In With The Old
Every city's history is fascinating. Being such a huge and culturally diverse hub, London's history is particularly fascinating and I've decided that I want to do it justice by learning as much as I can. What better place to learn about history than at museums? With this in mind, I decided to take a trip down to two very different museums, the British Museum and Sir John Soane's Museum, as well as checking out some of the oldest hidden places in the UK capital. If you haven't been to the British Museum, well, have you even been to London? According to the museum's website, the British Museum (which I now like to call the Museum of Colonialism) was the first national public museum to open in the world. It was founded back in 1753 and ever since has been rising in popularity, drawing more and more visitors from across the world to view the insane amount of treasures it hoards. Such treasures include the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian tombs and ancient sculptures from as far away as Oceania...you'd be lucky to see every single object the museum has to offer in one go. My friend Joe and I were feeling pretty sleepy and hungry on our arrival at the museum, which probably wasn't the best set-up. We wandered around aimlessly for a bit before letting our stomachs get the better of us. I took a couple of snaps of some of my favourite objects but hey, you should go and see the museum for itself; nothing beats being within a few inches of something hundreds of years old.
The architecture of the museum is pretty impressive, too. I would recommend visiting the museum off-peak and NOT when the school holidays are on as being bombarded by endless herds of kids and Chinese tourists isn't particularly fun. Joe and I had a snack at a nearby café called Salt & Pepper, which serves breakfast, lunch, cake and hot drinks for decent prices considering how close it is to different major tourist attractions. I had a slice of pecan and banana cake which was very moist and yummy (4/5) and a bog-standard latte. Joe had a slice of the carrot cake which also looked delectable (he also gave his a 4/5) and a mocha. The café was super chilled and friendly and there were lots of books to read and free brochures to take away.
The second museum I visited, Sir John Soane's Museum, is a lesser known one. In brief, Sir John Soane was a successful architect who designed the Bank of England and was an avid collector of antiques as well. The museum is basically Soane's converted home - located near Chancery Lane - and is a fantastic maze stuffed full of paintings, books and objects from around the globe. Soane was adamant that the home and his collections be preserved after his death and so to this day everything is exactly how it was and the museum relies on donations to help preserve everything that the inspiring architect left behind. Admission is free and unfortunately photography isn't allowed inside but I would definitely recommend having a look around - it's a very chaotic place and absolutely fascinating. Top tip: on the second floor there is a room full of paintings and one wall is actually a set of doors that open up to a view of the crypt down below. The doors are only open a couple of times a day so make sure you hang around to see the magic happen.
I really wanted to tick the oldest church in London and the oldest house in London off my bucket list so I walked for about twenty minutes from Lincoln's Inn Fields to Farringdon, passing by this beautiful bridge along the way...
St. Bartholemew the Great is an amazing church. Located just off Smithfield Market (which I avoided, being a baby vegetarian and all) it is the oldest church in the UK capital, founded in 1123 as an Augustinian monastery. There is an admission fee of £3.50 but what I did was say I was going to the chapel to pray and then sneakily had a little look around after I was done...ermm, praying. It's unlike any other church I have been too - you can really feel the medieval vibes and despite being situated in the City of London, being inside felt so serene, which I suppose is the case with any church. It's truly beautiful and definitely worth a visit.
Just around the corner is Cloth Fair, home to the oldest house in London which actually survived the Great Fire of London in 1666. The whole street is very oldy-worldy; I've become such a fan of old architecture through my explorations! Walking around, you don't often notice where you're stepping or think about what might have come before you. It's always good to reflect on history and appreciate all the events that led up to us being here!
I hope this has inspired you to dive into your local history! I've only touched upon London's complex and fascinating history so I can't wait to dive in more...