I'll always promote studying abroad in London because it’s a beautiful city, and it’s huge! It’s nearly impossible to do everything worth doing in a week, but London is a great place to call home for a semester abroad. You can experience an amazing city while having a great base in a prime location with easy transportation options for traveling around Europe. Before you do anything, take a double-decker bus tour. It’s touristy, but heck, you’re a tourist! They’re fun and a great way to see the city at a glimpse. Once you’ve done that, here are some of the top places you’ll want to visit while in London.
For outdoor fun
- Hyde Park: Hyde Park is one of the biggest parks in London, with a lot of things to do. There are paddle boats, bike rentals, walking trails, dogs galore, and lots of hangout space.
- Regent’s Park: Climb to the top of the hill for a picnic with a great view of London.
- Shoreditch: This is the fun, hipster side of town with great food and activities. The vendors are always changing, and you never know what you’ll find when you go.
- Kensington Gardens: Check out these special gardens next to Kensington Palace (where Prince William and Kate Middleton live).
- South Bank: Walk along the River Thames from Big Ben to Tower Bridge. Along the way, you’ll see street performers, food trucks, and beautiful scenery.
For food lovers
- Camden Market: Head to Camden Market for shopping and food vendors from all over the world. And they all make their food from scratch. I highly recommend you visit a couple of times!
- Nandos: They have Portuguese chicken, and it’s Ed Sheeran’s favorite place. How could you go wrong?
- Milk Train: They have great ice cream in general, but they also have a kind of ice cream with a cloud of cotton candy around it!
- Fait Maison Salon de Thé: It’s the cutest breakfast restaurant. They have great eggs and a wide variety of gelato flavors.
- Secret Tea Room: In Piccadilly, you have to first find a secret bar. After discovering the bar, ask the bartender about the Secret Tea Room, and they’ll direct you to fancy tea upstairs. I can’t tell you where it is, though, because it’s a secret. Shhh!
- My Old Dutch: Dutch pancakes—enough said.
- Gourmet Burger Kitchen: If you’re missing home, this place has the best American burgers. Also, get the cheese fries; they are great.
- The Drunken Monkey Restaurant: This place not only has a great name but also amazing Asian food with large portions.
- Chin Chin Labs: Nitro liquid ice cream—also enough said.
For city activities
- Paddle boating in Hyde Park: Rent a paddle boat with your friends for an hour to explore the park in a new way.
- Boat ride down the River Thames: They have many locations for a cruise down the river. You could even do a night cruise to see the city after dark.
- Shopping in Covent Gardens: A great shopping market with affordable stores.
- Piccadilly Circus: Shop at the boutiques on Carnaby Street and watch the street performers while you walk around.
- Sky Garden: A public garden in the sky that can be viewed at the top of one of London’s highest buildings, providing a great view of the city too.
- Shopping on Notting Hill: This is the site for the Julia Roberts movie Notting Hill, and they have more great food vendors, including fresh fruit and veggies.
- Harrods: Admittedly an expensive store, Harrods is so big and great just to walk through. For giggles, check out their prices anyway!
- Junkyard Golf Club: Play glow-in-the-dark mini golf complete with a bar.
For nightlife vibes
- Ballie Ballerson: Get in touch with your inner child again and visit this adult ball pit that glows in the dark.
- Bletchley: It’s a spy-themed bar that uses WW2 Enigma machines and protocols to create personalized mixed drinks for each person.
- The Arms: There are many pubs around London named [fill in the blank] Arms. They all have great relaxing pub atmospheres, and it’s where the locals usually hang out every night after work.
- Cocktail Trading Company: Featuring specialty drinks in a relaxing atmosphere.
- London Eye: You’ve probably heard of the big observatory that looks like a Ferris wheel. Take a ride to view all sides of London.
- Big Ben: Who hasn’t heard of Big Ben? Fun Fact: other than chiming every hour like a normal clock tower, it also has shorter chimes every 15 minutes.
- Tower Bridge: Buy tickets to do the walkover of the bridge with a glass floor and ceiling.
- Tower of London: Visit the 900-year-old castle to learn the history of the tower, and don’t forget to see the torture chambers below the grounds.
- Buckingham Palace: If you go in the morning, you can watch the changing of the guard. Also, if the Royal Standard flag is outside, that means the Queen is home.
- Tate Modern Museum: It’s free, so take advantage of it! You can go to the top for another great view of London.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral: Visit the church for a chance to learn its fascinating history and climb to the top of the dome.
- Abbey Road: Get your photo taken on the Abbey Road crosswalk where The Beatles took their famous album cover picture. Be careful of traffic though!
- Westminster Abbey: Tour the church where Prince William and Duchess Kate got married.
- Trafalgar Square: It’s a great lunch spot, and it has the National Portrait Gallery Museums.
- Parent Trap House: Located in Knightsbridge, it’s like visiting your childhood!
- Wembley Stadium: You can get a tour of the stadium or get cheap tickets to a soccer game.
London has a lot more to do than just these options, but these were my highlights. Be sure to Google any places you'd like to visit in case they've closed or been replaced—business has changed a lot since COVID-19! And if you want to get around with ease, use the Citymapper app and get yourself an Oyster card for the Tube (the nicest subway system I’ve ever used). Have fun and be safe!
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