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Barbican Complex

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Published January 24th 2011
London's famous Barbican complex is known for being, well, rather complex. You've no doubt heard the jokes about people popping along there to see a movie, never to be seen again.

Constructed in the 60s and 70s as a residential estate at a time when grey concrete was the building material of choice, its design is admittedly not everyone's cup of tea. 3D-puzzle lovers will adore it though. And orienteering experts will go goggle-eyed at the challenge of finding their way around.

But to stay away for fear of becoming hopelessly lost would be truly a shame, for that would mean forgoing such delights as the Barbican Centre, which, incidentally, lays claim to being Europe's largest multi-arts and conference venue.

The Barbican Centre hosts theatre, art, dance, film, and music shows throughout the year. It also organises special banquets, conferences and trade exhibitions. See, even if you were to get lost in within the Barbican complex, you could seek refuge in the Barbican Centre and be entertained for life.

A good way to begin your maiden visit to the Barbican would be to join an organised tour of the place, thereby getting orientated in the process.

Led by 'Barbican Explorers', the 90-minute 'Explore Barbican' tours show participants around the estate, explaining its history and how its unique design came to be. They'll take you to parts of the complex you otherwise might not see, and if you're lucky, they may even show you the exits. Anyone remotely interested in architecture is bound to find the tour a real eye-opener.

The Barbican is also home to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, which puts on more than 300 events a year, as well as the well-stocked Barbican Library.

Oh and don't forget the marvellous (and free) Museum of London also located inside the Barbican complex and, in many people's opinion, one of the capital's most impressive museums.

The Grade II listed Barbican divides people right down the middle when it comes to design. Take a trip there yourself to see this exceptional example of contemporary urban planning and make up your own mind. Just don't forget to take a compass when you go.
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Why? Because there's a lot more going on there than you think.
Where: Nearest tube station: Barbican
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