While I’ve been writing different advice articles about studying abroad in general, I wanted to be more specific about the city I lived in-London! I recorded a podcast talking about my favorite spots, but this will be slightly more detailed. I absolutely loved my time in London, so I’d like to talk about some of my favorite places to go while I was there.
Of course my primary focus was academics while I was abroad, but of course I wanted to have fun as well. While New York is the biggest city for live theatre, London also has an incredible amount of theatre performances. I didn’t get to see as many shows as I would have liked, but I absolutely love the West End’s productions. I entered a ticket lottery with my friends. and we got discount tickets to see a production of “The Book of Mormon.” Theatre wasn’t my main focus of entertainment while I was there, but I still enjoyed having the access to so many great shows.
The main form of entertainment that I focused on was live music. As a music photographer, it was imperative that I experience London’s music scene. I went to a lot of concerts while I lived there, with a mix of bigger and smaller musicians. I got to attend a show at Alexandra Palace, which holds 10,000 people in a general admission capacity! My favorite venue was Koko, located in the Camden section of the city. It’s a beautiful theater with multiple levels.
I covered this in a podcast episode, but I want to reiterate just how amazing the museums in London are. Almost all of the museums in the city have free admission, so you can visit as many as you want without worrying about racking up high expenses in admission fees. My favorites were the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery. I also got to visit the Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the Imperial War Museum, and many others. London’s weather is known for being pretty gloomy, which is great for strolling around inside a museum. Each of these places have fascinating artifacts to view.
I spent a lot of my weekends exploring the city, and this included going through the different museums. A big reason why I wanted to take advantage of these places was the fact that in Philadelphia, every museum costs about $20 to enter. I don’t think I’ll ever have such easy access to so many educational places, so it was important to me to appreciate as much as I could.
Of course, I have to mention all the great shopping spots around the city of London. While I don’t consider myself to be a large fan of shopping, I really enjoyed the different places I could go throughout the city! One of the more well-known areas is Oxford Street, where a lot of major stores are located. There’s also Spitalfields, a marketplace that has a lot of homemade items. Harrod’s is one of the more famous department stores, but everything there is expensive so of course it was out of my budget!
As a music fan, I was always on the lookout for good places to buy new CDs. While I didn’t find too many places, I really enjoyed HMV, which is the big music retailer. I also liked Rough Trade East, which is located in Whitechapel area of London. I didn’t want to spend too much money shopping, but I did enjoy walking around the different markets.
Food and Drink
What kind of blog post would this be without mentioning anything about food and drink? London is full of amazing food spots. I’m not the biggest foodie, but I loved the different food spots I saw during my time in the city. The biggest place I would recommend is Camden Town. While it’s definitely become more of a touristy spot, the food stalls there are absolutely incredible. I couldn’t choose a place to eat because all of the options sounded so good. There are also clothing stalls, places to buy art, and a lot of other shopping options within the market. This location is great for spending an afternoon when the weather is nice.
In terms of drink spots, honestly, most pubs are great. I went to a lot of different pubs around the city, and had a great experience at all of them. The drink prices are fairly high, but London is an expensive city so I knew that going in. One of the more expensive places I visited was Sky Garden, which is a beautiful spot at the top of a tall skyscraper. Admission is free, as long as you book a ticket online in advance. The pricey aspect came when I bought a cocktail that ended up being close to $18. It was definitely something I wouldn’t do more than once, but the view was absolutely worth it.
Overall, while I certainly didn’t get to see as much of London as I would have liked, I had an incredible experience during my three and a half months that I spent living in the city. I know I’ll be back multiple times in the future, so I plan on trying to explore new parts of the city with each visit.