Your London Travel Guide
We know that settling into a new city can be difficult, especially if you’re a student.
To make things a little easier, we’ve gathered together the best advice for getting the most out of your study abroad in London. In this London travel guide, you’ll find advice on how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to food, where the best cafes are located, what sorts of side trips you should consider, and much more.
As you check out this London travel guide, keep in mind that Verto will have tons of activities planned for you, so be sure to check in with your Student Life Coordinator to see which of these activities you’ll be able to opt-in to with the group!
No matter where you happen to be at the moment, you’ll never forget you’re in London thanks to the distinct architecture, famous sites, and classic English accent. A major cultural hub, the world’s top museums and galleries are always within walking distance and some of the most prestigious colleges and universities are within its borders. No wonder London is one of the most popular destinations for students to study abroad!
Where to Get the Best Instagram Photo
London is one of the world’s most photographed cities, and it’s easy to see why. Because its history goes back more than a millennium, there’s historical architecture or a famous site to snap a pic of on nearly every street. Here are a few awesome destinations in London where you can create the perfect Instagram post during your study abroad in London.
To tell the truth, gloomy Buckingham Palace isn’t that much to look at on a normal day. But when you happen to be here for the changing of the guard, it’s spectacular. The colorful, noisy event takes place daily in summer, less often otherwise, so check ahead. If you want an iconic shot of a lone guard in a furry black hat, head to the Prime Minister’s residence not too far away at 10 Downing Street.
Europe’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel — a fancy way of saying Ferris wheel — the London Eye is the place to go when you want to get the lay of the land. Step into one of the enormous glass bubbles and you’ll be whisked more than 400 feet into the air. There’s not a better view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. It’s a little pricey, so save a few euros by booking in advance.
Despite the nursery rhyme, there’s nothing here called “London Bridge.” What most people are thinking about is the spectacular Tower Bridge, spanning the Thames river near the Tower of London. It was an engineering marvel in the Victoria era, when steam power lifted the roadway to allow boats to glide by. Everyone’s favorite web-slinger saved the world here at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home.
The best shots aren’t from the outside of this massive museum, but from the massive central courtyard, which has been covered with 3,212 triangular panes of glass that form an undulating roof. The breathtaking space is said to be Europe’s largest covered square.
Go Neighborhood Hopping
If you’re looking to be the star of the photo, why not choose one of London’s stunning neighborhoods as your background?! Each neighborhood of London has distinct architecture and some of the best places to snap a pic include South Kensington (a posh neighborhood with chic white Georgian architecture), Notting Hill (known for its super colorful doors and houses), and Covent Garden (check out “Neal’s Yard” for a surprisingly colorful and lush alley!).
Best Budget Eats
The most important part of any London travel guide?! Food! London has a reputation for being an expensive city for dining out, and justifiably so. But get a little bit off the beaten track and you’ll find plenty of places where you won’t break the bank.
It started out as a food stall, but Butchies was serving fried chicken sandwiches so good that customers wanted them all the time. It opened a storefront in Shoreditch — still our favorite — followed by four others around town. For vegetarians, there’s plant-based chicken that’s pretty darn convincing.
The Cheese Bar
Wandering around Camden Market in search of a place you can actually sit down? The Cheese Bar has a ring of chairs around a handsome marble-topped bar. When you think of the menu, your mind immediately goes to grilled cheese. There’s also their take on more sophisticated fare like Swiss-style raclette. And don’t pass up the five-cheese mac-and-cheese.
Din Tai Fung
When you’re in the mood for dumplings — real soup dumplings like they make in Shanghai — head to this spot in Covent Garden. It looks fancy, with the chefs in a glass-walled kitchen making each of the dumplings by hand, but the prices are reasonable. Did we mention it’s Michelin star rated?! With your pork and vegetable wontons with black vinegar and chili oil, we recommend the chilled seaweed and vermicelli salad.
Your go-to pizza place, Pizza Union has just enough locations around the city that they’re always easy to find. The pies are Roman style, so they have thin, crispy crusts and sophisticated toppings like goat cheese, pancetta, and rocket (arugula, to the rest of us). We like the bustling Kings Cross location best.
Busy, buzzy, and sometimes impossible to get into, Midreds is a local institution. It’s totally worth it when you finally get to sample the wide range of vegetarian dishes. There are a number of branches around the city, but the original in Soho is always a favorite.
Best Cafes to Study In
Coffee culture has taken hold in London, so believe it or not, depending on the neighborhood it might be easier to find a cafe than a pub. Keep in mind that not every establishment is fine with you taking up a table for an extended period, but the ones below will be fine with you pulling out your laptop as long as you make a purchase. Great for getting work done during your study abroad in London!
Apple Butter Cafe
There’s an apple tree in the middle of this little cafe in Covent Garden, giving the place a Garden of Eden feel. The coffee drinks, like red velvet lattes, feel a little decadent as well. There’s reliable internet service and plus just about everywhere to power up your laptop.
This place is in the middle of Soho, but the minute you walk through the door you’d swear you were somewhere in Scandinavia. The design is minimalist, so there’s nothing to distract you from the delicious coffee drinks. Another reason to linger: the city’s best cinnamon buns.
In the sanctuary of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey, this is one of the most beautiful coffee shops you’re likely to have seen. It has soaring ceilings, polished woodwork, and stained-glass windows that sparkle in the light. It’s closed on weekends and for a couple of hours on Thursday afternoon for a church meeting, but otherwise it’s an inspiring place to get some work done.
Best Outdoor Activities
London is a great city for outdoor activities. The options listed in this London travel guide don’t even scratch the surface of the literally thousands of parks in London! Once you’ve finished your last class of the day, head outside for some exercise, to stroll along the river, or just watch the people go by.
People Watch in Picadilly Circus
Throngs of people head to Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in Piccadilly Circus just to sit and watch the city swirl around them. In this context, “circus” comes from the Latin word for circle, and although it lost its circular shape a century ago you can still imagine how it looked. Six major roads converge here, making it feel like the Times Square of London.
Stroll Along the South Bank
This waterfront walk takes in many of the city’s most iconic sights, many of which are directly across the Thames. In warmer weather there’s a carnival atmosphere, with street performers, food vendors, and sometimes dancing in the streets. High above is the London Eye, lit up in candy colors at night.
Hang Out in Hyde Park
It used to be part of the hunting grounds for Henry VIII, but these days the 250-acre park is mostly a place to rest while you’re exploring the city. It’s filled with groups of students hanging out on the lawn, nannies walking with well-behaved children, and, on Sunday, locals with something important to get off their chest literally stand on soapboxes at the famous Speakers’ Corner.
Paddle on the Thames
There are lots of ways to traverse the Thames, from painfully slow (sightseeing cruises in glass-walled barges) to heart-stoppingly fast (speeding around in rigid inflatable boats). Take things at your own pace with a kayak tour either on the river or down the canals that give you an entirely different view of the city.
Getting Outside the City
One of the best parts of study abroad in London? Because of its location in the middle of the island, London puts you within a couple of hours of most places within the U.K. And by train, you’re just over two hour from Paris. There’s probably not another capital city that’s as connected as London.
One of the official residences of the royal family, Windsor Castle is one of the largest castles in the world. It’s had a lot of additions throughout the years, as the first stone was laid in the Middle Ages. Be sure to leave some time for lunch in one of the riverside restaurants in the charming little town less than an hour from London.
A thriving market town, Stratford-upon-Avon is best known as the place where William Shakespeare spent his first and last years. There’s a surprising number of landmarks still here that have some connection to the bard, such as Holy Trinity Church where he’s buried, although you might want to skip them all and just soak in the medieval atmosphere.
It isn’t exactly Hogwarts, but Oxford University has more than a passing resemblance to Harry Potter’s alma mater. Christ Church College’s Great Hall was used as a model for the dining hall in the series. The Bodleian Library was a filming location for some key scenes. And the gloomy cloisters at New College — which, despite the name, is from the 14th century — were used in several of the films.
We know that at this point you’re ready to start exploring London on your own!
We hope this London travel guide comes in handy for your study abroad in London! Remember that the Verto team has a whole list of activities planned for you and your fellow participants. The team is eagerly awaiting your arrival!
Enrolled Participants: Be sure to complete your Student Portal Checklist items today to get ready for take-off!
Prospective Participants: Curious about traveling the world with Verto?! You could study abroad in Florence, Italy too! Submit your application today!