Water feature, residential towers and the Barbican Centre.

Geoff Stringer



The architectural value of this sprawling post-WWII brutalist housing estate divides Londoners, but the Barbican remains a sought-after living space as well as the City's preeminent cultural centre. Public spaces include a quirky conservatory and the Barbican Centre theatres, cinema and two art galleries: Barbican Art Gallery and The Curve. Navigating the Barbican, designed to be a car-free urban neighbourhood, requires reliance on a network of elevated paths that didn't quite come to fruition. Find your bearings on an architecture tour (adult/child £12.50/10).

The whole site makes for a fascinating stroll, especially around the fountain-studded central lake, with ample seating and cafes with outdoor terraces.

Built on a huge bomb site abandoned after WWII and opened progressively between 1969 and 1982, the complex is named after a Roman fortification built to protect ancient Londinium, the scant remains of which can be seen in the southwest section of the estate. The estate incorporates 17th-century poet John Milton's parish church, St Giles' Cripplegate.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby London attractions

1. Barbican Conservatory

0.02 MILES

The definition of a concrete jungle, this glass-topped conservatory is a surprisingly lush urban rainforest inside the brutalist Barbican, London’s second…

2. Barbican Art Gallery

0.03 MILES

Spread over two levels, the larger of the two art galleries at the Barbican hosts thoughtful temporary exhibitions that change a few times a year. Entry…

3. Curve

0.05 MILES

Specially commissioned shows and provocative temporary retrospectives fill this interesting arced gallery in the Barbican.

4. St Giles' Cripplegate

0.08 MILES

St Giles' is one of the few medieval churches to survive both the Great Fire in 1666 and the Blitz, although it was badly damaged in the latter and by…

5. City Wall

0.17 MILES

Discovered after a WWII bomb razed a 19th-century warehouse, this crumbling collection of brickwork is the remains of a Roman city wall and bastion with…

6. Museum of London

0.19 MILES

Romp through 450,000 years of London history at this entertaining and educational museum, one of the capital's finest. Exhibiting everything from a…

7. Roman Fort & City Wall

0.22 MILES

London’s roots lie in the walled Roman settlement of Londinium, established in 43 CE on the northern bank of the River Thames. Few traces of the 3rd…

8. Guildhall

0.28 MILES

Guildhall has been the City’s seat of government for more than 800 years. The Great Hall dates from the early 15th century and is positively Hogwartsian…