London doesn’t sleep, ever. There is always something to do, a show to see, a new walk to take, a market to venture through (for a free lunch) and the people… wow, the people! Only in London can a girl get away with wearing combat boots, torn fish net tights under a brown corduroy skirt tucked under an over-sized belted button-up complete with maroon hair and a cocked fedora. Only in London is that okay. And no one looks twice.
If you’ve never lived in London, here are seven really good reasons why you need to get on priceline.com right now, book tickets, and make it happen. Even if it’s just for a month between jobs, or for the summer between semesters, or if it’s for a year. Because if not now, when? And trust me, you don’t want to miss this city. Visiting London is one thing, living in London is totally different.
#1 The Green Space:
Hyde Park, Regents, Queens, St. James, Kensington, the list goes on. London is unique when it comes to big cities in that the amount of green space per concrete jungle block is at an incredibly healthy ratio. If you want to escape the city smog and smoke, the smells and sirens, go for a walk in any of these parks. Hyde (the largest) is most like Central Park in NYC, although there is the huge Lake Serpentine in the middle. Rent a paddle boat for 7 pounds, grab a cup of coffee and catch some rays on the deck, feed the ducks, watch the swans. You won’t feel like you’re living in one of the biggest cities in the world. And when you’ve had your fill of fresh air, rejoin the hum of London.
#2 Killer Real Estate
It’s not cheap, but unlike other big cities, landing an apartment
in a great location in 24 hours? Totally doable. Most landlords operate on a weekly rent basis so you can pay monthly, but you’re charged weekly. This makes it much easier to rent for shorter amounts of time. So many buildings in London are on the historical protection list and have been converted to housing instead (since people will always want a place to live) so you’re talking prime-central-London locations. Plus, if you have specific desires for a certain kind of neighborhood, you’ll find it in London. If you want to rent in Notting Hill (in hopes of landing a cute British bookshop beau like Julia Roberts) then you can. If you want to live by great middle eastern restaurants and culture, check out Edgware. To be a straight shot from the night life areas, live east or west of Picadilly. If you want to live by other college kids check out Goodge Street (on Tottenham Court Road) or Holborn.
Tip: London is divided into 6 transportation zones. Zones 1 and 2 are considered the prime central London zones. If you don’t mind a slightly longer tube ride, check out much cheaper housing in zones 3-6.
#3 Theater Tickets and Theater
I’m pretty sure that finding 20 dollar day-of Wicked tickets is never going to happen in New York. But in London, I landed great Wicked tickets for 18.50. Typically day-of tickets run from 20-30 pounds at the cheapest for all shows, but if you walk up and down Leicester Square and ask for a quote from every ticket booth at their best price, you can typically shop around and find a good deal. Wicked is now on tour in America and coming soon to Minneapolis– for the same show in London I payed about 30 USD, and I know people who are paying upwards of 90-100+ USD for tickets stateside. London theater is unmatched. Also, for five pounds you can see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe theater–we went to see MacBeth (not one of my favorites) but the troop’s uses of the stage, the articulation, the costumes… it was cool to see it how Shakespeare imagined it.
#4 The Nightlife
London is a city that never sleeps. Whether you’re a person who likes a chill pub and good conversation with your friends or a raging dance club, (or both) you’ll find it. Bars close early (typically 11:30pm) but clubs open up, and places with bar-like atmospheres with clubs downstairs will stay open. (example: Zoo Bar in Leicester Square). There is a huge network of underground clubs and pubs as well– most places have extensive cellars turned into entertainment areas. Don’t miss Waxy O’Connors, an Irish bar in Picadilly that spans the length of three streets underground, has a giant tree in the middle, and feels a bit like Hobbit town in Lord of the Rings.
Oxford Street, the markets, Selfridges, Harrods, Knightsbridge. For more on an English shopping guide and store translator click here.
Transportation in London is expensive to run, but the city is one of the best connected-by-subway cities I’ve ever been in. Most locations are accessible by a tube stop. If not, the buses system runs 24/7 and nightbuses to get home are easy to take, safe and run just about anywhere the tube runs. If you invest in an Oyster card to save 30 percent on transportation, (and even more with a student discount) you won’t be sorry. The tube systems are clean and well maintained (closures resulting from Olympics 2012 are occasionally in effect). London itself is very walkable–within 30-50 minutes you can get pretty much from point A to point B in central London without breaking a sweat.
#7 The Food
I saved the best for last. If you visit London for nothing else, visit it for the food. Everyone says British food is the worst (and they’re right) but London food is absolutely NOT British food. In London you can get a Greek kebab, an Italian pizza, Asian, American, Mexican, you name it. By simply walking around, I’d come across little side streets and areas of town with a whole new slew of restaurants to choose from. Spanish tapas, burgers, salads, french friends, sauces, rices, curries, nuts, cheeses, wines. Lots of places do student discounts, have special deals and most operate on a hear-say basis so don’t be afraid to stop someone and ask for a good food suggestion. The markets especially have great, cheap, authentic food.
London is cool. It’s small enough to feel walkable, big enough to feel BIG, green enough to feel natural. It’s steeped in history (I didn’t even mention all the museums–which are mostly free!– or the cathedrals and palaces which are a must-visit). It is modern and old. Fresh and ancient. Navigable, friendly, and worth an extensive trip. Living here makes you feel alive.