One more month. I cannot believe I just typed that. One more month in London. I often feel that my spring semesters end up going by quickly, but this semester has been on an entirely different level. Every week that goes by feels shorter than the last, and I know, in the blink of an eye, I will be packing up and heading home. With the end approaching so quickly, I’ve started reflecting a lot on my time studying abroad. One way I’ve done this is by creating a list of my absolute favorite places I’ve been over here in London Town; places I’ve discovered these past three months that I’m going to be heartbroken to have left behind once I’m back in the U.S. So, without further ado, I present Tori’s Top Ten.
10. London Review Bookshop
The London Review Bookshop is a small bookshop in Bloomsbury, just around the corner from the IES Abroad London Centre. Whenever I find I’ve arrived a bit early for class, I’ll pop over here to just look around at their massive collection of books. They pack over 20,000 titles into the small shop, from cookbooks to contemporary fiction. The other thing I love about this place is the attached cake shop! They have a vast array of hot drinks, perfect for warming you up on a gloomy, cold day, and a fantastic selection of pastries. The staff are extremely friendly (they sometimes even bring you over free cake samples!), the atmosphere is stellar, and the book selection is impeccable.
9. The British Museum
The British Museum, just down the street from the IES Abroad London Centre, is another go-to spot for me. I first visited on my first day of classes here, when we popped over during my Architecture of London class to see some Greek architecture they have on display. This museum is absolutely beautiful (seeing the Great Court in person is just unbelievable), and they have an incredible collection, from the Rosetta Stone (yes, THE Rosetta Stone) to Greek and Roman art to special exhibitions. My personal favorite is all of the Egyptian art they have on display. Best of all, like so many London museums, it’s free!
8. Hampstead Heath
I just went to Hampstead Heath for the first time yesterday, and I had such a good time that it’s managed to make its way onto this list. Hampstead Heath is a huge, hilly park in Hampstead, a neighborhood in the north of London. At its highest point, it provides a spectacular view of London. And just as importantly, it provides some spectacular dog-spotting opportunities. The neighborhood outside of the park is lovely, as well, with bakeries, ice cream shops, restaurants, and an award-winning crepe stand!
7. Churchill War Rooms
I have been telling absolutely everybody about the Churchill War Rooms. Unfortunately, it’s one of the only museums in London that isn’t free. However, they have a great student discount price, and the price of your ticket grants your entrance to the museum as well as a fantastic audio tour. The Churchill War Rooms are a part of the underground bunker that Winston Churchill and his war cabinet used for secret planning in World War II. The rooms are displayed to look just as they would have looked to the staff members who spent hours and hours working there. You really feel as if you’ve gone back in time as you walk along the passageways from room to room. I stayed here so long that they had to kick me out because the museum was closing.
6. Kensington Gardens
Kensington Gardens is one of the Royal Parks of London and one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen, and my absolute favorite place to go on a nice day. Kensington Palace (once the home of Princess Diana, and now the home of William & Kate) is a must-see (it’s located inside the gardens), as well as the Round Pond, which is just stunning, particularly at sunset. This is also another great place to spot some great dogs!!
5. Camden Market
A current Camden resident, there’s no way I could make a top ten list without including Camden Market. Camden Market has everything, from chocolate-stuffed churros to vintage jackets to fresh-squeezed orange juice to handmade jewelry. I have to restrain myself from going there every single day to try out another one of their countless food stalls! If you find yourself there, drop everything and go straight to Chin Chin Labs to try their liquid nitrogen ice cream. You’ll thank me later.
4. Doughnut Time
If you’ve been following my blog posts, you’ll already know about my undying, everlasting love for Doughnut Time. These doughnuts are otherworldly. They are gigantic, beautiful, and they have the best names that will impress any and every pun-lover, from the Berry Seinfeld to the Hans Rolo, to my current favorite, an Easter special: the Egg Sheeran. This is an Australia-based company with UK locations in Notting Hill, Shoreditch, and, my favorite, Soho, in the heart of the West End!
3. The West End
And speaking of the West End…again if you’re a loyal follower, you’ll know about my extreme love for all things theatre. Thus, there’s no way I could make a list without including the entirety of the West End! I’ve been lucky enough to see several West End shows, both through my theatre classes at IES Abroad and in my free time. Stay tuned for another post all about my London theatre experiences, because there’s no way I can include all of my thoughts in just a few sentences here. I will say that I have been stunned by how accessible theatre is here. I am constantly finding out about student discounts for shows, and the lottery and rush systems here are just fantastic.
2. Bloomsbury Coffee House
I am currently at Bloomsbury Coffee House writing this post, so it clearly deserves a place on this list. Bloomsbury Coffee House is the best coffee shop in all of London, and I’m ready and willing to fight anybody who disagrees. It’s located in Tavistock Square, just two bus stops away from the IES Abroad Centre, and my favorite place to do work in the entire world. It’s the definition of cozy, located beneath the St. Athens hotel and adorned with twinkle lights. Their brunch is a must (my favorite dish being the smashed avocado & poached egg toast with halloumi). They also have a rotating lunch menu of different sandwiches and salads and A+ pastry and cake choices, from blondies to chocolate chip cookies to cinnamon buns to carrot cake. With plugs everywhere and free WiFi, as well, what more could you want?
1. The National Theatre
Where to even begin. The National Theatre is my absolute favorite place in London, and chances are, if I have a second of free time, this is where I’ll be. The National Theatre is, first and foremost, one of the most important theatre venues in the world. Some huge names have performed here, such as Laurence Olivier, Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugh Jackman, and so many more. I first came here with IES Abroad, when the IES Abroad theatre classes got a backstage tour and saw their incredible production of Amadeus, and ever since, I’ve been a very frequent visitor. The National Theatre is the best because it’s not just a theatre complex, it’s truly a key London public space. There is a huge atrium area on the first floor, with tons of seating, two cafes, and free WiFi, open to anybody, and this area is open to anybody, not just theatre-goers. They also have an absolutely incredible drama bookshop that with the text of every play and musical you could possibly imagine. It’s also in just about the most beautiful location, right on the Thames so you can look out at the river while you sit in the atrium. I could probably have written an entire post just about how much I love the National Theatre. Truly. I love this building so much that I chose to write an entire paper on it for my Architecture class! And, as if I needed another reason to adore this place, they have a student discount program called Entry Pass, which you can sign up for to receive discounts on tickets, food from the cafés, and the bookshop. It’s just the best.
So, there you have it: my top ten. After writing this, I’m realizing there are a million other places I also could’ve also included, like the Tate Modern, and Hyde Park, and Notting Hill, and Brick Lane, and Borough Market, and just so many more. It’s hard to find somewhere I’ve been in London that doesn’t deserve a place on this list. And then there are all the places that I still need to visit! That’s one of the absolute best things about studying abroad in London: its endless opportunities.
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<p class="MsoBodyText" style="margin-top:2.35pt; margin-right:25.0pt; margin-bottom:.0001pt; margin-left:5.0pt"><span style="line-height:115%">Hi, I'm Tori! I'm a junior English major at Johns Hopkins University. I'm from Boston, but I spent most of my childhood in New York City. Now I'm at school in Baltimore, and I'm getting ready to spend my spring semester in London (clearly, I'm a city girl.) As an English major, you won't be surprised to learn that I love to write and read. When I'm not typing up a paper or engrossed in a novel, you can find me in our theater on campus where I'm a stage manager, checking out restaurants in Baltimore (my current favorite spot is a tiny doughnut shop called Diablo Doughnuts), and taking pictures of anything and everything.</span></p>