Bloomsbury is a district of central London
, in the borough of Camden
. Although upmarket and predominantly residential, the area is also fairly busy, lying not far north of Soho
and the West End
. It has more or less a square shape, being roughly defined by four prominent roads - bustling Euston Road
to the north; fashionable shopping lane Tottenham Court Road
to the west; commercial Gray's Inn Road
to the east; and High Holborn
, principal thoroughfare of the legal district of Holborn
, to the south.
The area takes its name from early landowners the Blemund family, and began to be developed in the 17th century. Once on the northern fringes of London, subsequent expansion of the city has rendered Bloomsbury a part of the centre. Architecturally the area is mainly low-rise and is most notable for such venerable buildings as the Gower Street campus of University College. Geographically it is most distinguished by a number of very pleasantly gardened squares - most famous among them being the beautiful Russell Square, but also including some interesting others such as Bedford and Bloomsbury Squares. (The names Russell and Bedford refer to two other key landowning families in Bloomsbury's history and feature in many local place names.)
These days Bloomsbury is best known as an intellectual centre. Although other areas of London enjoy a similar reputation, Bloomsbury perhaps deserves it more than, say, Hampstead or Chelsea, as it is home to three of London's great academic institutions - the British Museum, the British Library, and the University of London.
The British Museum, down the road from Russell Square, is one of the finest ancient historical museums in the world and London's most popular tourist attraction. (Bloomsbury is also home to a number of smaller quality museums, mainly around University College.) The British Library, at the edge of Bloomsbury on the north side of the Euston Road, is Britain's most expensive public building. (There is a myth that the British Library contains a copy of every book ever published in English. This is, sadly but not surprisingly, untrue.) Meanwhile the miniature skyscraper Senate House, also near Russell Square, acts as the headquarters of the federal University of London. Although most of its colleges (e.g. LSE, Imperial College) are located elsewhere in the city, among those in Bloomsbury is the world-renowned University College, centred around a charming campus on Gower Street (a street which was once home to Charles Darwin and now to the biology department's Darwin Building). Bloomsbury therefore has a high student population and is home to many student residences.
Being central the area is well served by public transport, with frequent buses and three mainline rail stations - Euston, St Pancras and King's Cross. There are also numerous London Underground stations, convenient for the area's main attractions - Russell Square for the British Museum as well as the square itself; Tottenham Court Road for the British Museum, for the east end of Oxford Street and for the road itself, which is also served by Goodge Street and Warren Street stations; Euston and King's Cross St Pancras for the British Library; and Euston Square for University College.
Reference: Britain: The Rough Guide, 2000