Student life in London

Student life in the historic capital
of the United Kingdom

Living in London

London, the capital city of the United Kingdom, is an incredibly cosmopolitan and dynamic city.

London, the capital city of the United Kingdom, is an incredibly cosmopolitan and dynamic city. It has become one of the most diverse cities in the world that is bursting with unique sights and happenings – with dark and interesting history on every corner. Over 300 languages are spoken here, and the city is home to a wealth of different cultures and communities.

London is full of things to do for students. People travel from all around the world to experience student life in London. UWS London welcomes international students and those moving from around the UK looking to experience life as a student in London. (You can read more in our guide to moving to London). Our campus offers attractive, modern facilities in close proximity to many of the major attractions in central London. 

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The city’s infamous underground and train lines make London well-connected. You can travel to almost anywhere in the city on a train or bus from campus (there are even public bus journeys recommended for sightseeing). But it is not just connected from within, it’s easy to travel to the rest of the world, with five international airports across London and the high-speed Eurostar rail link at King’s Cross.

The city is known for having something for everyone, whether you like to spend time alone – exploring, reading or finding a quiet place for prayer – or if you enjoy using your free time to delve into the vibrant nightlife around London and meet new people from around the world. Even though the cost of living is known to be high in this historic city, London is brimming with things you can do for free or at a reduced price with your student discount.

Find out what student life is like in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

Top Attractions

London has experienced some of the most significant events in British history, so it is no surprise that the city is home to some of the world’s most popular and fascinating historic sites. History, both dark and light, can be found wherever you go across London. From exploring the sinister past of London Dungeons and partaking in the Jack the Ripper tour, to getting to know the heart-warming history of London’s first urban farm and the reason the ‘mind the gap’ warning sounds so different at Embankment station compared to any other. There is plenty to keep explorers and history-lovers busy. Here are some examples: 

The Tower of London is a place of wonder that you can reach in 25-30 minutes from campus on the train or cycling on your bike. Despite the Tower of London’s grim history of a place full of torture and death, it is also a place to discover the priceless Crown Jewels and the legend of the Tower’s ravens. You can purchase an entry ticket with your student discount, or you can just enjoy the view from outside as you stop to grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants nearby the Tower and the River. When in London, fish and chips is a must and there is a great place you can go just opposite the Tower of London.

Close to the Tower of London is the picturesque Tower Bridge. Just experiencing the view of Tower Bridge free of charge is exquisite enough, but if you want to explore further you can book onto a private tour over the bridge with your student discount. The tour features a glass walkway at the top and allows you to enter the underground Victorian engine rooms. Although heading inside for a tour is not a must, you can just enjoy walking across the exquisite bridge and finish by finding somewhere to perch. Potters Fields Park, the riverside green space opposite the bridge, provides spectacular views of Tower Bridge, City Hall and The Shard.

If you walk further up the river, you can see the iconic London Eye that gives you unbeatable 360-degree views of London as you slowly rotate over the River Thames. Booking yourself a spot (in advance online if you want to use your student discount) in one of the 32 glass capsules will be worth it to see the unforgettable views of London’s many famous landmarks.

On the same side of the river, you can visit the Tate Modern which is located in London’s former Bankside Power Station. With its famous chimney that towers over the plot, this iconic landmark allows you to explore the UK’s national collection of international modern and contemporary art. The Tate Modern’s artwork dates back as far as the 1900’s right up to the modern day, and you can experience it all free of charge. There are some exclusive exhibitions however that require a paid ticket to explore.

Another great place to visit for free in London is the Natural History Museum. With a cycle docking station near South Kensington tube station, you can keep exploring London on your hired bike and stop off at this next attraction. The museum’s building, with its beautiful architecture, is home to some 80 million items from life and Earth that splits across four galleries. The museum’s most famous attractions are its exhibitions of extinct dinosaurs and blue whale skeletons. You can see just how big a blue whale is as you walk underneath its floating skeleton.

Buckingham Palace is recognised across the globe and is locally known as the focal point of London. If you visit at the right time on the right day, you can witness the Changing of the Guards ceremony as music plays aloud. If you are lucky, The Queen herself might be staying there when you visit. It is a great place to stop on your way to Hyde Park, St. James’s Park and The Green Park. Plus, you are guaranteed to see a few of London’s traditional red phone boxes dotted around the Palace.

Eating Out

London is foodie heaven. From restaurants and cafés to afternoon tea, street food and brunches – there is something for everyone. The diversity in London extends to its vast range of international foods that are available everywhere. The cost of living in London as a student can add up, especially when it comes to food. But there are places dotted around where you do not need to splash the cash to get a great meal.

British Classics

Usually hosting their classic green store fronts and tiled walls inside, a classic pie and mash is a must when living in London as a student. Many of London’s infamous pie and mash shops have been open since the first world war, and you can still get that classic Cockney banter from staff over the counter. Plus, it is cheap and cheerful, with some places serving a reasonable portion of pie, mash and liquor for less than £3.

Brick Lane

A great place for food is on Brick Lane, which you can reach on a 30-minute train or cycle ride from campus, with a bike hire docking station close by. Brick Lane is known for its strip of bring-your-own-bottle curry houses where you can usually expect to barter with the staff as you walk the street for the best deal. It is a great place to try if you love the Indian cuisine and you are looking for a cheap night out.

But that’s not all Brick Lane is famous for. It is also well known for its infamous Brick Lane Beigel Bake, the 24-hour bakery that has been running since 1974. With bagels baked in the traditional Jewish style, you can get a bagel filled with anything from peanut butter to chopped herring. Or you can always opt for one of the classics – salt-beef or salmon and cream cheese. 

Street Food

Some of the best places to find international food all in one place in London are at the street food markets. There are several great street food markets across London and with food ranging from BBQ burgers to Japanese, Spanish and Peruvian, there is enough to keep even the most discerning foodie happy.

Divine and unique vegan street food is on the rise in London. You can find vegan pop-ups and restaurants almost anywhere in London now, but Southbank Centre Food Market is the perfect place to explore if you are looking for plant-based meals and sweet vegan treats. Even if you are with a meat-lover, there is something for everyone at street food markets, including Market Hall Fulham, Kerb Camden, Old Spitalfields, Southbank Centre Food Market and Market Hall West End.

International Cuisine

Covent Garden is a charming place to go if you like a wide variety of food, but you can find specific cuisines almost anywhere around London. You can find great Chinese places in ChinaTown, superb Korean restaurants dotted around central London and Middle Eastern cuisine almost anywhere. There is no shortage of Italian restaurants in London, from on-the-go pizza places (like Joe Public in Clapham) to sit down meals along the river at Southbank.Read more about where you can find the best dishes in London from around the world (featuring dishes from over 80 countries).

Brunch

Although not always on the cheap side, there are pockets of deals you can find to enjoy a brunch or an afternoon tea. From the Hilton Hotel to a regular Mediterranean restaurant on the river, there are endless opportunities for an enjoyable afternoon snack. Brunches and afternoon teas are great places to go if you are with a group and are looking for something to do that makes the most of your daylight hours.

Parks and Gardens

London may be a bustling centre of commerce and enterprise, but it is also one of the greenest cities in the world. With more than 3,000 parks, gardens and green spaces to discover, there is plenty of opportunity to escape the crowds. No matter the weather, there are parks and walking routes you can enjoy and appreciate whether it is sunny, grey or full of snow.

One of the largest and most popular parks in London is Hyde Park. With its vast 350-acre plot of land, there is no shortage of space to find an ideal study spot or a location to relax with friends under the sun. However, if the bustle of Hyde Park is not to your taste, there are lots of stunning scenic parks to visit around London. Here are some examples: 

Student life in London 1

You can feel like you are living in a Jane Austen novel by visiting Hampstead Heath. The 320-hectare grassy sprawl also features swimming ponds that open in summer. Although, even in the warmest of weathers in London, the water can still be pretty chilly.

You can take in the scent of fresh flowers at Regent’s Park, with its beautiful rose gardens, grand bandstand and poetic over-hanging willows. If you are feeling adventurous, you can even hire a rowing boat in the summertime.

Another great park to visit is Battersea Park, which boasts an art gallery and sweet views of the River Thames. It is the perfect quiet study space outdoors for students living in London. You can even check out the bronze sculptures of the Buddhas that watch over the Thames while you relax in the sunshine.

If you love working out with a view of the lake, then Dulwich Park is a fine choice for students. Its charming wooden bridges lead you to an outdoor gym, table tennis courts and football pitches. It is a great place if you love sports and want to keep the cost of living in London down, since its outdoor gym, table tennis, cricket nets and tennis courts are all free of charge. For a fee with a booking, you can use the football pitch or the bowling green.

If you are keen to experience the wildlife that London has to offer while reading in the park, you can visit Richmond Park where you can study outdoors while stags roam free around you. Richmond Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks and is London’s largest ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ and a ‘European Special Area of Conservation’. If you love walking through nature instead of resting in it, then Parkland Walk is a great path to take if you are looking to share a walk with hedgehogs, foxes and deer. The 4km strip is officially the longest Local Nature Reserve in London.

If visiting gardens are more your style, then Kensington Palace Gardens hosts an incredible set of plush gardens that you can enjoy free of charge. While you are there you can enjoy the Sunken Garden, which showcases white flowers to celebrate the life of Princess Diana, and Cradle Walk with its re-twigged lime arches that create a shady tunnel to walk through on a summer’s day. 

For greenery on higher ground, the famous 20 Fenchurch Street (also known as the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building) hosts the capital’s highest public garden. It showcases two bars and two restaurants where you can enjoy a lunch – but expect to pay more for food and drink than your average local pub. Once you have booked your tickets online, you can explore the 360-degree views of the city’s iconic skyline amongst the all-year-round flourishing plants. For those that do not like heights, the lift to the top is not a glass elevator, so you won’t be able to see out of it on the way up (you are better off heading to Sushi Samba for that kind of experience). The great news is that visiting the sky garden is free and there is no obligation to eat or drink when you get up there. Although tickets can be booked online for free, you should aim to book at least three weeks in advance, as spaces can sell out quickly.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Whether the ideal kind of night is going out for drinks at the vibrant bars of London or immersing yourself in the history and local culture without drinking a thing, there is an array of nightlife and entertainment options for everyone. From traditional theatre showings to underground comedy clubs and music lounges, London has a whole host of entertainment choices to suit the interests of students from around the world. Whatever the day of the week, there is sure to be something going on.

Nightlife

London is well-known for its varied and lively nightlife that you can experience as a student any day of the week. Almost every bar and club in London will require you to have your ID on you to let you in, no matter your age. For nights out on your average budget, Camden, Soho and Shoreditch are great choices to find vibrant bars and clubs. 

Camden

Camden is the perfect spot for live music gigs and late-night cocktail drinking. There is something for everyone with bars featuring DJ sessions, heavy-metal tracks, bass music and the latest pop tracks.

Soho

Soho is iconic for its trendy restaurants, live music venues and cool bars. It is also known as the best place in the city for LGBTQ+ clubs and bars.

Shoreditch

Shoreditch is the trending district of London with urban art spaces, rooftop bars, pop-up venues and underground dens. There is lots to explore on a night out in Shoreditch.

Mayfair

If you are not on a budget and you are looking for a finer night out, venues in Mayfair are full of sophistication, quirky cocktails and gourmet dining experiences. Click the headline to read about the best bars in Mayfair.

Most pubs in London close around 11pm most nights and bars stay open until around 1.30am. Generally, the clubs will close their doors around 4am, but for those looking to party until the early hours then ‘Egg’ at King’s Cross stays open until 7am on Saturdays.

Entertainment

Londoners have been going to the theatre on West End since the 1660’s. The Theatre Royal on Drury Lane is the oldest theatre in London, with the venue first opening its doors in May 1663. In the world of today, you can find 39 theatres scattered around the West End with more than enough choice of show. Ticket prices for a theatre showing vary and you can expect to pay more for seats in the stalls or boxes, and less for seats in the balconies and galleries (since they are higher up) although you may be able to grab a student discount at StudentBean on some showings. 

Theatre

For a different kind of theatre showing, you can visit London’s reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe on the Southbank of the River Thames. The theatre has a unique history of being destroyed and rebuilt, with the original theatre’s construction taking place in 1599. It was first destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt a year later but then demolished again in 1644. The replica theatre as it stands today was built once more in 1997 for the public to enjoy a glimpse of life in the Shakespearean age. It is the only building in London permitted to have a thatched roof since the Great Fire of London in 1666. Watching a show at Shakespeare's Globe on a summer's night is unmissable and you can pick up tickets in the yard for any showing for just £5.

Cinemas

If you prefer a more contemporary screening, London is full of cinemas. The city also has the largest cinema screen in the UK at the Odeon BFI Imax at Waterloo, although you can expect to pay for the novelty of the big-screen experience. You can reach the attraction in just 30 minutes from campus via train or bike. For a cheaper option, there are lots of low-priced independent cinemas popping up all around the city, or you can even catch a free screening of old movies on Southbank’s The Scoop out in the open. It is not the best choice for a rainy day, but it’s great on a warm evening in Summer.

For a different kind of cinema experience, the Electric Cinemas of London features sofas and beds, with ‘table’ service throughout the movie where they will deliver you food and drink. You can find an Electric Cinema on Portobello Road in Notting Hill or in the west at White City.

Activities

For more modern forms of entertainment, you can visit the flashy All-Star bowling lanes (off-peak for a cheaper lane booking) for a sophisticated night of bowling where people dress to impress. For a more casual experience, you can head to the lively Junkyard Golf, an indoor mini golf whose slogan is ‘crazy golf, mad cocktails and bad puns’ – with its mini golf courses made from ‘junk’. To save money, you can usually pick up a 50% discount on tickets at Junkyard Golf.

Rooftop Bars

Although normally on the pricier side of things, rooftop terraces and bars fill London. With many open during the day for a quiet place to read over lunch (like Café Kitsuné with its indoor café and rooftop terrace), most rooftop bars are great to venture to on a warm afternoon for drinks and nibbles with your classmates.

Comedy

If you are looking for a laugh and a way of supporting your local rising stars, check out an underground comedy club in London. With lots of venues to choose from, you can meet the performers after their act and head to the bar with the jokers themselves.

Music

For students that are fans of festivals and music lounges – from small, independent music venues dotted around areas like Camden and Brixton, right up to the O2 Arena which is situated close to the campus, London has a lot to offer fans of live music. Camden is the historic centre for new and exciting music, and it is a great place for an evening out. But if your tastes are slightly more classical, London is home to five permanent symphony orchestras and many iconic classical music venues, such as the Royal Albert Hall, Wigmore Hall and the Royal Opera House.

Shopping

Shopping in London is hard to beat, with lively shopping centres to famous streets showcasing global designers. Even if you are not looking to spend any money, visiting these places can be an experience in themselves.

Oxford Street, home to more than 300 stores, is one of the most famous shopping streets to visit in London. You can join Oxford Street from Oxford Circus station, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road or (at the very end) at Hyde Park station. See the famous store window displays at Selfridges or visit the massive flagship Primark store.

The greatest places for shopping and entertainment are the two Westfield Shopping Centres, with locations in Stratford and White City. With more than 250 shops each and more than 80 places to eat, Westfield Shopping Centres are some of the largest shopping malls in Europe. It is not just shopping and food you can get, the Stratford venue also hosts a cinema and casino, and at White City you have an indoor mini golf, making them great places for students to visit for entertainment. If you prefer to shop under the skyscrapers, you can visit the underground Canary Wharf shopping centre, a smaller venue than Westfield that has a mix of designer and high-street shops, alongside places to eat and drink.

If the large shopping centres are not your style, you can always visit the smaller locations in London lined with designer shops amongst the cobbled streets at Seven Dials, Covent Garden and Carnaby Street. Or if you love thrifting and finding handmade or vintage pieces, head to Camden and Camden Lock Market for great clothing deals.

Interesting Places to Visit Around The London UWS Campus

With a student oyster card, London is your oyster. With over 350 stations across the city, London is well-connected. You can hop on a bus, a train or you can hire a bike (from a nearby docking station) almost anywhere in London. Most students studying and living in London will be able to apply for an 18+ Student Oyster Photocard to save 30% on the cost of travelling on London’s public transport network. With the TFL GO app, you can check your train times and closures live on the app as well as plan your journey from one station to another. The closest station to campus is East India on the DLR line that takes you straight into Stratford or to the city centre at Tower Bridge.

Walks

If you prefer staying close by to campus and your student accommodation, there are lots of things you can do nearby. If you are an art-lover, you can opt for walking ‘The Line’, a free route that runs from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to the 02 Arena. You can join the route mid-way through just a short walk from campus. If you are not worried about the art, it is also a great choice to explore the greenery near to the campus and unwind as you take in the nature around you.

Parks and open spaces

If you would rather find a green place to sit and read as opposed to walk through, Greenwich Park is a short train ride away from campus and provides an urban sanctuary for deer, foxes and over 70 species of bird. You can also trek up the hill to The Royal Observatory which showcases spectacular views of Canary Wharf and beyond. It is a great place to sit and study when the weather is warm.

Entertainment

For food, shopping and entertainment nearby – contrary to what you might think – the O2 Arena is not just a place where you can catch a concert. Just a 15-minute train ride or a 30-minute journey on a bus from campus, the o2 has a range of things in store to do. You can browse the shopping mall or eat out after a trip to the cinema or a game of bowling. It is the convenient choice for dining, entertainment and shopping when you want to stay close to campus. If you are a fan of hitting the gym, there are two gyms near campus – with one gym just next door and the other only a 15-minute walk away.

Expeditions

For a more educational trip, the ExCeL Centre is just a 12-minute train ride or 30-minute walk from campus. There are expos at the ExCel to pique everyone’s interest – from intelligent-building Europe, legal, international drinks, coffee shop innovations, workplace wellbeing and the publishing show. Most expeditions are completely free of charge, you just need to book your ticket online in advance.

Library

For a quiet place to study indoors (that is outside of campus but still nearby) is Canning Town Library. It is only a 20-minute walk or a 12-minute train ride from campus and it has desks, books and access to wi-fi. It is also a great place for picking up your parcel deliveries from one of the secure lockers.

Places of Worship Near the Campus

UWS welcomes international students from all over the world and embraces every religion. There are a number of places of worship nearby to campus, including:

London is a diverse city, and these are not the only places of worship that you can find. There are more places of worship to be found around campus and across the whole of London.

Sports in London

London is a great city for almost every sporting event you can imagine. The city is home to many major sporting events. You can find football matches, rugby games, tennis tournaments, cycling events and cricket matches at world-famous venues – from Wembley Stadium to Wimbledon. The city also hosts the London marathon once a year where more than 40,000 people flock the streets to take part, and even more join the buzzing atmosphere and cheer them on.

There is also the Queen Elisabeth Olympic Park, which has become the heart of East London since the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. Not only is it a beautiful park to visit, you can also catch a number of league tournaments and games at the London Stadium, Aquatics Centre, the Velodrome and the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. If you love adventurous sports, you can take on the UK’s highest free fall abseil from the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit. For those preferring the less extreme sports, you can just take the slide down the Orbit. Read here for more adventurous sports you can do in London to get your heart racing.

If you love sports, then it is not just sporting events that London has to offer. You can also head behind the scenes for exclusive tours as you walk the footsteps of legends around some of the city’s biggest stadiums. Explore more of the sporting events and tours that London has to offer.

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