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Short stay: Citadines, Barbican, London, UK

Citadines, Barbican is perfectly located for exploring London’s Culture Mile which includes the Barbican, Guild Hall School of Music & Drama, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London. Citadines offer a range of accommodation from classic rooms through to one bedroom apartments which can accommodate up to four people. As well as the Barbican, Citadines have Apart’Hotels located at Trafalgar Square, Holborn/Covent Garden, South Kensington and the latest opening in Islington. The welcome It is a very friendly welcome from the staff behind the reception desk. They apologise for the fact that the all-day cafe, which also serves beers and wines, is still closed due to Covid and that the small gym in the basement is currently restricted to a single user. They issue me with my key-cards, point out the lift and follow-up with a courtesy call 15 minutes later to check that all is well with my apartment. The room  Pine floored and neutral coloured, the bedroom in my one-bedroom apartment features a large double bed and a view of The Gherkin framed by two of the Barbican’s towers. Beneath the television there is a chest of drawers with another drawer unit in the large wardrobe. A dressing gown and slippers await on the bed. Efficient air-conditioning and an effective double-rail curtain help to ensure a good night’s sleep. An abstract-style print of Smithfield’s meat market, which is just around the corner, reminds guests that they are staying at the heart of London. As well as the bedroom, I have a lounge as well with a two-seater sofa, a chair and a table. Using Chromecast and my phone, I have the option of downloading films and television programmes for viewing on the large screen. The bathroom That local theme continues in the bathroom: the flooring has an antiquated birds-eye view map of Victorian London. Algotherm toiletries are provided for the shower and well-lit wash basin. In the hall, there’s a cupboard with yet more towels and an iron plus ironing board. Facilities As well as a two-ring hob, the kitchen includes a microwave, kettle and toaster. Intended for longer-stay guests, there is a washing machine and a small dishwasher. With plenty of crockery and cutlery in the drawers, a large breakfast bar for eating, guests often pick-up groceries from one of the very local supermarkets to cater for themselves. Location A five-minute walk takes guests to The Barbican Centre. As the home of the London Symphony Orchestra, hosting three cinemas, a theatre and exhibition halls, the Barbican is Europe’s largest art centre. One of its slogans “Level G, Always free” is a big draw. A 90 minute architecture tour tells the story of the Barbican’s transformation from derelict Second World War bomb site to one of London’s most controversial pieces of architecture. On the tour, visitors can make their mind up as to whether the 2,000 apartments, mews, townhouses and penthouses – a city in the sky created from more concrete than used for the M25 – is a vision of utopia or dystopia. Running through until 22nd August 2021, the main exhibition, Brutal Beauty, champions the work of 20th century artist Jean Dubuffet. His gritty work rebelled against conventional concepts of beauty with his powerful manifesto, “Art should always make you laugh a little and fear a little. Anything but bore.” When the architects learnt that the theatre required a tall fly tower for storage, they created The Conservatory, to obscure its dominance. It is a giant greenhouse whose size in London is only exceeded at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. “I sometimes imagine that this is what the city would like post-apocalypse, reclaimed by plants,” comments our guide. The Museum of London, with its exhibition of London’s history from the Romans to contemporary history, is even closer than the Barbican. Through until September, they are hosting a free exhibition, “Dub London: Bassline of a city.” Other nice touches In the kitchen, an Abel and Cole wicker basket contains a grocery starter pack of organic products including bananas, biscuits, bread, eggs, granola and tomatoes.   The fridge is stocked with organic apple juice, butter, cheese and milk. As there is a tray of tea bags and coffee sachets there is no immediate need to head for the supermarket. Citadines also offer a “Grab & Go” breakfast. The cost Rooms are priced from £119 per night for a studio and £279 per night for a one-bedroom apartment. The best bit Citadines, Barbican really is at the heart of London. You can extend the Culture Mile with a walk south to St Paul’s cathedral, that could link in to The London Wall Walk which follows the old city wall from The Tower of London through to the Museum of London. Alternatively, you can continue south, walking across the Millennium Bridge, over the Thames, to The Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern. For further exploration of London, Citadines is only a two minute walk from the Barbican tube station. The final verdict Space and facilities make this a comfortable base for exploring London at your own pace without the expense of restaurant meals. As the rooms are serviced weekly guests can come and go as they please. Taking a mini air-conditioned siesta helps guests recharge after a hot morning exploring London’s attractions. As lockdown restrictions lift, it will be tempting to spend several days at the Barbican, taking in its concerts, exhibitions and films whilst also enjoying the attractions of the Culture Mile. Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by Citadines, Barbican

Michael Edwards

Michael Edwards is a travel writer from Oxfordshire, UK. Although Michael had his first travel pieces published nearly four decades ago, he is still finding new luxury destinations to visit and write on.

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  1. Last week I had to go into London for a meeting, first time for over a year. I couldn’t believe how empty London was. There can’t ever have been a better time to visit.

    Unfortunately there are still restaurants and shops shut and I wonder if some of them will survive but it was all so quiet. I even got seats on the underground on all 4 tube trains that I took.

  2. I’ve always felt that because of its brutalist architecture the Barbican has often got a bad press. I know that it looks scary from the outside but once you get inside with the gardens, fountains and lakes it’s a lot gentler and more welcoming. Take a look at what the Barbican has to offer – don’t judge a book by its cover.

    1. It’s worth taking a look at a film on the Barbican’s website that presents the ideas of the architecture. It suggests that from the outside the Barbican looks hard and menacing like the fort that it was originally named after. That’s where the building is at it’s most brutalist. Once inside, it’s all a lot softer, especially with the trees and fountains. It seems like a sanctuary from the outside world.

  3. If we get another month of this lockdown as the media says I really can see foreign holidays being off the menu for this summer. This sort of staycation is going to be booming.

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