I am studying abroad in London this summer, do you have any suggestions of places to go or need to see things?
Sure! I’ve gotten a few asks about this in the last few days, so hopefully everyone will see this answer. Here are some suggestions:
- Borough Market - This is one of my favorite spots in London. It’s basically a huge food market, and definitely one of the best ones I’ve been to. The market is a little way from the London Bridge tube station, and is directly next to a church which is very cool (and totally worth looking inside!) My favorite thing to do is walk around and try all the different samples, but my biggest suggestion for the market is a small grilled cheese stand that’s just outside of the courtyard of the church. There’s always a huge line for it, and it’s about 10 bucks, but you’ll never ever have a better grilled cheese in your life.
- Museums - Obviously, you have to go to the British Museum and to the National Gallery (I would highly recommend the second floor, impressionist rooms. The Monet collection is out of this world!) But on a less obvious note, I would suggest the The Courtald Gallery on the Strand - it costs money, but it’s a fantastic, small art museum that’s held in a really beautiful building. If you have time, I would also suggest the Museum of London and the Imperial War Museum, but both of them will take at least half a day each (the Imperial War Museum is pretty far away, but close to the tube station). Also, really quirky suggestion, but there is a museum just outside of Hyde Park called Apsley House, which is the house of the Duke of Wellington. It’s one of the weirdest museums I’ve ever been in but really awesome - it’s especially cool if you read up first about the history between the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon (the story behind a huge ten foot statue of Napoleon in the stairwell is one of my favorite things ever). Also: The Tate and Tate Modern, if you have time. Tate Modern will cost money though - they have a permanent collection, but it’s never as interesting as the new exhibitions.
- Theater - London has, in my opinion, the best theater scene in the world, and you have to take advantage of it. You can go to a play at the West End but in my experience, it’s really expensive and not as good as plays that are put on at smaller theaters. Check out what’s playing at some of these theaters, and you should be able to get some reasonable tickets: Southwark Playhouse (this theater is amazing, it’s made out of an abandoned tube station so the stage consists of two huge tube tunnels), The National Theater (panders to a greater audience, but the tickets are cheap and they usually play three to five plays at a time so there’s lots of options), Young Vic, and Barbican Centre. The National and Barbican both have bars in the lobby, so they’re a nice play to hang out before the play as well.
- Walks - Literally. Just walk around. It was one of my favorite things to do in London. My favorite walks include bridges, particularly the Millennium and the Embankment bridges, because they have such amazing views (nothing is better than walking over the bridge with St Paul’s in the distance). Go from Tottenham Court Road, through Charring Cross, through Leicester Square and China town. There are tons of tube stops on the way, but honestly it’s not a long walk. Go from Trafalgar Square to Picadilly circus. There are signs everywhere with maps on it, so you don’t even need a GPS. Walk through Hyde Park, or spend the afternoon in Regent’s Park following the same path that Virginia Woolf laid out in Mrs Dalloway. Walk down the Strand, past theaters and the court houses. There’s so much to see just by walking around and looking and, best part, it’s free!
- Churches - Obviously. St Paul’s is expensive, but if you go on Sunday it’s free, and they often have free organ concerts in the afternoons. There is almost always someone playing music on the back steps, so spend some time out there. There’s no way to get out of paying for Westminster, but you should just pay the money and take the audio tour - it’s a really amazing place. If you can get out of London, I would suggest taking the train to Salisbury (where Stonehenge is!) - the cathedral there is one of my favorites in the world.
- Other - Check out the basics: Tower of London (go early so you don’t have to wait in line at the crown jewels), walk over London Bridge, see Big Ben and Parliament, go on the London Eye if you want to (pretty cool, but v expensive), walk through Covent Garden, see the street performers in all of these places, get harassed by someone wearing a queen mask, etc.