Things to do and see
One of the best things about living in London is just how much there is for you to do and see.
There's a reason why people come from all over the world to visit London – and the city thrives on the diversity that this brings. The streets are packed with restaurants, pubs, comedy and music venues, theatres, sporting arenas, historical and cultural attractions and so much more. Here is a small selection of things to do and see while you're living in London.
Don't forget to check out Imperial College Union's enormous list of over 350 clubs and societies to meet some like-minded friends to go with you!
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The streets of London are packed with things to see, from the world famous West End to intimate jazz clubs.
With over 40 theatres in the West End alone, plus a huge choice of fringe venues, London is world famous for its theatre. Musicals are a mainstay of the city's theatreland, but its dramas and comedies also draw much critical acclaim.
If you're worried that the price of a ticket will blow your student budget, it's worth noting that there are lots of deals to be had; most major venues also offer their own in-house discounts. Time Out has some top tips for hunting down a theatre bargain.
FILM AND CINEMA
If London feels familiar, it’s probably because you’ve spent years exploring its streets on the big screen. The city’s iconic scenery makes it a top filming location, from Portobello Road market in Notting Hill to the deserted Westminster Bridge in 28 Days Later.
With close to 800, London is home to over a fifth of all of the UK’s screens so if you're a fan of the cinema you’ll be spoilt for choice. The city also regularly attracts Hollywood’s biggest stars for premieres in Leicester Square. The Odeon is the largest cinema in the Square and hosts the majority of these events.
Cinema in London is not restricted to the high profile blockbusters however. There are also places to see old forgotten classics, independent movies which haven't yet reached mainstream viewing, and events such as the London Film Festival, showcasing new talent.
Imperial College Union also runs its own cinema, with discounts available for students.
Find out more about London cinema.
Pop-up venues, star-studded festivals, free gigs, classical concerts, arena tours – it’s hard to sum up a musical scene which has nurtured such homegrown talents as Adele, Coldplay, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones, while welcoming acts from all over the world.
The huge choice of venues is as diverse as the acts they host, from iconic venues like the the Roundhouse in Camden and the O2 Academy in Brixton to the thousands of lesser-known pubs and clubs hosting soon-to-be-famous bands.
The Royal Albert Hall, Imperial's neighbour and the impressive venue where our students graduate, hosts a wide range of musical events, from huge pop and rock gigs to classical concerts and the world famous Proms where tickets are available for as little as £6 on the day.
London is full of funny people. Host to some of the finest comedy clubs in the world, the comedy scene offers a range of nights out to suit different tastes.
Try View London for what's on right now.
London is a cultural mecca; with over 300 languages spoken it is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world.
Museums and art galleries
London is home to some of the world's greatest museums and art galleries, three of which are right on Imperial's doorstep (the V&A, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum). Many have free entry and hold artifacts and artwork from across the globe.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- British Museum
- V&A (Victoria and Albert)
- Natural History Museum
- Science Museum
- London Transport Museum
- Imperial War Museum
- Tate Galleries
- National Portrait Gallery
- National Gallery
Have a look at Discover South Kensington's website for information on exhibitions and events taking place near the College. And don't forget Imperial's annual Festival, an interactive weekend dedicated to sharing the best science and arts we have on offer!
Britain has a long and rich history. Make sure you check out:
- Buckingham Palace
- Big Ben
- Houses of Parliament
- Tower of London and Tower Bridge
- Westminster Abbey
And don't let the excitement of London stop you venturing further afield – London has really good transport links, making it easy to do a day trip to see such famous sites as Stonehenge, the Roman Baths in Bath, and Warwick Castle, built in 1068. Our International Student Support team organises a range of day trips open to all Imperial students.
London is home to a wealth of sporting activities, so whatever it is you are interested in, there are plenty of opportunities to take part or support your favourite team.
For a comprehensive look at sporting events happening in London, see Visit London.
SPORT AT IMPERIAL
Imperial's sports centre Ethos is up there with the best of them. The facilities are of such a high standard that it sometimes plays host to professional sports teams, recently including the London Lions basketball team and the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. You can follow in their footsteps for free throughout your time here, though a one-off fitness orientation fee applies (£40 in 2016–17) before you can use our high-spec gym equipment.
The Union offers a range of sports clubs spanning both modern and traditional sports as well as over 10 different martial arts.
The College also has a number of outdoor sports grounds throughout the city, as well as a boathouse which is perfectly situated for practice on the River Thames. For more information about these facilities visit the Sport Imperial website.
Food, pubs and clubs
From Swedish gravlax for breakfast to Korean-inspired sliders for lunch to a curry lovers’ pilgrimage to Brick Lane for dinner, London’s cultural diversity comes alive in its huge choice of eateries.
Your student budget will no doubt welcome the abundance of discounts in the well-known chains, but in a city where street food from around the world thrives, enjoying new food experiences doesn’t necessarily mean blowing your budget.
And it’s not just street vendors that will tempt you: the city’s huge choice of pop-up restaurants and the explosion of the supper club scene means it’s easy to be adventurous.
But don’t worry if you’d prefer to stick with familiar favourites as you can find cuisine from just about every country across the city, including many international supermarkets.
On campus, Imperial has over 20 catering outlets and every Tuesday the Queen's Lawn plays host to a fantastic farmers market, with produce and lunch meals locally grown and sourced.
Pubs and clubs
London's pubs and clubs reveal as much about the city's rich history as they do its status as one of the most exciting cities in the world.
London is full of pubs, with some dating back to the 16th and 17th century – a reminder of a tradition which is regarded as quintessentially British. Find out more about some of the oldest pubs in London.
The clubbing scene meanwhile is constantly changing to reflect the latest trends, with warehouse venues, private members clubs, weekend festivals and pop-up parties just some of the options to tempt you.
Imperial College Union also runs a nightclub and on-campus bars for all students.
In London, shopping can be classed as a cultural activity as the city is full of famous shopping streets and markets.
If you don't mind braving the crowds then Regent Street and Oxford Street are the place to go to find the major high street shops in one place, while New Bond Street and Knightsbridge are home to some of the city's more exclusive shops – worth a visit, even if it's just for a bit of window shopping.
Knightsbridge is also where you'll find one of the world's most famous shops – Harrods, which is just a short walk from our South Kensington Campus.
If you consider yourself more of a quirky or vintage shopper then why not give Covent Garden or Soho a try?
And don't forget the city's many markets, such as Brick Lane, Camden and Petticoat Lane.