The basics
THE UK: Destination Guides

City guide: London (UK)

Learn all about London and get excited about studying in England's capital...

Read our guide to London

An introduction to London

A global economic, cultural and education hub, London attracts hundreds of thousands of international students every year to one of the many elite institutions in the city. London is already incredibly multicultural with immigrants from all over the world settling in various areas across the capital over the last century – you certainly won’t feel like the only foreigner while on the Tube and this can make making new friends in students from abroad – both from your own country and others – easier. While on the surface, the huge landmarks which make up the London skyline are quintessentially “British” as you may have seen it depicted in films and television, if you explore further on foot through the paths and streets which make up London, you’ll find that various ethnicities and cultures have permeated London over the years and have become a part of its identity.

London has a grand sense of history stretching back to the Bronze and Roman ages, which few capital cities around the world can compete with. Just wandering around, you’ll see remnants and celebrations of London’s history in the architecture, buildings and monuments you come across (in the video below, London is described as a ‘city which reads like an epic saga’, and it’s very true). When you think London, you might think Big Ben, the London Eye, London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, the Shard....there’s a lot to choose from! In fact there are so many things to see, everyone will have their own list of must-see landmarks which they will want to check out! This will give you a long list of activities and things to do on weekends and evenings when you’re not studying.


A quick tour of London

So where do you start in London? Zone 1 is known as Central London and this is where you’ll find most of the city’s most well known landmarks. You can take one of several bus or walking tours of the key landmarks. You’ll find various theatres, large and small, scattered around the city, though the West End (Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus) should be your go-to destination if you want an evening of live comedy, drama or music (with a variety of restaurants to choose from, though they will be far more expensive because of the location). Nearby you’ll find Oxford Circus and Bond Street to satisfy your high street – and high end – shopping needs (there’s also the large Westfield shopping centres in White City and Stratford). Camden, Shoreditch and Brick Lane are considered the hangout for hipsters with quirky, quaint cafes and bars, as well as intimate venues for live, alternative performance. Meanwhile Knightsbridge and Notting Hill are prime locations to do some celebrity-spotting (and a bit more shopping if you wish).

London Underground map
The London Underground (also known as The Tube) connects each corner of London, making getting across the capital simple.

As you expand further out (zones 2-6), you’ll gradually see more green area and things get slightly less expensive (but only just). North London is considered most affluent while East London is considered more urban (although the recent Olympic Games which were hosted in this part of the city brought about a lot of renovation, while more and more young professionals choose to reside here). However you’ll find that there aren’t really “bad” or “good” parts of London, but rather that they all blend into one another.

Fortunately, London is very well connected by Tube, bus and overground train so you can get across the city quite easily at all times of the day and night (plus starting in 2015, the Tube will be running 24 hours). Of course, if you’re travelling in the morning between 7 and 9 or the evening between 5 and 7, you can expect more congestion as commuters head home.

Don’t get lost in London! Read our guide to using public transport in London.


Where can you study in London?

London hosts some of the top higher education institutions in the country, allowing international students to combine studying with enjoying the huge variety of activities on offer across the city. Many institutions are renowned in particular fields of study too. Brunel University, named after famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, actually specialises in Engineering and Design courses though it is also strong in a number of other fields. But Brunel isn’t the only London university to specialise in a particular area; the London School of Economics and Political Science focus on (you guessed it) Economics and Politics courses, while the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is a world leader in Health and Medicine. Several institutions have ties to specific areas of London too such as City University, London and the capital’s financial and commercial centres.

For Design and Engineering courses? Try Brunel University.

For Economics and Politics courses? Try London School of Economics and Political Science.

For Business and Law courses? Try City University, London.

For Medicine and Health-related courses? Try London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

For Dentistry courses? Try Queen Mary University, London.



Your London playlist

‘London Calling’ by The Clash


‘LDN’ by Lily Allen


‘West End Girls’ by Pet Shop Boys


‘London’ by The Smiths


‘Galang’ by Mia



5 London movies to watch

  • Love, Actually (pictured below)
  • Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
  • Match Point
  • Notting Hill
  • An American Werewolf in London


Love, Actually (above) highlights life across England's capital at Christmas time.


Start searching for a course in London, or simply the UK, now!


Read more:

‘Choosing a university: The basics’

‘5 Places you must visit in London’


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About Author

Read our guide to London

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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