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The Barbican Arts Centre

Barbican, built by the Romans and variously destroyed by plague, fire, WII bombing raids and general social disorder over the years, beneath the Barbican’s gleaming office fronts lies some of London’s richest history.

It’s now a centre for commerce like the rest of the Square Mile, but you can explore the past in the excellent Museum of London (150 London Wall, 020 7814 5530, www.museumoflondon.org.uk) including a glimpse at a surviving section of the London Wall itself, which fortified the city in Roman times. Parts of the museum are closed for redevelopment until 2010, but there’s still fantastic exhibits on the city’s origins and the double-whammy of Great Plague (1665) and Great Fire (1666), started by a baker in Pudding Lane, which killed 8,000 of the 11,000 inhabitants in this then-“populous and ramshackle” part of Restoration London.

William Shakespeare is a former resident of the Barbican, and the great dramatist would be proud of the Barbican Centre (Silk Street, 020 7638 4141, www.barbican.org.uk), Europe’s largest arts centre with three performances spaces including the huge Barbican Hall, two art galleries, three cinema screens, three restaurants and a rooftop tropical conservatory built around a profoundly ugly 70s Brutalist estate. It’s the home of the London Symphony and BBC Symphony Orchestras, and there’s phenomenal theatre productions as well as classical and world music and an outstanding cinema programme – it’s also quite easy to get lost inside. You can see talented young performers, usually performing for free, at the eminent Guildhall School of Music and Drama (Silk Street, 020 7628 2571, www.gsmd.ac.uk) also in the complex: as well as where Ewan MacGregor, Orlando Bloom and Daniel Craig learnt their craft, it’s one of the world’s finest music schools.

Visitors also s houldn’t miss Smithfield Market, an atmospheric meat and delicatessen tradepost beloved of top restaurateurs open from 4am each morning

Also Barbican is the site of the execution of William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace. Barbican is served by the Hammersmith & City, Circle and Metropolitan Underground lines.

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Barbican: Tube (underground)

StationZoneLine(s)Distance
Barbican Station1Metropolitan - Circle line - Hammersmith & City0.06 miles
Farringdon Station1Metropolitan - Circle line - Hammersmith & City0.51 miles
St. Pauls Station1Central0.57 miles
Moorgate Station1Metropolitan - Northern - Circle line - Hammersmith & City0.69 miles
Mansion House Station1District - Circle line0.88 miles

Barbican: Rail (overground)

StationDistance
Barbican Station0.05 miles
Farringdon Station0.53 miles
London City Thameslink Station0.55 miles
Moorgate Station0.61 miles
London Blackfriars Station0.99 miles
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