First things first - the area is usually pronounced Ho-burn, rather than Hol-born, so keep that in mind if you want to be taken seriously in this buzzing, intellectual pocket of Central London. Once associated with the legal profession and packed full of wigged judges and ferocious barristers, it’s been a key commercial area connecting the West End with the City for years - and now plans are underway to add major residential clout to the area too.
While many may see Holborn purely as an extension of Oxford Street and a relatively transient zone, it’s got a distinct personality separate from both western and eastern neighbours, while also enjoying the overspill from both sides. Rivalled only by South Kensington when it comes to proximity to excellent London museums, its on the doorstep of the world-famous British Museum, which houses artefacts including Roman pottery and the Rosetta Stone. What’s more, it’s also in prime position for some of the city’s best small museums, including the art-filled Sir John Soane’s Museum, the medically fascinating Hungarian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, and the intimidating Museum of Freemasonry for anyone interested in this mysterious group.
As for theatre and performances, the West End and Covent Garden are a short walk away, providing everything from blockbuster musicals and grand dames of theatre treading the boards to beautifully staged ballets. Good restaurants are cropping up regularly, aided by the number of luxury hotels in the area, and the green spaces offered by the likes of Lincoln’s Inn Fields does well to make up for the distance from London’s major parks.
There’s something very Victorian about the area too, a relic from the time when residents included Charles Dickens, William Morris and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. While the carriages may be gone, many of the characterful pubs have stayed, so it’s common to turn off the busy High Holborn, packed with chain cafes, and find yourself on a street that feels like its been untouched for hundreds of years.
Meanwhile the current residents here are drawn by the quick commute to the city and the historic intellectual atmosphere from nearby Bloomsbury, meaning it’s largely occupied by successful lawyers, finance professionals, international couples and the odd wealthy student or radically successful professor from nearby UCL. Families tend to avoid the area as space is at a premium, while younger professionals are more likely to hunt for properties on the other side of the City in East London.
On a map
Holborn is situated in the Borough of Camden. It sits to the south of Bloomsbury, to the east of the City, and to the north of Temple. It covers the postcodes WC1, WC2 and EC1.
History of Holborn London
Holborn was first mentioned in a charter in 959AD when it was known as Hole Bourne, named after the old English worlds for hollow and brook respectively. The brook it was named after went on to become the River Fleet, which was lost to London in the Victorian period when it was directed underground. Today it can still be heard through grating in Clerkenwell, while the headwaters were dammed into Hampstead Ponds.
During the medieval period the area became a popular suburb for the City, with many impressive houses built, although most are now gone. During this period it also became known are a legal area, where many barristers worked and lived after it was decreed that no legal practice could take place within the City of London. At this point Holborn was the closest place outside of the city limits to Westminster Hall, so the Inns of Court such as Lincoln's Inn, Gray's Inn and Inner Temple were built here.
In the 18th century Holborn developed a reputation for entertainement, with music venues and theatres such as Weston’s Music Hall providing shows and laughs for local Londoners. The area is still relatively commercial today, with many offices, shops and hotels, although most of the Victorian theatres are no longer exist.
Transport from Holborn London
As a central London area, Holborn is spoilt for choice when it comes to transport options across the city. Holborn Underground Station is on the Central and Piccadilly Lines, giving you fast access to most of West and East London, and the City. Liverpool Street is just a 7 minute journey away, while in the other direction Shepherds Bush can be reached in 14 minutes. Meanwhile for access to the Northern line, Tottenham Court Road station is a short walk away.
Holborn is also served by a huge number of buses both day and night, while areas such as Covent Garden, Bloomsbury and Soho are within walking distance.
Cost of living in Holborn London
Due to a combination of varied history and a recent push in residential building and conversions in the area, Holborn offers a real variety of housing options. The majority of property here is new build apartment developments, Victorian mansion blocks or apartments in formerly commercial buildings such as converted 1960s office blocks, and although rare, historic townhouses or apartments in Victorian or Georgian houses can still very occasionally be found.
Holborn is unsurprisingly expensive considering the location and the postcode, although it still comes in cheaper than Covent Garden and Fitzrovia and a staggering half the price of Soho. For similar access but slightly lower rent, Bloomsbury and Euston are on average less costly than Holborn.
As of January 2016, the average rental price for a two bed apartment in Holborn is £4300, although similar properties can be found from £2000.
Restaurants in Holborn London
In-keeping with Holborn’s Dickensian history, the Princess Louise appears to be caught in a Victorian timewarp - the room is filled with original frosted-glass Victorian booths, wood panelling, and even a real fire. Popular with academics from the nearby universities, patrons flock here for the well-priced pints and gastropub grub in a unique setting.
Address: 208 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EP
Phone:020 7405 8816
Turn left into the pretty courtyard of the Rosewood Hotel, and you're suddenly a world away from the noise and fumes of High Holborn. If you really want to let this feeling linger for a while, head inside to the excellent Holborn Dining Room, which is decked out in the style of a classy brasserie with leather banquettes and chandeliers. The all-day menu features British classics, starting with the likes of eggs royale in the morning and fresh seafood at dinner, so you'll always find something to fit your appetite.
Address: 252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN
Phone:020 3747 8633
Situated inside the uber trendy Hoxton Holborn Hotel (sister to the Hoxton Hotel), Hubbard & Bell is a sleek Italian-via-New-York restaurant featuring whitewashed walls, blue tiled floors and mustard yellow seating for a colourful Scandi-Cool style. The menu has all the Big Apple staples - patty melt sandwiches, pork belly, sirloin steaks - and it's a good spot for catching up over cocktails too.
Address: 199 - 206 High Holborn, London WC1V 7BW
Phone:020 7661 3030
Serving up some of the best bakery treats in the area, Fleet River Bakery is a great place for a slice of homemade cake in the afternoon or catching up with friends over good coffee. During the day its often filled with freelancers on laptops, while in the summer, the outdoor tables are perfect for people watching.
Address: 71 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3JF
Phone:020 7691 1457
Shops in Holborn London
With a number of high-end gyms and a popular spinning studio in Holborn, it's key to have the right kit if you want to fit in with the sporty residents - and fortunately, this specialist sports shop has everything you'll need. The shelves are stacked with all kids of clothing, equipment and accessories, and the trained staff are on hand to give advice on choices and fittings.
Address: 3 Procter St, Holborn, London WC1V 6DW
Phone:020 7405 5344
Home of literary journal the London Review of Books, this is much more than just a bookshop - it's a place to browse literary classics, cookery tomes and children's books, discuss new writers over tea and cake, and attend readings and workshops. Come for a quick look and you'll find yourself staying all day.
Address: 14 Bury Place, London, WC1A 2JL
Phone: 020 7269 9030
Looking to find a few answers, or just want to explore the more mysterious side of life? This small shop on Museum Street boasts the title of London's oldest Occult bookshop, having been founded by Michael Houghton in 1922. These days its a key meeting point for anyone interested in esoteric things, with regular events and workshops. The staff are very friendly so don't be afraid to come in and browse, even if you don't yet know a rune stone from a raisin!
Address: 49A Museum St, London WC1A 1LY
Phone:020 7405 2120
Forget about Instagram and embrace old-fashioned photography at this independent camera shop which sells vintage and second-hand cameras alongside new products and accessories. They also do repairs and have their own photo printing lab, so you can come back and get rolls developed after playing around with your newest (old) toy.
Address: 16 Little Russell St, London WC1A 2HL
Phone:020 7813 2100
Things to do in Holborn London
One of the best things about living in Holborn is without a doubt having this iconic museum right on the doorstep. Founded 1753 largely using the collections of Sir Hans Soane, it has become one of the most comprehensive museums in the world for human history, art and culture. Highlights include Elgin Marbles and Egyptian mummies, but there's so much here you'll never run out of artefacts to discover.
Address: Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG
Phone: 020 7323 8299
Taking its name from the imposing Lincoln's Inn which overlooks it, Lincoln's Inn Fields is the largest public square in London, and come the spring and summer is packed with nearby workers enjoying an al-fresco lunch on the grass. For those with a little more time than a lunch break, there's also a tennis court, a netball court and a bandstand in the middle for public use.
Address: London WC2A 3TL
Phone: 020 7974 1693
Once the home of architect Sir John Soane (no relation to Hans Soane of the British Museum), this magnificent listed building on Lincoln's Inn Fields became a museum when he died in 1837. The collection includes projects he worked on in his lifetime as well as unusual art and antiquities collected from around the globe, such as a fragment from the old Palace of Westminster, and an Egyptian sarcophagus.
Address: 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP
Phone: 020 7405 2107
Main image credit: Gotardo Gonzales