London is currently one of the trendiest European destinations. Our current StudentUniverse travelers, Misako and Lucy, just finished their hipster, Instagram-worthy trip. Thanks to their advice, check out the 10 things the average millennial hipster should know about London to have an epic trip!
They Close Early
Or should we say they “shut” early, if we’re gonna get colloquial about it. We learned this one the hard way. If you want to have a fun night out in LA, it’s assumed you roll up to your homie’s place around 10, get ready for 45 minutes, then order that uber to deliver you to your dance-your-pants-off destination of choice. But in London? Not so fast. Actually, yeah, much faster, because you gotta be ready to go out by nine o’clock if you want to make it to the bar in time to have some old fashioned fun!
On the weekends most places like bars and clubs close at 2am, so you’ll have some time. During the week you can find some nightlife that closes around midnight, but restaurants almost always shut around 10:30 or 11. As always, there are exceptions, but if you’re looking to mingle with the locals, plan on bumping up your normal going-out routine by a couple of hours.
And an extra heads up — if it’s Sunday and you need food, get to the grocery store before 5pm. Most stores close by then. If you’re too late, you can always find an express stores like Salisbury’s and Tesco for essentials and snacks. The early rule goes for the Tube, too! It shuts at midnight. The Night Tube just launched, but it’s only on a few lines so far. The buses run all night, but will take a bit longer to get you home.
2. Eating In vs. Taking Away
Money-saving tip! If you are eating at a grocery store or a sit-down/to-go hybrid restaurant, they will charge you a bit more to dine in than they will to take out. So to save a couple pounds here and there, take your food to-go. We found a Whole Foods haven one day when we were feeling homesick, and picked up this tip while dining there. Additionally, some money-saving places to find good food are Pret A Manger, Waitrose, and little grab-and-go shops usually have good deals.
3. Outdoor Markets are Lit
Like, whoa. Borough Market at London Bridge, Portobello Market in Notting Hill, Spitalfields, Brick Lane, Covent Garden, Herne Hill. The list is never-ending. These were just a few we visited and loved. There’s also a stunning flower market at Columbia Road. Make sure you bring some cash and a camera! It’s really a sight/smell/experience to behold. And plant-eaters, rejoice; there are plenty of options for us too!
4. Hang Out in Shoreditch
A hip place with a diverse, young group of gals, guys, and everyone in between. Saturday mornings are buzzing with lots to do and see and eat! Every corner you turn is another outdoor cafe, bumpin’ art fair, chill coffee shop, and friendly faces. This is also a fantastic area for night owls. Cafes and bars stay open late with a ton of fun options, and you can find some much needed Drizzy to dance to.
5. When to Take Public Transportation
This is pretty much an across the board rule for most major metropolitan cities. I always dreaded taking the morning train into class in Chicago because I don’t really like feeling like a claustrophobic sardine. If you agree, stay sardine-free and avoid taking the Tube mornings 8-10 and evenings 4:30-6:30. Buses get crowded too, and will take a long time to deliver you to your destination because of street traffic build-up as well.
6. Museums are Free
A beautiful thing about London. Nearly all of the museums are free entry, and there are dozens of incredible options to choose from. We visited the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, a sprawling collection of classical exhibits, and some new featured artists as well. The Tate Modern is another favorite—bursting with art, films, performances, lectures, and events for everyone into contemporary art. Check their website to see what’s popping. And for those interested in theater and history, check out Shakespeare’s Globe!
7. Not Much Salad, Not Much Drake
This became a joke between us as we spent our first week learning the ins and outs of culture here in London. We were desperate for some greens and yearning to hear anyone—ANYONE—play Drake at a club or local bar in London. What we’ve learned is, you can find healthy food if you do a little research, and the same goes for Drake. Hip-hop isn’t as big here as it is in the US, but we found a heaven-sent DJ at The Globe in Notting Hill (Saturdays), and at Hip-Hop Karaoke at The Social (Thursdays and get there EARLY!).
And as for healthy food, we found some gems in the veg restaurant scene including Wild Food Cafe, The Mae Deli, 222 Veggie Vegan, and of course, Veggie Pret. The moral of the story is to embrace local restaurants, hole-in-the-wall diners (and juice bars), and let yourself stumble upon the abundant and eclectic live music that’s happening all the time! *Pro tip: our super fun friend and amazing blogger Jo loves the Jazz at Ronnie Scott’s.*
8. Locals are Friendly
Every city has its stereotype, but the one about the British being cold is far from true! Sure, people are people and you’ll run into friendlies and non-friendlies alike, but everyone we met, whether behind the counter at a cafe or a stranger on the tube, was open, cheerful, and happy to help with directions or advice. An ace rule of traveling is to never be afraid to ask! It will never hurt, and you may meet a new friend in doing so. We love the barista at The Blue Corner.
Super interesting fun fact: London has the largest percentage of foreign-born people living in the city. How cool is that?! It’s a richly diverse place with cultural gems to be discovered every ten steps. Make sure to explore all the boroughs and discover people, food, music, and shopping from all over the globe!
10. Take Time to Explore Alone
This goes for anywhere you travel, whether you’re hanging out in London, taking a solo day trip or exploring another country. It’s so amazing to travel with a friend or group, but make sure you get your alone time. Giving yourself time to do your thing, follow your intuition, and explore what you want to explore is essential to adventure. Travel brings you confidence, pushes you outside of your comfort zone and delivers amazing surprising gifts to those who dare to go it alone. Our favorite areas we’ve roamed solo were Hampstead Heath, Soho, Shoreditch and Notting Hill.
If you’re planning a trip to see Big Ben, the royal family and the London Eye, why not hop around Europe while you’re there? Check out our cheap flights in Europe!