Wondering how you can make the most out of your next trip to London? Let me share with you some tips and tricks I learned from my semester abroad freshman year through UC Berkeley’s Global Edge program!
London has a boatload of tourist attractions that can be hard to squish into one or two weeks! To make traveling around the city easier, I’d recommend purchasing an Oyster card. Oyster cards are essentially electronic smart cards that you can buy in advance or when you arrive that can be used for all public transportation in London. (And yes, this includes both the London Tube and those big red double-decker buses you see in the movies!) Purchasing an Oyster card for your stay will end up being tremendously cheaper than buying single-ride tickets.
Pro tip: If you are a spontaneous adventurer who doesn’t like to plan, I’ll share my method of exploring. First, I’d jump on the Tube (any direction). I’d then pick a number one through 10 and get off at that many stops after. Then, I’d have my friend flip a coin, which would pick the direction that we’d have to go in after getting off the Tube (heads for right, tails for left). We’d wander to the closest restaurant for a meal before exploring random streets where we’d end up finding the coolest buildings, museums, parks and neighborhoods. Strolling around and getting lost for a while was how we’d always find hidden gems. And … don’t worry, Google Maps will be there to take you back to the nearest Tube station once you’re ready to head back.
London has some famous coffee chains known for their friendly staff, delicious baguettes and perfect cups of coffee. From Pret to Caffe Nero, these chains never disappoint. However, I would highly recommend never going to the same coffee shop twice. There are hundreds of independent cafes to choose from in London, so there is absolutely no need to repeat the same location! Get out of your comfort zone and check out Ground Control, Federation Coffee and so many more!
Many people avoid going to the theater because they automatically rule it out as too expensive. But, if you buy tickets far in advance, they don’t have to be a huge cost! I was able to see top performances during my time in London for less than 20 euros simply by purchasing the tickets a month ahead of time.
Also, if you’re looking to spice up your theater adventure, you should 100% book tickets for Shakespeare’s Globe. As cheap as 6 euros for standing tickets, this experience is totally worth it. It’s an open-roofed theater, and when I went, it was pouring rain! Nonetheless, it was a play I will never forget!
Escaping the traffic
London can be quite busy, especially during holiday seasons, when most tourists plan to visit. It is easy to become overwhelmed, and because of this, I have some tips for you! I always escaped to Hyde Park, located in central London, and tried to explore as much of its 350 acres as I could. For a relaxing activity, I’d recommend renting a rowing boat for an hour to soak in the nature around you and take a break from London’s busy streets.
Did someone say free?
So many of London’s museums are completely free to visit! From the Tate museums, showcasing British and contemporary art, to the Natural History Museum, holding specimen collected by Charles Darwin, if you thought museums were boring, think again! As for the British Museum, I can’t even begin to describe how awesome it is. With more than 100,000 objects, you could literally spend an entire day here and be constantly amazed.
My last, and probably most important, tip would be to pack for all weather conditions. In your day bag, carry both sunglasses and a light windbreaker (with a hood) at all times. The weather is absolutely unpredictable, so it’s best to be prepared for any circumstance!
From watching street performers in Covent Garden to walking down Brick Lane, to taking free walking tours, to biking around the city and so much more, London has so much to see that you’d need to devote an entire lifetime to venture every corner the city has to offer. London is my favorite city in the entire world, and I can’t wait for you to visit one day!