You have surely heard about the usual tourist sites in London: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, just to name a few! However, London is not just a compilation of sites; rather, it is truly an experience. Canadian students break down their favourite London experiences in a 12-part list, for your reading pleasure. Here are experiences Canadian students should try in London:
1. Hanging out with wild deer in Richmond Park
Did you think London was only buildings and concrete? Besides the other amazing, well-known central parks, Green Park and Hyde Park, the biggest park actually resides in one of the best kept secrets in London Town: Richmond.
You’ll want to visit Richmond itself, as it sits right on the Thames, offers an adorable high street, and boasts some of the best views in London (walk up Richmond Hill and you’ll see for yourself). However, Richmond Park is probably the best bit of Richmond, stretching for miles and full of untouched fields, ponds, and all sorts of wildlife.
2. Feeling extra cosmopolitan while taking the Tube
Not everyone loves the Tube, but there are few things more quintessentially London than the Underground. As you dash past crowds of Doc Martins, sweater vests, red lipstick, and suits, you’ll feel like a true city dweller hurrying to make that Jubilee train that is about to depart.
3. Strolling down Southbank past the performers, restaurants, and used-book sellers
Arguably offering some of the best views of London is Southbank, the walkway along the River Thames, where you will whizz past the cheesy performers, under tunnels, beside Parliament and the Globe, past the London Eye, and beside all the food trucks. It is here that you will have no confusion about what a great city you reside in, so much so you’ll feel a mark of pride strolling along and nodding to Big Ben (best to listen to The Cure on your headphones while doing so).
4. The feeling of being in a crowded London pub with bankers, students, and all of the best people
London pub culture is one of the best experiences you will have while living in London. You’ll enter a stuffy, overly crowded space, only to push your way to the bar and grab a pint for yourself and a friend. You’ll end up having a conversation or two about the most taboo of topics: politics, religion, anything that might be deemed offensive back home, etc. You’ll appreciate the Londoner’s knack for understanding the art of conversation, a crescendo of witty banter and “taking the piss.”
You’ll realize quickly that the heart of London is located in these pubs, a tradition going back centuries and a safe haven after a hectic workday. Cheers!
5. Pub Quiz in London (you’re sure to get embarrassed)
If you’re brave enough to attempt a true pub quiz, you’ll surely find out what “taking the piss” is all about. London Pub quizzes are cut throat; expect to be the go-to expert for any Canadian questions, and, if you fail, you’ll hear about it from your teammates. Pub quiz is always a laugh and something not to be missed in your time abroad.
6. Going to a Cricket Game that gets rained out
There’s nothing more hilarious than going to watch the weirdest sport in the world, especially if it gets rained out and the game gets cancelled. You’ll think to yourself, “Who would create a sport in England that can’t be played when it’s raining?” The English sure did. Whether the game gets played or gets cancelled, it will be an experience to remember.
7. Eating sticky toffee pudding on a rainy day
This is not the gooey, lacklustre pudding in a cup or which you may be thinking. No, this is the warm, decadent sponge cake, oozing with rich toffee syrup, and sometimes served with cream. This is your saviour on a cold, wet London day. This is the best dessert in the world.
8. Check out Bridget Jones’ flat in Borough Market
Are there any Bridget Jones’ Diary fans out there? You are in luck. Just find the Globe Pub on Bedale St. (beside the market). Right above the pub is Bridget’s flat, where your little Darcy-loving heart can squeal with glee.
9. Seeing a sea of poppies on Remembrance Day and joining in on the tradition
There is something quite profound that happens the week of Remembrance Day, which commemorates the lives lost during WWI. You’ll see poppy pins everywhere the entire week, which is symbolic of the blood shed during the war. It’s an unforgettable nod to the importance of human life and freedom.
10. Watching the sky light up on Guy Fawkes Day
You’ll be surprised to find out the Brits love their fireworks. The best day to witness this is on November 5th, Guy Fawkes Day. It was on this very day in 1605 that Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the House of Lords; however, his plot failed. What better way to remember this failure than to set off fireworks? Any spot you pick along the Thames (see Southbank, above) or on Parliament Hill will do to “Remember, remember! The Fifth of November.”
11. Falling in love with the river
Speaking of the Thames, one of the best experiences you will have as a student is strolling, sitting, eating, (you name it), all right by the river. This is because you’re a Londoner now, and to quote the Clash, “London calling…and I live by the river.”
12. The experience of being an expat in London
There is no greater pride you will feel than knowing you were a student in London, and, for a year (or three), you were able to experience all the drizzly rain, the overcast days, the crowded pubs, the amazing traditions, the trains, the food, and the unique, quirky culture that is London Town.
You will know that even after you leave this wondrous city, it will remain under your skin and in your blood; you will always be a Londoner, the greatest experience of them all.
After these experiences Canadian students should try in London, does London sound like a place you want to study? Download our guide below, it will help to prepare you for taking the next steps...