Samuel Johnson famously said: “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. As a born and bred Londoner, I have to agree with him- there’s so much to do and discover in the city that it’s nearly impossible to get bored, and this makes it the perfect location for students! If you’re considering studying in London or just curious about what the Big Smoke has to offer you, read on for an insider’s guide to the capital.
Explore on foot
If you’re able to, London is best explored on foot. It gives you an opportunity to see so much more of the city, and you’ll get to see loads of tiny details which you might otherwise miss. As well as the more well-known walks around London there are plenty of other things to see off the beaten track. Swap the Southbank for a stroll down the canal where you can take in the sights of Little Venice and even spot some of the London Zoo animals, or skip busy Oxford Street in favour of Brick Lane Market (which is just around the corner from London Met’s Aldgate campus). If you’re a history buff, why not plot a route around the city to take in some of the 900 blue plaques commemorating famous residents from Vincent Van Gogh to Freddie Mercury. Walking around London is not only great exercise, it will help you get your bearings and gives you a whole new perspective on your new home.
Great places to study
While you’re studying in London, you’ll want to find some great places to actually hit the books! While a university library is undoubtedly a great place to work, sometimes you’ll want to stray a little farther away to seek inspiration for your next essay, and there are plenty of places to do this. If you like to work somewhere with a bit of a buzz, why not check out an independent coffee shop? London is full of them, and you’ll be able to support a local business while you study. Alternatively, grab a coffee to go and head to one of London’s many parks or green spaces. I like to get my reading done in East London’s Victoria Park, but there are plenty of options all over the city- from the tiny Phoenix Garden in Soho to the vast expanses of Hampstead Heath, you’ll be able to find the perfect patch of green for you. Finally, If you want somewhere really inspirational, you could always go and study in the British Library itself!
I would be failing in my duties as a Londoner if I didn’t discuss some of the culinary delights the city has to offer. Think of any type of cuisine from anywhere in the world and you can probably find it somewhere. Craving traditional Turkish food? Head down to Green Lanes in Haringey to get your fill of gözleme, köfte and pide- there are so many restaurants on the high street to choose from but my favourite is Selale. Looking for punjabi cuisine that won’t break the bank? Tayyabs is your best bet, but make sure you book or be prepared to queue! Arepa & Co serves up authentic Venezuelan dishes with a modern twist, or head further South to La Barra in Elephant and Castle, a family run restaurant selling a variety of Latin American favourites. If you’d prefer to cook at home, London’s got you covered for that too. There are supermarkets specialising in everything from Persian to Brazilian to Nigerian food and ingredients, or if you’re feeling really brave you could even have a go at foraging! Whether you’re looking to find your new favourite meal or simply after a comforting taste of home, there’s something for all tastebuds.
Cultural capital of the UK (if not the world!)
Did you know that London has over 200 museums? As well as the more well-known ones like the Science Museum and Natural History Museum there are plenty of weird and wonderful alternatives (British Dental Museum anyone?!). Not only are these a fascinating source of information and culture, they could also help you with your studies. Psychology students should check out the Freud Museum near Finchley Road and if you’re interested in engineering the Brunel Museum is not to be missed. A lot of these are free or only require a small donation, so you don’t have to compromise your budget to feed your curiosity. We also have a wide range of art galleries if you’re looking to get creative, and many of London’s theatres offer discounted tickets for students. There are thousands of cultural experiences to be had, meaning you’ll never have a dull moment in the city.
Avoid the bubble
The great thing about living and studying in London is that you don’t end up with a student “bubble” like you do in some campus universities. There’s no distinction between Town and Gown and the whole city is yours to explore and enjoy. This also means you’ll get to meet a whole world of different people, from born and bred Londoners to other International students, and with nearly nine million people living in the city you’re bound to meet some interesting ones! Each new person you meet will expand your horizons and enrich your experience of living here, and you never know, they could also be a useful contact for the future. I started this article with the most famous quote about London, but I’d like to finish it with what I think is a better one: “In London, everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in” – Paddington Bear.
By Amy Collins