British Museum, Great Russell Street
Virginia Woolf, the writer at the centre of the Bloomsbury Group, immortalised Anthony Panizzi’s oak panelled 1857 Reading Room at the then British Library, ‘the vast dome … the huge, bald forehead which is so splendidly encircled by a band of famous names’, in A Room Of One’s Own (1929).
In Jacob’s Room (1922) the hero reads Marlowe in the library and watches other readers, including the atheist Fraser and the feminist Julia Hodge, and thinks of the Museum as an enormous mind.
The British Library is no longer at the British Museum. It is now in its own, purpose-designed building at St Pancras (next to the station) - at the time of its construction notoriously condemned by Prince Charles as looking like "an academy for secret police." Opening the building years later, the Queen was more complimentary, describing the building as "remarkable."
The new British Library at St Pancras (just to the north-west of Bloomsbury) is well worth visiting, and has on display many fascinating (and significant) manuscripts, including writing by Virginia Woolf.
The British Museum is also well worth visiting, for the exhibitions of course, but also for the re-developed Great Court. This inner courtyard was previously a hidden space, but the relocation of the British Library provided the opportunity to use the space. Designed by Foster and Partners, architects, it is now the largest covered public square in Europe. At its centre is the round barrel of the original reading room.
With its spectacular glass roof, the Great Court provides a brilliant setting for a coffee. Take the opportunity: