It’s Sunday and you’re in the mood to do something relaxing yet culturally stimulating. You can’t face travelling into central London, so you head in the unlikely direction of the City of London, to the wonderful cultural oasis that is the Barbican. As Europe’s largest multi-arts venue and conference centre, if you can name it, it’s got it — from art exhibitions and musical concerts, to theatre, dance, film and creative learning events. Go there and get lost in the arts — and enjoy a nice lunch, too.
As you emerge from the Underground, you’re struck by how peaceful this part of London is on the weekend. Built during the 1960s and 1970s, the Barbican Complex is one of London’s best examples of Brutalist architecture and is fortress-like in its construction. You find your way inside, and immediately notice the building’s retro colour palette — light grey carpets, caramel concrete walls and bold red and orange signage. The vibe is warm, sophisticated and comfortable; the crowd is relaxed and lost in thought.
You take the lift to the art gallery on Level 3 and find the stunning photography exhibition, “Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age,” which takes you on a world tour of 20th and 21st century architecture via the works of 18 talented photographers. Each photographer has his own room, arranged chronologically from the 1930s to the present day, beginning with the very first skyscrapers in New York and ending with modern towers in Venezuela. After viewing the exhibition you’ll want to pack your bags, buy a better camera and jump on the next available flight to see these wonders for yourself.
It’s time for lunch, so you head back down to the ground floor and discover the Foodhall, a spacious café where you find cakes and delicious salads waiting for you. You grab a coffee, a smoked salmon sandwich and a freshly baked cake, which you enjoy at a table on the terrace. It’s a great place to rest while enjoying spectacular views of the City and the gentle spray of water fountains.
After lunch, you make your way back to Level 3 and seek out one of the Barbican’s best-kept secrets: the Conservatory. Home to exotic fish swimming in an indoor pond, birds flying free and over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees, the conservatory entrances adults and children alike. You spend the afternoon here, and then head down to Level 2 for a refreshing gin cocktail. You think you’ll get the “gincognito,” made with Plymouth gin, fresh lime juice, coriander, cane syrup and Peychaud’s bitters and tonic.
On your way home, you take a peek inside Milton Court Concert Hall, the Barbican’s state-of-the-art auditorium. The beautiful, wood-clad hall makes you feel like you’re walking inside a giant organ. You make a mental note to come back and experience the world-class acoustics here. As you leave, you feel simultaneously rested, revitalised and restored. You can face Monday now.