Ready to explore the best things to do in Holborn? We’ve got you covered with this guide to fascinating museums, ornate Victorian pubs, and the best places for shopping.
Holborn is one of the oldest parts of London and slap bang in the city centre. No wonder then that it’s a melting pot of cultural influences and is dripping with history.
Did you know that Magna Carta was negotiated in a church in Holborn?
The history still rings on to this day with a collection of the city’s, and the world’s, finest museums.
Spend a bit of time walking around and you’re likely to find plenty of things to do.
You’re also never shy of a good spot to eat. Being centrally located and a stone’s throw from the theatre district means that there are plenty of fancy restaurants… But there are also heaps of down-to-earth family-owned spots and cafes to boot.
Things to do in Holborn
See the Unmissable Temple Church
When it comes to what to do near Holborn, you can’t do much better for that step-back-in-time escapism than Temple Church. It’s got history up to its eyeballs, or should we say spires?
It was built by the Knights Templar in 1185, with the aim of being London’s Jerusalem, and has since been the site of some of history’s biggest moments.
The Magna Carta was negotiated there, American law was basically born there, and it’s featured in Shakespeare’s plays. And survived for nearly a millennia.
Today it’s still in use. You can gaze upon the near-thousand-year-old structure while you listen to choirs sing or priests deliver sermons. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Take a Walk Down Sicilian Avenue
You might have spotted that little cut-through linking Southampton Row and Bloomsbury Way. That’s Sicilian Avenue.
It was designed by Robert Worley in 1906 and completed four years later and remains much the same as it was then. Apart from the shops, we’re guessing they have changed hands.
You’ll find cafe’s sandwich places and an Italian restaurant or two. The latter must feel right at home…
Or not, no one knows much about Worley. For all we know he never even went to Italy. And on closer inspection, Sicilian Ave. doesn’t actually look all that Italian.
It’s not a bad spot for lunch though.
Wander Round Charles Dickens’ House
Yep, arguably Britain’s most famous writer lived in Holborn. His house is now a museum, kept much the way it was when he lived there.
You can see the desk where he wrote some of his most famous works, as well as the reading stand he used to conduct his famous public readings. You can even see his commode, if you fancy it.
The stewards are clearly all massive Dickens fans and are happy to tell you anything you can’t glean from the placards.
Oh and they do some great Dickens-related tours and events.
Grab a Pint at one of the Oldest Pubs in Ye Olde Land
OK so pretty much every other pub in London claims to be the oldest around. The Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese might just be.
A pub has stood on its location since 1538, and although it was burnt down and rebuilt after the Great Fire, the basement remains intact, and that dates back to the 1300s. So even if your local reckons it’s got a claim to the title, it’s probably got nothing on The Cheshire Cheese.
The aforementioned Charles Dickens was one of its former regulars – it’s mentioned in A Tale of Two Cities – as were fellow authors GK Chesterton, Arthur Conan-Doyle, PG Wodehouse and Mark Twain.
And if you don’t really care about how old the effing pub is, the gloomy nooks and crannies and its long and literary history still make a very atmospheric spot for a drink.
Go Shopping for Diamonds
How about getting your bling on?
Hatton Gardens is one of the top destinations for diamond shopping in the world. They’ve got over 70 shops dedicated to a girl’s best friend.
But sorry to disappoint, these ones might leave in the night. With such a valuable hoard of diamonds, Hatton Garden has been the site of some major diamond heists.
It also drops past a couple other spots on this list.
Get Curious at Sir John Soane’s Museum
Sir John Soane was an architect back in his day, and quite a renowned one at that. He lived just off Kingsway and filled his house with all sorts of interesting stuff.
It’s been kept just as it was at the time of his death and turned into a museum that’s highly worth checking out.
They’ve got thousands of architectural drawings, trinkets, models of famous buildings, excellent examples of classical sculpture, and paintings by Hogarth and Canaletto.
That’s not all, the place is chokka with curiosities, but we’ll leave the rest up to your exploration.
And we promise you won’t be disappointed – it’s easily one of the best museums in Holborn.
Check Out the Leafy Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Back in the day lawyers were banned from teaching civil law inside the City of London, and so the lawyers had to move out.
And so, to accommodate the needs of hungry and sleepy law practitioners, there emerged four Inns of Court. Lincoln’s Inn, in Holborn, is one of these.
It’s changed a lot since its construction in the 1600s, but what’s there now is rather pretty. Tasteful buildings aching with history surround a garden (or field) that’s quite a hidden gem.
Apart from being a little oasis of peace in the heart of the city, the fields have some frankly enormous trees, including a cherry tree that you’ll want to see in blossom come spring.
See More Famous Artefacts Than You Can Handle at The British Museum
How could we not include the British Museum. Not only does it belong on this list, but on every list of top things to do in London. You all know what’s there already. Just one of the finest collections of artefacts amassed in the world.
The Rosetta Stone. Got it. Parthenon Marbles. Tick. The treasures from Sutton Hoo. Yep.
Whether or not you think it belongs there, you can’t deny that this is by far one of the best free things to do in Holborn.
See Moon Jars at the Han Collection
A street away from the British Museum is one of the best hidden gems in Holborn. Enter the Han Collection, a small gallery that specialises in Korean art.
Our favourite things there: Moon jars, exquisitely beautiful ceramic works shaped to evoke the full moon.
Those moony whites are often adorned with restrained flares of ink so tasteful it hurts.
And apart from one or two in various museums, the Han Collection is likely the only other place you can see these magical things in London.
The jars’ history stretches back 700 years but the Han Collection’s are more contemporary.
Laugh out Loud at the Museum of Comedy
Yes, the Museum of Comedy, you read right. Opened on April Fool’s Day by Leicester Square Theatre director Martin Witts in 2014, the Museum of Comedy is located in the crypt of the Grade I listed St George’s Church.
This collection of all things comic combines historical artefacts with a cool, intimate performance space that plays home to a regular Monday Club.
Among the interesting pieces on display are portraits of some of Britain’s finest comedians, Bill Bailey’s famous guitar with six necks, the back door of Del-Boy’s Reliant Regent van from Only Fool’s & Horses, some of the original cast of Spitting Image puppet heads, and even Little Tich’s shoes.
Head here for the exhibition and stay for the Lols, with a well-stocked bar to help whet your whistle.
Browse Leather Lane Market
Leather Lane Market is one of London’s oldest, dating back more than 400 years. The lane itself was originally named in honour of the leather goods made in the area, and sold at the market, but today has become one of the city’s best street food markets.
Spanning the entire length of Leather Lane, the market today doesn’t host a vast array of street food vendors, but continues to sell homeware, fruit and veg, arts, crafts, fashionware, accessories, and pretty much everything else you’d come to expect from a London market.
It is the food vendors that has us coming back over and over again, though, as it plays home to one of the biggest array of different cuisines in town. It’s open weekdays between 10am and 2pm making it the perfect spot for elevenses, lunch, or a very early afternoon snack.
Visit the Hunterian Museum
If you find the likes of Casualty and Holby City too much to handle, this may not be the museum for you. Yet, for those with strong constitutions, the Hunterian Museum is a fascinating collection of anatomical wonders and surgical equipment.
Started by John Hunter, an 18th-century surgeon, the Scottish government bought the collection in 1799 and has been added to over the following two centuries. Now held at the Royal College of Surgeons, the museum now covers more than 400 years of medicine, natural history, and surgery.
The collection of more than 3,500 items still contains many of Hunter’s original specimens and is a wonderful testament to one man’s passion for charting the course of medical and natural history.
If you have an interest in anatomy and the progress of surgery over the years, keep an eye out for one of their regular talks or workshops.
Eating & Drinking
As far as wine bars come you don’t get much better than Noble Rot. The owners are also behind the wine magazine of the same name and seriously know what they’re up to.
That knowledge doesn’t just stick to the wine list. Their menu of French classics hits all the right notes too.
The vibe is relaxed and unpretentious, or at least as unpretentious as can be for a wine bar doing French bistro dishes.
Need somewhere to take a date after a day of trekking between museums? Here’s your place.
This Japanese BBQ can be hard to get into with its large queues, but don’t let that put you off. ROKA makes for a highly-memorable dining experience.
Straight away, smells of meat grilled robatayaki style hit you as you walk in.
The next thing you’ll be confronted with is their incredibly sleek centrepiece bar and the way the chefs quietly work away behind it.
The final big moment comes as that expertly-grilled bit of meat hits your palette, and you realise that all the trouble you had trying to get a table was well worth putting up with.
Read Next: Best Restaurants in Holborn
All Star Lanes
Must-hit spot for dinner and a blast of a night all rolled into one, All Star Lanes is a big draw for the kind of occasions that call for lots of booze, food to line the stomach, and games to test your competitive edge.
Grab a portion of Nashville Fried Chicken and some popcorn squid, a drink to wash it down and head to the bowling alleys.
After you’ve whipped your opponents into shape – and had a few more drinks – you can get on the karaoke and show everyone why your true calling in life is as a Vegas showgirl.
Don’t let the down-to-earth Lebanese/Palestinian fare at Hiba fool you. It’s about as good as it gets.
The restaurant’s name means ‘lovely surprise’ and it’s not far off what you get, coming here in the form of deliciously succulent kebabs.
Our fave is the mixed shawarma. It’s made with prime lamb and chicken and drizzled with a helping of sesame sauce that’ll have you licking your fingers clean.
The meze selection isn’t bad either.
Kintan Japanese BBQ
If it’s a taste of the East you’re after, we thoroughly recommend Kintan Japanese BBQ on High Holborn.
This isn’t your average sushi joint, this is Japanese BBQ cooking at its absolute finest. Tables come with their own smokeless grills meaning that you can watch the food cooking in front of your eyes, while your nostrils fill with the gorgeous aromas of the softly cooking food.
Taking the old Japanese saying “people who share rice from the same pot will also share a lifelong friendship” Kintan’s speciality is their Yakiniku – literally translated as “grill meat”. Choose from one of their BBQ set courses for 2 or more people and come at the right time to take advantage of serious happy hour savings.
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