From Jack the Ripper tours to stumbling across Platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross Station, you will never be bored in London.
London Zoo, situated in Regent's Park opened to the public in 1847 and is the world's oldest scientific zoo. The zoo currently has 755 species and participates in breeding programmes for over 130 species. The aquarium at the London zoo was the world's first aquarium, in fact the word aquarium originates at the zoo, as they were previously called 'aquatic vivariums'. Some of the highlights include the Komodo Dragon enclosure, Giants of the Galapagos, the new penguin enclosure and the Gorilla Kingdom. A famous past resident of the zoo was a black bear called Winnipeg (or Winnie), who was often visited by a certain A.A. Milne and his son and was the inspiration for the Winnie the Pooh books.
A wax museum founded by sculptor Marie Tussaud in 1835. One of the main attractions was the Chamber of Horrors exhibitions which included victims of the French revolution and notorious killers. Tussaud claimed that she would search through bodies of victims for decapitated heads from which she would make death masks which were used as revolutionary flags and taken through the streets of Paris. Nowadays the collection has been added to with statues of members of the royal family, actors and other celebrities.
The London Eye is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe at 135m, and provides the highest public viewing point of London. Each of the 32 passenger capsules represents a London borough. On New Year's Eve, the spectacular beauty of the wheel really comes into its own as wave after wave of fireworks spiral out from the wheel in a truly magical display.
The O2 arena was created within the former Millennium Dome, built to house an exhibition to celebrate the turn of the 3rd millennium. The entertainment district has a large arena, generally used for concerts, a huge night club, a Cineworld as well as many other restaurants and attractions. Over the top of the dome is a fabric skywalk complete with viewing platform at the top. The adrenaline filled walk takes around 90 minutes and reaches a height of 52m.
Every Saturday, Portobello Road is home to Portobello Road Market, famous for antiques and vintage fashion stalls. Although it is always heaving with people, especially tourists looking for the famous blue door from the film Notting Hill, it is a London institution. Among the rainbow houses you may come across the house that George Orwell lived in after returning from Burma. The well-loved fictional character Paddington Bear was also a regular at Portobello Market as his friend owned an antiques shop that he would go to for his elevenses.
The Old Spitalfields Market has been a market since 1638, though for most of its life it served primarily as a food market, it now has a large vintage and clothes section.
The Gun pub just outside the market nods to the Tudor times when the Old Artillery Ground was used by the artillery company to practice with cross-bows, guns and artillery pieces.
Sports fans are spoilt for choice in London and the surrounding area.
Lord's Cricket Ground in St. John's Wood is widely considered the 'home of cricket' and is also home to the oldest sporting museum in the world. The grounds hold an unusual assortment of buildings, from the Victorian pavilion with it's notoriously strict dress code to the futuristic media centre. Make sure to look out for the curious weather vane depicting Father Time removing the bails from a wicket.
London is home to a number of famous football clubs and their stadiums - Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers. Wembley Stadium is the home of the English national football team as well as the second largest stadium in Europe, which hosts the FA Cup.
The Wimbledon Championships is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and generally considered to be the most prestigious. It is one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments along with the Australian, French and US Opens and is one of the only professional competitions to be played on grass. From the elegantly decked out competitors to the champagne bars and strawberries and cream, Wimbledon is a spectacular day out and very evocative of true British spirit.
Finally, anyone interested in horses (or even just a flutter) must go to the Ascot Races. It hosts the most prestigious open-age flat race in Britain, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. The Racecourse is located near to Windsor Castle and the centrepiece of the year is the Royal Ascot meeting to which members of the Royal family (including the Queen) are brought every day, arriving in a horse drawn carriage in a royal procession. It is one of the biggest events in the British Social calendar and a very strict dress code is enforced.
Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall was built as a memorial to Prince Albert in 1871 and has been the venue for the annual summer Proms concert since 1941. The beautiful elliptic building was said by Queen Victoria to remind her of the British Constitution. A mosaic frieze encircles the outside depicting the 'Triumph of Arts and Sciences' along with an inscription about the building and a quote from the Bible.
Royal Opera House
Home to the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.
The Paul Hamlyn Hall is also known as the 'floral hall', as it once held the exotic flower market of Covent Garden. The soaring glass and elaborate iron structure is so delicate it feels like it must have been wrought by the various faeries that have graced the stage throughout the years. Of special interest to students is the £10 Student Standby ticket scheme which often places you in a prime seat. You can also book in for a behind the scenes tour.
South Bank Centre
The South Bank Centre is Europe's largest arts centre, it is comprised of three main buildings - the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery. Nearly a thousand paid performances of music, dance and literature are staged here every year. The centre is located on the south bank of the river close to the Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre. The pedestrian stretch that joins them has become one of the most popular places in London filled with little market stalls, street entertainers and pop up restaurants.
This giant concrete beast is a great example of Brutalist architecture, once voted 'London's ugliest building'. Palm trees, rushes, waterfalls and lakes have tamed it's harsh exterior and made it a wonderful place to relax and enjoy an evening out. As well as being home to a large number of flats, the centre also has an art gallery, cinema, library, conservatory, theatre and concert hall. The Centre is home to the London Symphony Orchestra as well as the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
It goes without saying that the place for all LSE students on a Friday night is Crush! The immense popularity of key nights such as the beginning and end of term, the foam party, Bhangra crush and graduation crush give the night it's name. Guest artists are invited through the year and in the past included the rapper/grime artist Wiley.
However London itself is without a doubt one of the most exciting cities in the world at night. Samuel Johnson said 'when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life', and that is only too true. From reggae bars in Brixton to super clubs like Ministry of Sound, there's something for everyone. A night in Chelsea will undoubtedly leave you starry eyed as it is the location of choice for A-listers from across the world. Lists of ironically named cocktails line the walls of bars in Shoreditch and Hoxton. There are secret speakeasies where you need to know where to go and which password to use to enter. Other bars have veiled themselves in different ways: walking through the fridge in a restaurant to access the bar below, entering through cupboards or down staircases to what appears to be a public lavatory. The London scene is rife with both imagination and glamour.
For more information, see the Time Out London pages on Bars and Pubs and Clubs.
Screen and Stage:
The Odeon at Leicester Square is the flagship of the Odeon cinemas and the location of a number of European and World premieres. Ongoing restorations attempt to recreate the original art deco interior with a ribbed ceiling, leopard print seating and two bas relief sculptures of naked nymphs positioned as if jumping towards the screen.
LSE is situated right in the heart of London's 'Theatreland'. Students receive lectures in the Peacock Theatre which moonlights as a West End Theatre in the evenings, run by the Sadler's Wells Dance Company. The first West End theatre was built on the site of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane which was designed by Christopher Wren. London's theatre district contains around 40 venues and the prominent areas include Drury Lane, Shaftesbury Avenue and The Strand. The following is a list of some of the most popular plays and musicals which are currently running in London:
- The Phantom of the Opera
- Mamma Mia
- Les Miserables
- The Mousetrap
- The Woman in Black
- The Lion King
The non-commercial theatres in London enjoy greater artistic prestige as they put on a higher number of classic plays by more erudite playwrights. One of the most famous non-commercial theatres is Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, a reconstruction of the original theatre which closed in 1642. The theatre is in the style of an amphitheatre with an open air pit where the 'groundlings' could stand at a very low price and above that, three levels of balcony style seating. The theatre is committed to reproducing an authentic Shakespearean experience. It also runs an educational programme of talks and readings.