sights / Architecture

Barbican information

London , England
Silk St
+44 20 7638 4141
Getting there
Tube: Barbican or Moorgate
More information
architectural tours adult/child £12.50/10
Opening hours
arts centre 9am-11pm Mon-Sat, from 10am Sun, architectural tours 6pm or 7pm Tue & Thu, 2pm, 3pm & 4pm Sat & Sun
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Londoners remain fairly divided about the architectural value of this vast complex built after WWII, but the Barbican remains the City's preeminent cultural centre, with the main Barbican Hall, two theatres, a state-of-the-art cinema complex and two well-regarded art galleries: the 3rd-floor Barbican Gallery and the Curve on the ground floor.

Built on a huge bomb site abandoned since WWII and opened progressively between 1969 and 1982, the vast housing and cultural complex is named after a Roman fortification that once stood here protecting ancient Londinium. It incorporates John Milton's parish church, St Giles' Cripplegate , into its avant-garde (for the time) design and embellishes its public areas with lakes and ponds ringed with benches. Apartments in the three high-rise towers that surround the cultural centre are some of the city’s most sought-after living spaces. Guided architectural tours are fascinating and the best way to make sense of the purpose and beauty of the estate.

Getting around the Barbican can be frustratingly difficult. There are stairs from Barbican tube station that take you up onto the elevated walkways, from where a yellow line on the floor guides you to the arts complex. More straightforward is to walk through the Beech St road tunnel to the Silk St entrance.