Home » London Attractions » A Short Guide to the Barbican

A Short Guide to the Barbican

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The Barbican is Europe’s largest multi-arts and conference venue and is considered one of London’s best examples of Brutalist architecture.

Although it is known for its ‘modern’ appearance, the Barbican site has a long and fascinating history. The word Barbican refers to a fortified outpost or gateway and London’s first Barbican was built by the Romans for protection before it was incorporated in the large London wall built by the Roman’s in AD 200. Over the following centuries it became part of the Cripplegate area of the City of London. After surviving fire and plague it was the power of the Luftwaffe in the Second World War that destroyed the area.

After the war, plans were developed from designs by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon for this particular area of London. There were concerns about the dwindling population in the City of London and it became considered increasingly important that a residential area to be created on the site.

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The 40 acre Barbican Estate developed with residential blocks set on a raised podium and constructed between 1969 and 1976. The Arts Centre was built between 1971 and 1982, consisting of two theatres, a concert hall, a library, an art gallery, three cinemas, a conservatory, offices, restaurant, shops and foyers.

When the Queen opened the Barbican complex in 1982 she pronounced it “one of the wonders of the modern world”. Although few agreed with that particular view, it does represent a unique urban landscape in the City of London.

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Over the last few decades the Barbican Arts centre has developed into a world-class arts and cultural centre which is Europe’s largest arts centre all under one roof. The Barbican is the  base for the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra and has close ties with the Royal Shakespeare Company.  The Centre hosts mainly classical and contemporary music concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and art exhibitions but also offers a wide range of activities and festivals.

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The Barbican is located in the heart of the City of London and is accessible by rail, road and underground.

Tube

Within walking distance from a number of London Underground stations, the closest being Barbican, St Paul’s and Moorgate.

Rail

The nearest train stations are Liverpool Street and Farringdon.

Bus

Bus Route 153 runs directly past the Barbican along Chiswell Street.

Walk

You can walk to the Barbican within 30 minutes from all over central London.

For more information, visit the Barbican website here

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