Most visitors to London have the British Museum near the top of their list of things to see—and it certainly is an afternoon well spent. But many overlook the wonderment contained in the Sir John Soane’s Museum in Bloomsbury, a curio cabinet of a house that holds the architect’s earthly treasures. No need to sacrifice one for the other—a stay in a New York Habitat accommodation in Bloomsbury or an apartment rental in Fitzrovia will put you in walking distance of both, with time to spare for tea.
The area around Bloomsbury is among the loveliest in London, with plenty of public squares and narrow sidestreets down which to wander, as well as an increasing Eastern European influence. But its crowning jewel is the British Museum—especially after renovations that gave it a glass-ceilinged courtyard—so don’t expect to have the galleries all to yourself, especially on those not infrequent rainy afternoons.
The main floor of the museum is by far the most popular due to the Great Court, the Egyptian/Grecian wings (which house the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles) and, of course, the gift shop. But the upper floors are where you’ll find anything British in the British Museum, and the Library Galleries are a stunning and overwhelming collection of manuscripts and music, as well as being one of the few quiet spots in the building (Marx even did some of his writing here).
When, as the song goes, the British Museum has lost its charm, it’s time to head a couple of blocks over to Sir John Soane’s Museum, where the typical townhouse exterior belies the magnitude of what’s inside. The architect used to live here himself, and fashioned a labyrinthine home with convex mirrors to distort space, cut-out courtyards, skylights and narrow walkways crammed with every imaginable kind of sculpture (including his mummified dog) and overlooking—what else?—a sarcophagus of Seti I on the lower level, for which Soane outbid the British Museum.
Visitors are usually as impressed by the layout of the place itself as they are by all of the Hogarth paintings and historical pieces displayed throughout it. The overall effect is something between a videogame setting (where you’re stuck in an abandoned mansion without a map but with plenty of marauding zombies—trust us on this!) and a mad scientist’s laboratory if he collected sculpture as his specimens. Let’s call the style “English eccentric” for short.
For a truly unforgettable experience, go to the Soane Museum during one of the candle-lit evening tours in which you wind your way toward the basement and its centerpiece sarcophagus. But for a truly unforgettable place to stay—minus the mummy—we suggest one of these conveniently located flat rentals in Bloomsbury:
• A spacious 3-bedroom Accommodation in Westminster-Fitzrovia (LN-328) on the fifth floor of a modern apartment building, with elevator, that borders pretty Fitzroy Square.
• For something smaller, we have a studio Vacation Rental in Westminster-Bloomsbury (LN-386) on the second floor of an apartment building, near Euston station, that employs a part-time doorman.
Each of thes accommodations in London will put you in the heart of the city, near two of its most eclectic spaces. But the surrounding area is really a work of art in itself.
What’s your favorite piece in the enormous collections of the British Museum? Have you ever been to Sir John Soane’s Museum or had a run-in with the reputed ghost in the girls’ room? Please let us know by leaving your comments below.
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