It gives you an idea of how a London street would have appeared before the Great Fire in the 16th century.
At one time it functioned as a dairy by one of the many mistresses of Charles II. Novadays, it sells upmarket men’s and women’s shoes; I often passed by this place and a closed sign was always displayed on the door and I did not see many people buying stuff from the shop.
The shop is worth seeking out if you are in the area – especially if you need a new pair of shoes.
Open: Monday - Saturday 10.30am - 7pm, Sunday closed.