How Studying Abroad in London Stole My Heart
From Spectacular View to Pub Crawls, There’s Something for Everyone in this City of 8.1 Million.
By Heather Concannon, Syracuse University
Studying abroad in London was a life changing experience. Yes, it isn’t as intense as being thrown into a country where you need to learn a new language, however being in London for five months opened my eyes to new culture celebrating all things proper. London is a city of 8.1 million people, so needless to say there is something for everyone to enjoy. London completely stole my heart so here are some exciting things to check out while you’re there!
Views from Above: London is scattered with beautiful buildings ranging from the long-standing, Tower of London, to the modern egg. The best way to sneak a peek at all of these architectural icons is to take advantage of all of London’s views. The world famous, London Eye, may appear incredibly touristy, however the 30-minute journey around allows you to get a fantastic view of Parliament Square, Buckingham Palace and all the way down the Thames. Another great view and a brand new addition to London’s skyline is the Shard. Although the Shard is overpriced, if you have the opportunity to take a ride up the 72 floors, the view is breathtaking!
Markets: London is home to over 300 markets. My personal favorites were Borough Market and Camden Market. Borough Market, nestled right underneath London Bridge, features a variety of food and drink. Camden Market is a hipster’s delight, featuring all unique fashions and accessories. One of Camden’s gems is Cyber Dog, a futuristic store featuring a Zenon-looking clothing line and funky accessories, all set to pumping techno beats complete with dancers.
Museums: London is home of some of the most famous museums in the world ranging from art museums to natural history museums. Best part? General admission is free!! As a huge art lover, my two favorite are the Tate Modern and the Victoria & Albert. The Tate Modern features a world-class collection of contemporary artworks included works by Picasso, Pollock and Lichtenstein. The Victoria & Albert (V&A) is world famous for its fashion collection.
Day trips: London is a perfect gateway to visit many of England’s other cities and towns. London’s several train stations and bus stations allow easy access to famous places such as Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool and many others. If that isn’t enough, London also has trains running down into France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany.
Bars & Clubs: Let’s be honest – London’s nightlife is crazy and definitely worth being a part of. Piccadilly Circus and Camden Town are home of some of the coolest clubs and pubs in the city. Some standouts in my experience were Café de Paris (a burlesque themed night club), Proud Camden (an old hospital refurbished into a nightclub). But if you are studying abroad, check if there are any promoters in your program who can get you discounts or free entry. Taking advantage of these promoters will save you money and might even get your group a couple of bottles FOR FREE. If the club scene isn’t your style, and you much prefer a pub environment, O’Neil’s would be a great pick for you. O’Neil’s is a typical Irish pub nestled in the middle of Chinatown, even featuring a live band. Many visitors from all over Europe tend to drift to this hopping pub for its authentic feel and cheaper options. Another great option to expose yourself to more bars/clubs would be to join a bar crawl – the Camden Pub Crawl was my personal favorite.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: The home of the 2012 summer Olympics holds a special memory in Londoners hearts. Although the Olympics are over, the Olympic Park is transforming into a new neighborhood with unlimited entertainment. When I went over the park, the entire area was under construction allowing us to only sneak a peak at what’s to come (and a fun journey up the Orbit with a spectacular view of London) – but all I can tell you that it will be like no ordinary park!