Kicking off a life in London isn’t easy. But it helps when one of your best friends did it just six months before you board your plane. The Syracuse University study abroad program sends students every semester to London and one of my friends happened to go fall 2009. Here are some of the London-bests from an American student perspective if you hit the city for a limited time. Most of the areas Peter talks about are in the Bloomsbury neighborhood and greater central London. If you buy a zone 1 and zone 2 travel card or if you snag a street map, you can enjoy some of the best London eats, parties and shows.
Peter: OK FOOD, you know how much I love that so that’s where I will start.
Near campus there is a place called Hummus Bros…SO GOOD, reasonably priced, great for lunch. I always got the vegetable salad with feta so good! They also have decent guac.
Another place near school is this vegetarian/vegan café. I went to all the time the food is AMAZING and really cheap and they give you good portions. Its called Mary Ward Center, if you walk out of Faraday house and turn left and walk down Old Gouchester St. it will be on your right on the corner in like less then 100 yards. It’s a white building. It doesn’t look like a cafe but it is! Trust me its worth it ! SO GOOD! They have different stuff every day.
There is a little pub near school also called The Swan, they have good fish and chips and the rest of the food is pretty good.
I’m sure they will tell you about this, but there is a pub called Shakespeare’s Head, right down the street from school and the Royal National where you will be staying for the first week. It is a pretty relaxed pub, drinks are cheap!!! that’s a major plus. A cocktail pitcher is like 7 pounds! Cheapest I’ve seen in London. It is right near the Holburn tube stop.
Thai Square : DELICIOUS Thai food. They have locations all over London. I went to the one in Covent Garden. It is a pretty nice restaurant, not bad prices, considering it’s a nice restaurant in London. I think it was like 12 pounds for a noodle dish with chicken. 166-170 Shaftsbury Ave.
Masala Zone: Great Indian food. I’ve never had it before I came to London and this was a good place to experience it. It was delicious. If you go pre-theater time (this applies to pretty much every restaurant in the west end) you can get GREAT DEALS!!! I think it was 11 pounds and we got a starter and entree! It is located in Covent Garden, if you walk in front of the Royal Opera House and you look straight at it from across the street, it is the little street to the right. It’s called Floral Street.
Texas Embassy: Get off the tube at Piccadilly Circus. I’m not sure of the streets but I am pretty sure they have a website. It is amazing Mexican food, they give you free chips and salsa (anything in London that is free you take) and THE BEST margaritas!!! So good if you go for happy hour they are like 3 pounds 50 (that’s really cheap for London). GREAT PLACE we didn’t find it till the end but I went 3 times in the last month. Reasonable food prices also!
The Orangery: this is at Kensington Palace; it is a great place to experience high tea with out hurting your wallet. It’s reasonably priced. For 13 pounds you get cucumber sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and a piece of orange cake and your own pot of tea. Lot’s of fun, I recommend it!
Tea at the Ritz: OH MY GOD is all I can say one of my favorite things we did in London!! Such an amazing experience, we were the only ones in the program to do it and it was the best time. It is a little pricey but if you can put aside 37 pounds you won’t regret it! Even if you have to put like 5 pounds aside for a week to save it up DO IT! You have to make reservations a while in advance. I think we booked towards the end of Sept. for the beginning of November. So plan accordingly if you choose to do it! I know you would love it. We got all dressed up, the place was so elegant. There was a pianist playing and we ate off of fancy china and drank out of a silver tea pot. We felt pretty special. You get tons of finger sandwiches, AMAZING scones and all this delicious pastries and cakes, plus endless tea! It is worth it! Definitely consider it.
A Night Out:
O’Neils : Get off the Piccadilly tube stop and walk towards China Town. We went every Thursday and so did most of the program. It was TONS of fun! We always said O’Neil’s never failed to disappoint. Its three stories, the first two floors are bar/pub like but the third floor the usually have a live band till like 1ish then they have a DJ till they close at 3am. There is a bar on every floor and its tons of fun. Cocktails are expensive stick to beer here! I went with my good friend Guinness but you NEED to try a snake bite. %The girls got them all the time: it is beer, cider and raspberry liquor. Thursday night it is free to get in. I think they charge Friday and Saturday.
The Walkabout : The one we used to go to closed but there is one in Temple. It is an Australian bar, casual, a good place to go if you don’t know what to do. They usually play good music also.
The Church: YOU NEED TO DO THIS. NEED. Period. We waited till our last weekend and wish we had done it more. It is a club on Sunday. It opens at 12 and stays open till 4 in the afternoon. It’s cheap, I think 7 pounds and you get a bag with 3 beers in it. They play great music and everyone dresses up in costumes. It was one of our most fun going out in London experiences.
Sports Cafe: I HATE THIS PLACE, but most people love it so I figured I would mention it. It’s in Piccadilly Circus. I only went once but pretty much half the program went on Tuesday nights. Most people loved it so try it out.
You can NOT go to London with out going to the west end. Thats like going to NYC and not going to see a Broadway show. See at least 5 shows while you’re there. Take advantage of student concessions, most theaters offer them. You go to the theater like 2 -1.5 hours before curtain (shows start at 7:30 in London FYI) and go to the ticket office and ask if they have student concessions for today’s performance. If so you will show them your student id, and you get great seats for 25 pounds. I had 6th row to Wicked and sat in the Royal Box at Oliver. So you get the best seats they have available. London is known for its theater so GO! I saw 31 shows.
Top Seven Shows:
Oliver – SO GOOD! All I can say just go see it !! This is a requirement. If you see one show see this.
Warhorse- If you can tickets you MUST go see this. It was one of the best things I have ever seen, such moving story. Even the Queen went to see it.
Les Miserable- Try Saturday matinee, this one they don’t always offer student concessions but it is the worlds longest musical, it is amazing.
Legally Blonde- I thought I was going to hate it but I actually loved it…such a fun high energy show.
Sister Act- If you liked the movie then see this, it’s funny and the woman who plays Whoopie is phenomenal. I don’t think they have student concessions but you can get 25 pound seats in the balcony. Great music, sets, costumes.
Wicked- I don’t know if you ever saw Wicked in the states but you should go see it in London. Especially if you have never seen it… it’s impossible to get tickets in NYC to see it so try to see it here. You can get student concessions here also! I think it was equal to New York and even better in some aspects.
Billy Elliot– The boy that plays Billy is UNREAL. I have never seen anything like it in my life. What he can do for his age is mind blowing. My jaw was dropped the entire show. Great music (by Elton John) and a great story. Definitely a tear jerker.
Take advantage while your there because like a said London’s theater is rival to Broadway as the best theater in the world. Also if you have the change See something at the Royal Opera House. I saw Sleeping Beauty the ballet and the Nutcracker. It’s another great experience. They have a thing you sign up for and if they have seats available students can get them for 10 pounds. I saw sleeping beauty for 10 pounds… so it is hard to pass up. Look on there website and try to find how you sign up for the emails… if your interested.
Planning Trips Outside of London:
There is this great company called Sandemans New Europe – Google it for their website. They have free walking tours in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Prague, Madrid and Paris!! FOR FREE they are 3 hours and are amazing. They show you every single site and tell you the history. It’s great to do on your first day because then you get a good understanding of the city. Check what they offer for each city though. They have pub crawls in most cities also which are always fun. We did both the walking tour and pub crawl in Paris and Prague. I highly recommend them.