Holborn/Covent Garden Walk, London

During this self guided walking tour around Holborn and Covent Garden areas you will have a chance to visit such famous and interesting London attractions, as National Gallery, London Coliseum, London Transport Museum and many others. Don't miss your chance to explore the best of the Holborn and Covent Garden areas.
You can follow this self-guided walking tour to explore the attractions listed below. How it works: download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Holborn/Covent Garden Walk Map

Guide Name: Holborn/Covent Garden Walk
Guide Location: England » London (See other walking tours in London)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 km
Author: clare
Benjamin Franklin House

1) Benjamin Franklin House

Benjamin Franklin House is a museum in a terraced Georgian house at 36 Craven Street, London, close to Trafalgar Square. It is the only surviving former residence of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. The house dates from circa 1730, and Franklin lived and worked here for sixteen years. The museum opened to the public on 17 January 2006. 36 Craven Street retains a number of original features (including original floorboards, original ceilings, and original fireplaces) with relatively few later alterations. Current conservation policies emphasise the need for minimal modern interventions.

The "Historical Experience" is a “museum as theatre” approach which implies actors, portraying the historic characters associated with the house, along with dialogue, sound, lighting and special effects. The character used in the "Historical Experience" is Polly Hewson, daughter of Franklin's landlady who became a "second daughter" to Franklin. The "Student Science Centre" allows students to re-create experiments from Franklin's sojourn in London. It includes the Medical History Room (focused on the medical research work of William Hewson (surgeon), the Discovery Room (containing historic artefacts) and the Demonstration Room (in which students can replicate Franklin's experiments).

The “Historical Experience” runs at 12, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3.15 pm and 4.15 pm Wednesday through Sunday all year round. “Historical Experience” tickets cost £7.00 for adults; £5.00 for students and over 60s; and is free for children under 16. Each Monday, as an alternative to the Historical Experience, Architectural tours is held, outlining the history of the Benjamin Franklin House. Architectural tour tickets: £3.50 for adults; free for children under 16.

Operation hours: Wednesday - Monday: 10:30 am - 5:30 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
National Gallery

2) National Gallery (must see)

A visit to the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square shouldn’t be missed if you are a lover of Western European paintings from the 13th to the 19th centuries.

The gallery was formed by the British Government in 1824 when they bought over 30 paintings from the estate of a merchant and collector of fine arts, J.J. Angerstein. Two-thirds of the collection in the gallery has been given by private donation. The rest has been bought by the government using monetary donations, such as a £50 million endowment from Sir Paul Getty. Other donations have enabled the expanding of the building, including the Sainsbury Wing which was added in 1985.

The gallery houses over 2500 paintings, arranged in chronological order in four wings on the main floor: 1250 to 1500; 1500 to 1600; 1600 to 1700 and 1700 to 1900. You can admire works by great artists such as Duccio, Renoir and Picasso. The gallery is also the home of Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”, Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Virgin of the Rocks” and Michelangelo’s “The Entombment”.

There are specially designed trails for children, leading them, among other rooms, to the Picture Puzzle, where enigmas and clues are hidden in various paintings that teach them about the History of Art. If you want to stay for a meal, the National’s dining rooms aren’t very expensive; there is also a café and an espresso bar. All in all, it’s a great afternoon out for adults and children alike.

Why You Should Visit:
Free admission, and rooms upon rooms of gorgeous art from various artists (including some very well known ones). You can take pictures or you can take an audio guide.

Aside from the main Gallery, there is also the Sainsbury Wing which is where large exhibitions and talks are normally held. There is also a shop where you can buy books on the artists and exhibitions, a refreshment area and plenty of seating.

Opening Hours:
Fri: 10am-9pm; Sat-Thu 10am–6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
National Portrait Gallery

3) National Portrait Gallery (must see)

London is the home of a great number of museums, galleries and historical buildings, some of which are a bit overwhelming and heavy going; so if you want to spend an afternoon in a light-hearted way, don’t miss the National Portrait Gallery in St Martin’s Place, just off Trafalgar Square.

The great thing about this gallery, opened in 1856, is that the caricatures, drawings, paintings and sculptures haven’t been chosen for the great names of their creators, but for their rarity value – some of them aren’t even very good, but no matter, they are great fun and will cheer up every inspiring artist.

There are, of course, several great works, such as the “Chandos portrait”, depicting (perhaps) Shakespeare executed in around 1610 and Holbein’s portrait of King Henry VIII. There is an audio guide for 170 of the 120,000 strong collection. You can also admire portraits of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Nelson, Charles Dickens Lord Byron and a self-portrait by Winston Churchill.

Since 1969 portraits of living people have been allowed in the gallery and among these you will find photos of Mick Jagger and Tony Blair and a painting of J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books.

There are also temporary exhibitions of Contemporary Art, exhibitions dedicated to individual artists and the Annual BP Portrait Prize competition. Visitors are not allowed to film or take photos in the gallery.

Why You Should Visit:
A unique collection of portraits, where royalty, celebrities, and the common folk are represented on canvas. No other museum in London feels so purely English.

There is a fabulous restaurant on top of the building with amazing views (but book in advance, as it tends to always be booked up).

Opening Hours:
Fri: 10am-9pm; Sat-Thu: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Garrick Theater

4) Garrick Theater

Thinking of taking in a play during your stay in London? If you want to see a light comedy the best place to find it is at the Garrick Theatre on Charing Cross Road.

The theatre was designed by Walter Emden and C.J. Phipps who had some troubles with the construction as they found an underground river while excavating the foundations of the building. This held work up for some months, but eventually the problem was solved and the theatre opened its doors in 1889.

They might have gone a bit over the top with the interior, which is in Italian Renaissance style and has a lot of cupids and laurels depicted in gilt and classical statues in the auditorium, but the Foyer Bar with its elegant lounge is very welcoming. There is a rather fine portrait of David Garrick, the theatre’s namesake, here. The Circle Bar also has a comfortable lounge and a covered balcony overlooking Charing Cross Road. The floors of the bars are delicate marquetry, while the floor in the vestibule is covered with mosaic.

The theatre has a capacity of 656, which makes it a rather small playhouse, but the seats are on three levels, so it’s not cramped. It is a receiving house, which means that it receives touring theatre companies, rather than put on its own repertoire. The shows are usually comedies and comedy/dramas rather than Shakespearian plays, which might seem a bit odd, as David Garrick was a noted Shakespearian actor!
Sight description based on wikipedia
London Coliseum

5) London Coliseum

Designed by Frank Matchum for Oswald Stoll, the famous impresario, the London Coliseum was intended to be, and still is the best and largest “People’s Palace” for entertainment. You will find it on St Martin’s Lane, and whether you decide to take in a show, or go on the guided tour, you shouldn’t miss visiting this magnificent opera house.

The vast auditorium with seats for over 2300 people was built on four floors: Stalls, Dress Circle, Grand Tier and Balcony. There is no Pit, which was unheard of in that time. In late Victorian times, the Pit was an area of Stalls set away from the main Stalls, where the lower classes were crowded together. Oswald Stoll wanted none of that – his theatre was intended to be a family theatre.

It opened in 1904 and quickly became the most popular variety theatre and music hall in the capital, partly because the seats weren’t very expensive. During World War II it was used as a canteen for the Air Raid Patrol and Winston Churchill gave a speech from the stage. After 1945 it was mainly used for American musicals. In 1961 it became a Cinerama Theatre.

In 1968 it reverted to its original use and is now the home of the English National Opera Company. It has the widest proscenium arch in London, being 55ft wide and 34ft high. There is a lift for the disabled and a lovely roof garden.

Here’s a small anecdote: At the beginning of the 20th century, the Theatre Managers Association didn’t allow dramas to be performed in music halls. Oswald Stoll fought against this and eventually the TMA relaxed its rules – a little. Dramas could be staged, but should be no longer than 30 minutes and have no more than 6 speaking characters. The first drama for music hall was written by W.S. Gilbert, the dramatist, best known for his Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas. It was a one-act play called “The Hooligan” and was performed at the Coliseum for the first time in 1911.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Covent Garden Market

6) Covent Garden Market (must see)

Covent Garden is well-known for its shops, street performers, bars, restaurants, theatres and the Royal Opera House. The centrepiece of Covent Garden is the famous market, designed by Inigo Jones as far back as 1632. The first record of a "new market in Covent Garden" is in 1654 when market traders set up stalls against the garden wall of Bedford House. The Earl of Bedford acquired a private charter from Charles II in 1670 for a fruit and vegetable market, permitting him and his heirs to hold a market every day except Sundays and Christmas Day. The original market, consisting of wooden stalls and sheds, became disorganised and disorderly, and the 6th Earl requested an Act of Parliament in 1813 to regulate it, then commissioned Charles Fowler in 1830 to design the neo-classical market building that is the heart of Covent Garden today. By the end of the 1960s, traffic congestion was causing problems for the market, which required increasingly large lorries for deliveries and distribution. Redevelopment was considered, but protests from the Covent Garden Community Association in 1973 prompted the Home Secretary, Robert Carr, to give dozens of buildings around the square listed-building status, preventing redevelopment. The following year the market relocated to its new site, New Covent Garden Market, about three miles (5 km) south-west at Nine Elms. The central building re-opened as a shopping centre in 1980.

The site attracts annually up to 30 million visitors. Underneath the glass cover there are several arcades of fashionable boutiques, cafés, food and arts and crafts stalls, as well as the Apple and the Jubilee Hall markets. Fresh food products are brought here directly from farmers each Thursday and Saturday.

*A filming location for Diagon Alley scenes in Harry Potter films.*

Why You Should Visit:
Always plenty of energy, places to see, bars and eateries to satisfy just about any visitor's needs. Easy to get to and a fun meeting place for tourists.

Neat place to visit around 4pm, when sun is perfect to sit and stroll.

Operation Hours:
Daily: 10am-8pm
London Transport Museum

7) London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum, based in Covent Garden, London, seeks to conserve and explain the transport heritage of Britain's capital city. The majority of the museum's exhibits originated in the collection of London Transport, but since the creation of Transport for London (TfL) in 2000, the remit of the museum has expanded to cover all aspects of transportation in the city. The museum operates from two sites within London. The main site in Covent Garden uses the name of its parent institution, sometimes suffixed by Covent Garden, and is open to the public every day, having recently reopened after a two year refurbishment. The other site, located in Acton, is known as the London Transport Museum Depot and is principally a storage site that is open on regular visitor days throughout the year.

The museum's main facility is located in a Victorian iron and glass building that originally formed part of the Covent Garden vegetable, fruit and flower market. It was designed as a dedicated flower market by William Rogers in 1871 and is located between Russell Street, Tavistock Street, Wellington Street and the east side of the former market square. The market moved out in 1971, and the building was first occupied by the London Transport Museum in 1980. Previously the collection had been located at Syon Park since 1973 and before that had formed part of the British Transport Museum at Clapham. On 4 September 2005 the museum closed for a major £22 million refurbishment designed by Bryan Avery of Avery Associates Architects to enable the expansion of the display collection to encompass the larger remit of TfL which administers all forms of public transport. Enhanced educational facilities were also required. The museum reopened on 22 November 2007. The Covent Garden building has on display a variety of buses, trams, trolleybuses and rail vehicles from 19th and 20th centuries, as well as artefacts and exhibits related to the operation and marketing of passenger services and the impact that the developing transport network has had on the city and its population.

The entrance to the museum is from the Covent Garden Piazza, amongst the Piazza's many tourist attractions. Museum operates from Monday to Thursday, Saturday and Sunday: 10 am – 6 pm (last admission 5:15 pm), Friday: 11 am – 6 pm (last admission 5:15 pm). Admission fees: adults - £13,50; children under 16 are admitted free. Please note that children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Courtauld Gallery

8) Courtauld Gallery (must see)

The Courtauld Gallery was founded in 1932 by Samuel Courtauld, the British industrialist and art collector. You will find it in the Strand Block of Somerset House; this well-loved gallery is certainly worth a long visit.

The gallery houses a stunning exhibition of Impressionist and Post Impressionist art from the 14th century to the present day. You can admire works by Monet, Van Gogh and Cézanne, amongst other excellent artists. Apart from paintings the gallery also displays drawings, Decorative Art, prints and sculptures.

The gallery’s collection of 14th and early 15th century Italian paintings is one of the most important in Britain. You will also find northern European art, including the Lamentation Triptych by the Master of Flemalle.

There are over 6000 drawings and watercolours and over 20,000 prints, dating back to the late Middle Ages, with fine examples of works by Leonardo de Vinci and Michelangelo. These exhibitions are rotating because the documents are fragile and you will find a selection of them in Room 12, or by appointment in the Drawing and Prints Study Room.

The collection of Decorative Art has some of the finest objects in the world, with artefacts from Europe and the Middle East. In the rooms devoted to these arts, you will find Italian Renaissance wedding chests, tin-glazed earthenware, Iznik and Spanish lusterware ceramics and beautiful Islamic metalwork by Mahmud the Kurd.

In the Gallery shop you can buy books about the gallery and its collection, with a series of very good books for children and also art-related gift items. There is also the Gallery café set in the basement or outdoors on the terrace if the weather is fine. The café serves light meals and drinks.

You are allowed to take photos in the gallery, but without a flash. Every day you can join the Lunchtime Gallery Talks, which are very interesting and educative lectures about the History of Art, painters and painting techniques.

Editor's Note:
The Courtauld Gallery and Courtauld Shop are now closed through at least 2020 while they undertake a major transformation project called Courtauld Connects.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Somerset House

9) Somerset House

Somerset House is a grand edifice with 55 active fountains situated on the south side of the Strand in the heart of London. The central, Neoclassical portion of the building, designed by architect Sir William Chambers, was completed in 1776–96. Later, two classical Victorian wings were added to the north and south. The current building stands on the site of its namesake predecessor which was built two hundred years earlier. Somerset House has been captured in one of Harry Potter blockbusters.
Roman Bath

10) Roman Bath

A stroll down the alley on Surrey Street will take you off the Strand to Strand Lane where the Roman Bath is. Contrary to its name, the bath and its surroundings are most definitely not Roman as there are no traces of Roman presence in the area. The bath was probably part of Arundel House, the imposing town-house which, along with several other palaces, had stood on the Strand from Tudor period until the 17th century, when they were torn down to clear space for new buildings. The bath has gained popularity after being featured in one of Harry Potter films.
Sir John Soane's Museum

11) Sir John Soane's Museum

When you spend an afternoon in Sir John Soane’s Museum, housed in a sumptuous Georgian mansion in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, you will ask yourself how someone with such a quirky mind could have functioned as a renowned architect and Member of the Royal Academy.

The house museum is literally stuffed from floor to ceiling with a myriad of artefacts the art-lover collected, regardless it seems, of their beauty value. On each floor of this huge house you will find yourself dazzled and amazed by paintings, sculptures, fragments of marble, models of famous buildings and the sarcophagus of the Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I.

In the Picture Room you can admire priceless paintings, some of them hidden behind folding screens of rather boring looking landscapes painted by unknown artists. Behind one such landscape is Hogarth’s “The Election” and behind another, his famous “The Rake’s Progress”. These paintings were considered “unsuitable for Ladies”, which is why Sir John hid them away and only showed them to his male friends.

Another side of Sir John’s strange penchant for the bizarre is to be found in a set of rooms in the cellar, named the Monk’s Parlour. He would explain that these rooms had been set aside for the personal use of Padre Giovanni, whose grave and headstone you will find in the garden. In truth the “Padre” never existed outside Sir John’s imagination and the family dog is buried in the padre’s “grave”.

The Crypt Room is designed like Roman catacombs and is full of Roman urns, funerary busts and, of course, the sarcophagus. Sir John was also a fan of old buildings and you will see lots of puzzling marble bits and pieces that came from Greek and Roman ruins.

Apart from the haphazard collection, which isn’t without charm, the house itself is incredible: a maze of gilded mirrors, concealed skylights, hidden passages and secret niches. The ceilings too are richly decorated, with a lovely trompe l’oeil in the Breakfast Room, painted to look like a trellis covered with honeysuckle.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Saturday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

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