The Natural History Museum has to be on my list because, well, just look at how beautiful this building is….no more need be said.
Every time I pass by South Kensington I’m overwhelmed by the scale of the building and the unique beauty of the Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. Of course, inside there are bones and remains and unusual finds galore to inspire and mesmerise you, but even for the building alone I could wander and stare in awe for hours at each unique little animal-inspired detail in this Alfred Waterhouse designed structure.
Free admission is always a great thing, not to be undervalued in London, and further details about visiting the museum can be found here; http://www.nhm.ac.uk
Also, cool fact the museum is often open late on Fridays (until 10pm) for adults and occasionally hosts adult sleep over events. The science museum around the corner is worth a visit too, though going to either on a bank holiday is a recipe for frustration amidst a sea of screaming small people.
And if we are speaking on beautiful gothic buildings in London, there are a couple of others that stand out, but are not as easily ‘visitable’;
St Pancras Station (aside from a drink at the bar here, you can pop next door either side to visit the British Library and their ancient collection of manuscripts for free (which are amazing by the way, if you are remotely bookworm inclined or interest in history), or to the other side for Kings Cross station where you can visit Platform 9 3/4 and grab the train to Hogwarts, if you are that way inclined.
The Royal Courts of Justice. Just pretty to look at, you can’t really go inside, but the pub next door used to be the bank of England and has a secret tunnel under the road to where the new bank of England was situated so funds could be transferred without employees being robbed crossing Fleet Street. Also, a plaque on the wall on the south side of Fleet Street here tells us the Devil’s Tavern on the site was destroyed in the fire of London. Although all on Fleet Street, none of these have any relation to the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Johnny Depp. Sorry, I mean Sweeny Todd. However, you can enjoy more superstitious fun by popping into the Inns of Court here as well, and alongside enjoying the gardens, you can pause to wonder at Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code speculations about Temple Church (notably another masterpiece of gothic revival architecture) and the legends of the Knights Templar here.
Russell Square Hotel, at Russell Square (duh) is mostly just pretty and photo worthy from the Victorian exterior I love to dream about opening my own gothic department store in this building….one day! But for now it’s a classy hotel, so you can pop inside to the bar for a good looking, expensive cocktail if it takes your fancy. Also, the British Museum is just around the corner and full of the best samples of history and curio from around the globe.
All Saints on St. Margaret street, just off Oxford street in the West End is a secret little haven. I found this stunning little refuge some years ago when the catastrophic earthquake hit Christchurch in New Zealand and I needed to get away from my workplace while I waited to hear news from home that my sister was alive and well (and, thank God, she was).
All Saints is fairly hidden and appears nondescript form the exterior (you must enter through a courtyard squashed between other buildings) though the patterned red and purple brickwork stands out, suggesting at hidden greatness beyond. The interior is stunning, bursting with colour and infinite detail more so than any other church I’ve come across in the U.K.
More to come soon!
With love from this side of darkness, J R Manawa x
“London is like a cold, dark dream sometimes.” Jean Rhys.