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The Royal Courts of Justice is one of London's most dramatic buildings. Its mock-Gothic exterior makes it look like a fairytale castle, and its stone, echoing entrance hall makes it seem like a cathedral. A lot of the courtrooms are very atmospheric with their wood-panneled walls, vaulted ceilings and bookcases filled with dusty leather tomes.
The best way of seeing the inside of the Court (short of committing a crime -- which we don't recommend), is through a guided tour.
The tour is split into two halves. The first part lasts for about an hour, and consists of you sitting inside one of the courtrooms listening to the guide. He'll take you through the history of the building, and give you a crash course in the British judicial system. You will then be taken on a 30-minute walk around some of the finest rooms, including the Crypt, the Great Hall, the Painted Room, plus a little exhibition of judges wigs and gowns upstairs.
Craig has tried this tour himself and given it a mixed review on his blog. He still thinks it's worth doing simply to see the interior architecture, but the sixty-minute monologue at the beginning is hard work. There are times when it seems more like a lecture than a tour. Feel free to ask him some questions before you go, if you're wondering whether its worth it.
If you enjoy the tour then maybe you'd like to come back and watch a real-life court case. Craig has been to see one of those as well, and he definitely recommends doing that. Read his review of a court case to see what it's like (he recommends this more than a tour).
Note: If you'd rather walk around yourself for free, without a guide, then you can simply turn up Monday to Friday and pass through security. A leaflet is usually available on the reception desk which suggests a good walking route around the building.
Craig’s review – “I turned up an hour early and of course I'm soaked to the skin. What is going on with the weather lately? It's raining every day and night. Where's all the water coming from? I turned up at the Royal Courts of Justice and I had to squelch past security, dripping through the scanners like a fish out of water. It's quite a sight once you get inside. The first thing you… continued”
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