Lincolns Inn Fields
Lincolns Inn Fields is one of my favourite areas in London especially at the weekend when the city workers are at home and the area feels slightly deserted. This is the legal district of London dating back hundreds of years, there are a number of pubs and restaurant that are yet to be discovered by London’s many tourists. One of my favourites would be the Seven Stars. Despite the fact that the Seven Stars is more than 400 years old – one of the few London pubs to have escaped the Great Fire of London, in fact – very little is known about its history.
The Seven Stars is completely at odds with its moneyed, Inns of Court surroundings. The interior is eccentric to say the least: traditional pub seating is teamed with bistro-style tables covered with gingham plastic straight out of the 1950s. One ante-room is a former wig shop and the bewigged heads of dummies are still on display.
Old Curiosity Shop
Claimed to be the oldest shop in London as well as the inspiration behind Charles Dickens’s novel of the same name, the Old Curiosity Shop can be found at 13-14 Portsmouth Street, central London. Its location is not far from where Dickens lived, which was in Bloomsbury. The building, as would be expected, is now covered by a preservation order.
It was built in 1567 and made from the wood from old ships and has all the hallmarks of a house 450 years old. It has uneven floorboards, wooden beams and an overhanging upper floor, but despite its structural faults it amazingly survived both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz. At one time it was a dairy on an estate given by King Charles II to one of his mistresses.
It now finds itself, not surprisingly, surrounded by modern buildings and can be found near the London School of Economics. From 1992 it has traded as a boutique shoe shop selling handmade shoes by Japanese designer Daita Kimura. The Elizabethan architecture appears to be wonderfully out of place and a curiosity in itself. The irregular construction, the leaning doors and frames and the general look and ambience make this a magical place.
Sir John Soanes Museum
Sir John Soane was perhaps Britain’s most famous neoclassical architect: he was the man who built the Bank of England and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. He was also an unstoppable collector who amassed thousands of objects from across the planet, proudly showing them off in his own home on Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
That collection remains one of London’s richest, most eccentric treasure-troves, in the form of Sir John Soane’s Museum. It’s coming to the end of a major restoration project, making this a very exciting time to visit.
London is home to an astounding amount of museums, covering subjects as diverse as cartoons to Sewing Machines from Transport to Surgery.
Museum of Freemasonry, Covent Garden
Anyone intrigued or confounded by freemasonry is welcome to visit the library and museum within the Freemasons’ Hall for edification. Giving some insight into the freemason existence, the museum’s collection includes numerous prints and photographs, artefacts from famous freemasons such as Winston Churchill and displays detailing freemason hierarchy and everyday practices. It’s worth timing your tour to coincide with one of the many free tours of the Freemasons’ Hall Grand Temple and ceremonial areas.
Freud Museum, Hampstead
A short stroll from Finchley Road Underground station, the Freud Museum is housed in what was once the home of Sigmund Freud and his family. They moved here after escaping the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938 and it was occupied by the family until the death of Freud’s youngest daughter Anna Freud in 1982. It was her wish that the home become a museum that paid tribute to her father’s efforts, and the space remains crammed with his and her accoutrements. Most popular is Freud’s psychoanalytic couch, but visitors will also discover his collection of antiquities, Freud’s writing desk and items from his library.
A number of shops also have museums such as Asprey, Smythsons & JJ Fox the cigar merchant which still has Sir Winston Churchill’s chair in the basement!
Small Car Big City
Among British cars, the Mini Cooper is one of the most iconic. Let Small Car Big City take you on a tour of London in your own private Mini, so you can take in all the sights in style. See Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral and many more.
The exclusive tips have been compiled by Simon Thomas, Chief Concierge at The Lanesborough London
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