Whether you’re studying in London for only a few months or even for a number of years, you’ll probably be wanting to make sure you get a bucket list of London must-sees ticked off while you’re here. London can be an expensive place to visit, but there are a whole host of activities that you can enjoy at a discounted student rate or even completely free of charge.
We’ve compiled a list of things to do in London for students, including the classic tourist attractions along with a few lesser-known spots or activities. So, make use of the city’s expansive transport system and get exploring!
The London Eye
An iconic landmark in the city’s skyline, the London Eye can be seen for miles across the city. Found on Southbank, you can board the huge wheel and enjoy views overlooking the Thames. By sharing a pod with others, you can get a better rate for the experience.
London open-top bus tours
Embrace being new to the city and get yourself on an open-top bus tour. Doing this as soon as you get here means you’ll get your bearings of the city using the iconic and most-visited landmarks. Plus, you might learn some things along the way. Some of the tickets allow you to hop on and off, so you can choose how long to spend at each attraction and join another bus when you’re ready for the next stop.
Sky Garden is found at the top of one of the city’s tallest buildings, the Walkie Talkie, in Langbourn. It’s a huge open space where you can really enjoy the views of London in a beautiful garden setting. There are also plenty of bars and restaurants up there if you feel this is a time to treat yourself.
Camden, in the North of the city, truly has its own kind of character. There’s an energy that’s hard to find elsewhere in London. If you’re into shopping second-hand, you can see vintage stores on every corner. The streets are always bustling with buskers and performers, and the international food market is the varied kind of market you can only experience in London.
Seeing Buckingham Palace during your time in London is an absolute must. You’ll find it in the City of Westminster, often with a stream of tourists making their way there – but for good reason. The royal residence is the official home of the monarch of the United Kingdom but mainly acts as the administrative headquarters. On a sunny day, the buildings’ architecture (designed by architect John Nash) is a sight to behold. To give you an idea of the scale, the palace has more than 700 windows and 1,500 doors. The Changing of the Guard (also known as Guard Mounting) happens at 10.45 every day, so try to time your visit well so you can get a good spot to watch.
London is famous for being a cultural hot spot, with a number of landmark museums and galleries being available to the public for free or at very affordable prices.
Natural History Museum
Explore fascinating exhibits from the natural world. This museum is probably best known for its display of skeletons of dinosaurs and blue whales, along with its elegantly decorated architecture.
The Science Museum
Another South Kensington must-see is the Science Museum. This museum has been in action since 1857 and is still going strong as one of London’s most visited tourist attractions. If you’re in the mood for learning something new, its interactive displays are engaging and informative.
The British Museum
Found in Bloomsbury, this national museum is home to a permanent collection of no less than 8 million exhibits related to human history, art and culture. It’s also the first-ever national museum ever opened, which was in 1759. This is another value-for-money must-see, with the main exhibition rooms being free entry.
The Art Scene
Victoria and Albert Museum
The V&A is a world-renowned museum for art and design objects – spanning all disciplines of art, sculpture, fashion and interiors. From ancient Chinese ceramics to Alexander McQueen designs, there really is something in the collections for everyone.
The V&A is also an inspirational study spot for students. Especially if you’re studying an art-related subject (but not exclusively), you might want to spend some time studying in the V&A’s very own art library. It’s a peaceful location and the quintessentially English architecture alone is a good reason to visit.
The National Gallery
If you’re a fine art lover, the National Gallery hosts over 2,000 paintings, spanning from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. You can see work by world-famous artists like Van Gogh, Da Vinci and Botticelli. And, entry is completely free of charge.
Tate Britain and Tate Modern
At the Tate Britain (Millbank, near Westminster), you’ll be able to soak up British art culture with a huge selection of best-of-British art, spanning from the 1500s to the present day. So, whether you’re interested in Turner or Hockney, there’s plenty to see.
If your interest lies in something more contemporary, at the Tate Modern (Bankside) you’ll find both British and international fine art, sculpture, performances, and huge-scale installations in the grand Turbine Hall.
The city is full of historic markets. Whether you’re a foodie or someone who’s always on the lookout for second-hand clothing, there’s something for everyone.
Try Borough Market near London Bridge, which is one of the oldest and most iconic markets across London and has a huge variety of speciality foods – street food and drinks to enjoy there in the communal dining space or high-quality fruit, fish, meat or baked goods to take home with you.
If you’re in the market for some bits for your accommodation, you’ll never know what you might find at the Brick Lane market. It’s on every Sunday, and you’ll find a hugely random selection of wares – everything from electrical goods to bric-a-brac. There are a few offshoots of this market – try the Upmarket for street food and interesting gifts, the Backyard Market for arts and crafts, the Tea Rooms for vintage bric-à-brac, and the Boiler House Food Hall if you’re hungry.
Parks and Green Spaces
London has a huge amount of green space for a capital city, so wherever your accommodation is, you won’t be far from a park. Huge parks like Battersea Park, Regents Park, Alexandra Park or Hyde Park have good connections with the underground so are great meeting places for friends. If you’re trying to avoid spending too much money, a picnic in the park is a good alternative to a night out with friends – especially in the drier months. Most of the major parks also have WC facilities and refreshment vendors too, so they can be a change of scenery for a study session too.
West End Shows
It would be a shame to leave London not having seen a theatre production in the West End. Tickets can be pricey, but there are often bargains to be found if you’re willing to go during quieter times of the year – they want to avoid having any empty seats after all. Or, bag a bargain by seeing a matinee show. Plus, many ticket vendors will offer group tickets at a discounted price, or concession tickets for student card holders.
From huge venues that seat audiences of thousands to small basement gigs for something more intimate, the comedy scene in London is thriving. It’s a great way to spend an evening with friends that won’t break the bank.
A great affordable option is Angel Comedy at the Camden Head pub (in Angel, unsurprisingly). It runs on donations, so you can give what you have to spare. Despite the low prices, on the weekends you’ll find both well-known and up and coming comics at this venue. During the week, they run improv shows or allow for new comic or new material spots.
The Comedy Store is a little bit more pricey with tickets ranging from £10 to £20 (but don’t forget your student discount!). This is one of the oldest running and well-established comedy clubs in London and the dark intimate purpose-built setting here is perfect for the kind of alternative comedy that’s shown here. They have shows running on most nights of the week, including improv nights and new act night (every last Monday night of the month).