We students occasionally like to take a break from working hard (supposedly) and go somewhere to relax and, spending most of our time in Southampton (which isn’t the most picturesque city ever) we are likely to want to go out of town for a day or two. The most probable day trip destinations are towards the north (unless you fancy a swim in the channel!) and London is one of them – it is not too far away and there is always something to do!
Of course, everyone has already been there and has a profile picture with either Big Ben or a red telephone box and a collection of selfies with the bored looking guards in front of Buckingham palace. But there is still an endless list of things to do in London after you have seen everything that usually appears on postcards.
For example, there are thousands of restaurants in London, and most of them don’t only have pizza and bbq wings on the menu, so leave Pizza Express and Nandos behind! You can find anything, from amazing noodle dishes in China Town, to little fancy French macaroon shops (if you are prepared to drain your entire weekly food budget and then live on beans on toast until the next weekend). You could also visit the food market in Camden town or set up a picnic in one of the many parks if you’re visiting in the warmer part of the year. Just remember there is a 50% chance of rain in London on any given day and while damp cupcakes might not be worth it, skewered shrimps would totally justify sitting down in mud for.
The parks are in fact one of my favourite features of the city. Although they are usually very crowded, they always offer beautiful sights, especially in spring and summer due to the gorgeous flower gardens (and spring is coming soon!). Hint: the gardens are always a good background for mandatory photos that you would probably take at some point during the trip. And don’t forget to feed the squirrels!
If you have an appreciation for art and/or history, don’t forget to visit some of the many museums and galleries. Most of them have no entry fee. And if you’re into supernatural occurrences, Google search suggests you can witness many such things in London, including but not limited to: the phantom chicken of Highgate, the ghost of a Number 7 bus haunting Ladbroke Grove and the Prancing Statue of Westminster. Yes.
It takes around two hours by coach and around an hour by train to get to London from Southampton and those two means of transportation take you directly to the city centre, which means you can get to many relevant places on foot, bike, bus or underground. Hiring a bike can be a great way to get around this vibrant, busy city, but be sure you are confident enough on roads before hand! Maybe take a ride down Portswood road to try first!
If you generally dislike crowds, you should by all means stay well away from the Oxford and Regent streets (or, conversely, if you have shopping in mind, go straight there and don’t wear high heels, because if you do that you will fall over, you will break the heel and trust me, it’s not fun to walk around here barefoot … not to mention it might get you kicked out of certain shops which can be embarrassing and potentially harm your self-esteem).
Did you know there was a place called Little Venice in London? It has that name for a reason. Learn an emotional Italian song and go there with someone you want to impress. If they don’t seem too impressed, you can resolve the awkward situation by simply running away and hiding in one of the little boats. Or, if you’re with a group of friends, go to Abbey Road, wait for a traffic-free moment and pretend you’re the Beatles.
Another great thing to do in London is to walk along Thames in the evenings. There is nothing more romantic than the city lights reflected in the river; if you’re there by yourself, it is a good time to contemplate life, and if you’re with someone special, it gives you a perfect opportunity to say something extremely cheesy that you would never be able to say outside Jesters without sounding sarcastic and having it posted all over Tell Him Tell Her.
To round up your London adventure, you can go to the top of the Shard tower and enjoy the view. There is an entry fee, but you could always say you went there to buy an apartment – there is a slight chance the entrance guard will be amused and let you in free of charge.
There is a saying that “when you are tired of London, you are tired of life”, which we definitely are not. So enjoy and be sure to mind the gap!