London - The Capital of Learning
Boasting both the world's oldest parliament and largest library, London has long been associated with excellence and innovation in the fields of learning and debate. Add to this some of the most esteemed higher education establishments in the country and a reputation as a thriving business capital, and it’s easy to see why London continues to attract a heavy stream of international students. Three of the top-rated MBA schools in the world are based here - each of which exploits the capital's diverse business community to provide work and experience for students. While for law, medicine and media studies the various universities and colleges are globally considered the best in their field. As well as providing a stimulating educational environment for over 400,000 students, the UK’s diverse and inherently multicultural capital is steeped in history, offers a lively social scene, and has emerged as probably the most influential centre for cutting-edge arts and entertainment in the world.
PlanningWith so much to offer, sometimes the sheer scale of London can overwhelm even its long-term residents. For international students, new to the capital, navigating a path through the maze of distractions can be daunting. Finding a trusted and reliable source of information prior to your arrival can be key to alleviating any unnecessary anxiety. Find out as much as you can before you travel. Whether it’s identifying the best budget place to eat near your hall of residence, college or university, or sorting out a great deal on a hotel for visiting friends or relatives, it's good to cover some bases before you set out.
If you're stranded out and about and urgently need to log on it’s worth bearing in mind that there are lots if budget internet cafes dotted throughout the city. You’ll also find that nearly all the public libraries spread throughout the capital offer internet and word processing for free as well as a multitude of other services. Southwark, Westminster, the City and Lambeth libraries are the most central. You may need to register – check for details.
Getting AroundFrom Oyster Cards to the Congestion Zone, London like any other capital city has its own curious quirks when it comes to travel. The largest city in Europe by far, its sprawling streets and intertwining Tube network can be quite overwhelming when you first arrive. Visitors from the States, for example, will find that none of the streets are in blocks and are instead denoted with seemingly arbitrary names, rather than numbers. Although London can initially seem confusing and extraordinarily large, once you get the hang of it you'll realise that everything is actually a bit closer together than you thought. Remember the walking distance between two Tube stops in central London is never more than 10 minutes, sometimes a lot less. Combining Tubes, trains and buses, the city boasts an excellent (if in parts rather antiquated) public transport system, allowing you to get around 24 hours a day. Money is, of course, an issue and travelling can be costly if you don’t do your research. An Oyster Card should be one of the first things to invest in. Work out how regularly you’re going to travel around and within which zones and then buy a package that suits you.
Jumping on one of London’s famous red public buses is a cheap and authentic way to see the sights at your own pace. With a Travel Card, Oyster Card or bus pass you can jump on and off, as and when you feel like it. You can combine any of the routes for a trip around central London but there are four particular journeys which are great for a sightseeing spree direct from the top deck… Numbers 8, 11, 12 and 15 all allow a bird’s eye view of London’s iconic landmarks.
Eating and DrinkingOver recent years, London has fought its way to the top of the pile when it comes to internationally acclaimed fine dining. While eating out at The Ivy may not be within most international students’ budgets, the capital is positively teeming with restaurants and pubs offering good quality food at reasonable prices. The key, again, is to do your research and to keep your eyes and ears open for deals and offers.
Central London, in particular, is bursting with restaurants and bars trying to attract the lunchtime crowd. Soho and the West End are heaving with places that offer meals for as little as £3. Pick up flyers as you walk around as these are often the best way to find out about these ever- changing deals.
Many city centre pubs and bars hold regular Happy Hours, during which drinks are sold at discounted prices or as part of 2-for-1 offers. These usually take place from 17:00-19:00. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk around the centre for flyers or posters advertising special deals and details.
Leicester Square to Tottenham Court Road offers the best selection of specialist, chain and second-hand ShoppingFrom the boutiques of Bond Street to the teeming Oxford Street fashion stores and out-of-town street markets, London has something to suit every type of shopper. Bustling, busy and full of life, the capital's markets are an integral part of London life and great for bargain hunting students. All markets are open year-round, whatever the weather; however opening hours may vary as they are at the discretion of individual stall holders. For smaller items, most holders will only take cash (usually only £ sterling). When buying larger, more expensive items you can ask for a receipt and a written description of the item from the vendor. Beware of designer goods being sold vastly below the normal price. Although these may be genuinely 'second quality' or ends of ranges, there are some fakes about. Occasionally, you will be able to reduce the price by bargaining. In many markets, the very best bargains come at the end of the day, when anything perishable is sold off - so watch out for big bags of bagels, and parcels of fruit and flowers going cheap.
The home of novels and novellas, essays and encyclopaedias, bestsellers and booklets the stretch of road from Leicester Square to Tottenham Court Road offers the best selection of specialist, chain and second-hand bookshops in the capital. From the glossy art books in Zwemmer and the gruesome crime fiction dripping off the shelves of Murder One to the sheer wealth of fiction and non-fiction literature available in big stores - Foyles, Blackwell's and Borders - this area is a haven for literary lushes and academics. Harry Potter fans, in particular, familiar with the Leaky Cauldron pub alluded to in Rowling’s 6th book in the series, will be pleased to know that this magical watering hole is conveniently located along this stretch. Movie-buffs will also be interested in the street, which achieved fame through the book and subsequent film ’84 Charing Cross Road’. Inspired by her long-standing correspondence with Frank Doel of Marks & Co – a bookshop located on the street - New York writer Helene Hanff published her interpretation of events in 1970. While the shop no longer exists there is a plaque marking its former location. Generally speaking the specialist, second-hand stores are located on the southern part of the street nearer Leicester Square, while the bigger, more mainstream outlets are further north, near Tottenham Court Road. But basically, if you like books you'll like Charing Cross Road.
A quintessentially British event, car boot sales allow members of the public to rifle through unwanted goods packed by eager sellers into the boot of their cars. There’s usually plenty of junk but a number of treasures are also there to be uncovered. Turn up early to catch the bargains. The following locations usually host good car boot sales early on Sunday mornings: New Covent Garden Market (Nine Elms Lane, SW8), Cold Harbour Lane (Brixton, SE5), and opposite the Odeon cinema (Holloway Road, N7)*. * Times and dates can change at short notice so always check in advance.
SightseeingLondon is home to over 300 museums and galleries, making it the epicentre of culture and collections in the northern hemisphere. From the world's largest maritime museum to an art gallery in an old power station, the capital delves into the history of everything from boats to Botticellis and mosaics to manuscripts. Cash-strapped students can benefit from the fact that most of London’s galleries and museums are totally free to visit and offer a rolling programme of unique, state-of-the art installations and exhibitions in addition to their internationally-acclaimed permanent collections. Compared with this, many of the capital’s most popular attractions can appear fairly expensive. Students qualify for discounted rates in most instances, so carrying a student ID card is key to obtaining the best deals. If you intend on viewing a large number of attractions in a short period of time, it can make sense to invest in something like the London Pass. Alternatively, there are also a number of great attractions that are free to visit. The key, again, is to do your research in advance.
A London Pass costs as little as £13 a day for a 6-day pass and offers you a chance to avoid the queues, plus free entry to over 50 attractions, a free guide book, free walking tours and other special offers. Attractions covered include the Tower of London, St Paul's Cathedral, Windsor Castle, London Aquarium, HMS Belfast and Kensington Palace.
EventsIt’s hard to find a more culturally dynamic city than London. Every evening plays host to hundreds of diverse events, from intimate gigs and improv comedy nights to West End theatre and musicals, fringe productions, late-night exhibitions and film festivals. An online events guide is essential when it comes to finding out what’s on, when and where. Unlike weekly publications, online guides are able to update details as they change so you know you’re getting the most accurate information available. Sign up to receive a regular events guide like LondonMonthly.com or log onto LondonTown.com’s events guide. It also pays to book online for cheap tickets and entertainment packages.
Engaging, informative and comprehensive, London’s essential events guide is totally free and arrives in your Inbox on the first day of the month. Pointing out the best the city has to offer, it keeps you clued up on the pick of the capital’s plays, art exhibitions, sporting events, concerts, gigs, and much more… Browse the month’s events, select the ones that interest you and create your own personalised, printable listings guide. You can even generate information on events local to you. LondonMonthly is a great way to stay in touch with London life. Sign up online at www.LondonMonthly.com
- Free lunchtime concerts held in many of the City of London's architecturally beautiful churches. They usually begin at 13:00 and feature organ, orchestral, choral and chamber music.
- The Prince Charles Cinema's ‘Feel Good Friday’ deals, offering film tickets for just £1.
- Tickets to free TV and radio recordings organised by SRO Audiences, The Applause Store, Granada, Channel 4 and Hat Trick productions. Register your details online and then apply specifically for each of the shows posted.
- Film festivals offering free screenings, talks and associated events. August hosts the ‘Portobello’ and the ‘Rushes Soho Shorts’ festivals. October hosts the British Film Festival.
LanguageEnglish is a truly global language offering a gateway to business, learning and social success. The best way to learn is to combine group and individual learning.
Where to StayInternational students studying in London - one of the most popular cities in the world - often find themselves “suddenly” overwhelmed by offers of visits from friends and relatives. Finding overnight space for a flurry of visitors can be tricky if you’re living in halls of residence or student accommodation, so being able to find great deals on good hotels, b&bs and apartments is essential. With discounts of up to 75% and full customer support, LondonTown.com has the best booking service in town. Browse all kinds of accommodation, from budget bed and breakfasts and family apartments to the finest luxury hotels and book knowing that every establishment is quality controlled so you can be confident you’re offering your guests the best available option within their individual price-range. While there are some great last minute deals available, it pays to book ahead if you can and booking online means you’ve got the latest availability details at your fingertips.
Every LondonTown.com accommodation booking comes with a FREE range of gifts including tickets for two on a sightseeing tour, Terence Conran’s ‘Eat London’ book, illustrated maps, a downloadable audio guide and a unique personalised events guide.