London is one of the world's most diverse cities and truly offers something for everyone. Find out more about why we highly recommend London as your study abroad destination!
London has been named the best city in the world for students for the second year in a row. Having recently celebrated our 30th anniversary hosting study abroad students in the UK capital, we can confirm that it has long been a favorite, and with good reason.
So, why study abroad in London? Let’s dive in…
Study abroad in London because:
1. LONDON IS FULL OF CHARACTER.
From the grand white Victorian homes lining the streets of Kensington and Chelsea, to the neon lights and excitement of Soho, to the bustling markets and gritty street art covered walls of Hackney, London’s many neighborhoods couldn’t be more different or fascinating to explore.
“London has long been regarded as a vibrant, busy, historical, metropolitan city rich in history and beautiful iconic buildings,” said Siobhan Ferguson, author of Pretty City London and creator of the popular @PrettyCityLondon Instagram account.
“However,” she continued, “like most cities of this scale, it also has a characteristic local side: beautiful village-like enclaves that are extremely photogenic and full of character. Partner all that with a unique style and you’re left with something pretty special.”
Head into the City (the “Square Mile”) for a mix of old and new architecture, down to Brixton for a Latin American and Caribbean market, or up to posh Hampstead to walk the leafy streets and stroll across the Heath. Public transportation makes the entire city easily accessible.
When you study abroad in London with CAPA, you’ll be invited to take part in a calendar full of My Global City events that will help you discover some of our favorite areas of the city. Many of our classes also incorporate field trips that help make London an extension of your classroom.
2. LONDON IS BEAUTIFULLY DIVERSE.
There are more than 50 different communities (represented by 10,000 or more people) residing in London, and more than 300 languages spoken by the city’s residents.
When you step into the London Underground to catch the Piccadilly Line from Heathrow Airport into Central London, or find yourself in Victoria Station coming from the Gatwick Express, you’ll be surrounded by people from many different ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, political views, economic classes, and nationalities. Some areas of the city have higher concentrations of certain populations than others, but London’s population as a whole is incredibly diverse.
With that diversity comes a world we can all enjoy. Try foods from around the globe at a restaurant or from your local grocery store. Enjoy street fashion inspired by different cultures as you walk around. Join a local temple, church, mosque, and other place of worship or spirituality. Get involved in LGBTQIA events, like the Pride Parade. Attend cultural celebrations like Chinese New Year, Diwali, or Notting Hill Carnival. Attend art exhibitions featuring international artists. Make friends from different backgrounds.
”Sending students to another country to live and study gives them opportunities to discover themselves and people who are not like them,” CAPA’s President and CEO John Christian said. “This causes them to think differently about their world. They come home changed and that impacts those around them. At CAPA, we believe that this is how we make the world a better place.”
3. LONDON HAS AN INCREDIBLY RICH HISTORY.
A quick five-minute walk from the CAPA London center, you’ll find yourself at the Natural History Museum with its intricately detailed architecture and days worth of exhibitions to explore, including the popular realistic, moving T-Rex model. But that’s just the beginning of the city’s many opportunities to delve into the dynamic history that stretches back some 2,000 years.
All around London, you can visit historic houses, palaces and stately homes. Spend some time exploring the Churchill War Rooms at The Imperial War Museum, the famous Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey where Will and Kate were married. Another fascinating place to see is Dennis Severs' House, which will give you a glimpse into life in Georgian England.
For history involving the arts, The Wallace Collection is a great place to start, where its exhibits of 17th and 18th century art continually gain outstanding reviews. Theater buffs will enjoy catching a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the Thames, which can be seen from above by climbing the 528 steps of St. Paul's Cathedral across the river. Also interesting for anyone fascinated by interior design is The Geffrye Museum, which specializes in the history of English domestic interiors.
Everywhere you look, there are snippets and reminders of history: 41 Cloth Fair, the oldest house in the City of London and one of few survivors of the Great Fire; the gravestones of many who shaped this city; the sites of Plague pits from the 1600s; the remains of the old Roman City wall; and so on. The list is endless.
4. LONDON'S FOOD IS INSPIRED BY MANY CULTURES.
Long gone the days when London was synonymous with bland and boring dishes. There has been an explosion of new flavors and depths that the city’s food scene has never known before. In fact, London now ranks as one of the best foodie cities around.
Don’t worry; traditional, simple pub meals of fish and chips and pie and mash still exist, but have also improved in recent years. Alongside these, you’ll find tastes from just about every country around the world. Time Out London shared an article called “Around the World in 80 Plates” a few years ago that we still refer to when we’re looking for something different to try, from Estonian salads (pickled herrings, potatoes, peas and sour cream) to Ghana’s omotuo (big balls of rice in a peanut soup).
The way Londoners eat has changed too. Sure, it is a city with 67 Michelin star restaurants, but it’s also a city with incredible food that is affordable and more relaxed. Street food markets, indoor food markets, and food trucks are popping up everywhere with innovative ideas and 5-star hygiene ratings. Try Japanese-Latin fusion from Sugoi JPN (think sushi salmon and tuna with pico de gallo), jerk chicken nuggets in ginger beer batter from Only Jerkin’, and jackfruit tikka masala from Spicebox in Soho’s Vegan Market. Olive Magazine rounded up some of the best street food vendors to try.
On a winter weekend, you can’t beat cozying up in a pub with a fireplace for a warning traditional Sunday roast. For ordinary restaurants with cheap eats, options abound, including Addie’s Thai in Earl’s Court, one of our favorites a quick walk from CAPA.
5. LONDON IS FULL OF HIDDEN GEMS.
Sure, London has some incredible tourist attractions, but you only start to discover the real heart of the city when you move beyond its postcard-pretty surface.
Ask anyone in the CAPA office for their favorite hidden gem in London, and you’ll probably find that almost everyone has a different answer. Explore the city while you study abroad, and by the time you head home, you’ll probably have a long list of your own secret spots too.
Where to start? If you’re a film lover, Secret Cinema is a lot of fun. A local’s favorite for some peace and quite is Saint Dunstan in the East, the remaining shell of a medieval church transformed into a mini park with benches and beautiful vines climbing through the old stained-glass window frames. The Waterloo Vaults, hidden within the street art covered tunnel at Leake Street near the South Bank, hold art exhibitions, theater performances, and concerts. The Nomadic Community Garden in Shoreditch is a colorful wonderland of makeshift buildings, mini gardens, street art covered walls, and random sculptures. And don’t miss Le Creperie in Hampstead for the city’s best crepes from a small stand-alone food truck in Hampstead.
There are, of course, so many more places we could add to this list, but part of the fun is discovering your own selection of hidden gems to share with your friends… or keep to yourself. For more tips, we love Secret London.
6. LONDON HOSTS AMAZING LIVE PERFORMANCES.
If you enjoy nothing more than an entertainment-filled stage, know that studying abroad in London will give you access to some of the most unforgettable live performances across theater, music, comedy, poetry, talks, and more.
At CAPA, we have our own black box theater and an amazing theater program that allows students to perform in that space and beyond, at other venues in and outside of London. But theater major or not, anyone with an interest in this area will find they are spoiled for choice. From the glamorous West End productions, to the humble yet charming theatres dotted across town, there are performances to suit any budget or interest at every time of year. There are more than 200 shows on every day in the West End alone.
With more than 22,000 musical performances a year in London spanning more than 300 venues, you can catch an open mic night with local bands in a Camden pub or a legendary act that can sell out the famous O2 or Wembley Stadium.
London’s poetry and spoken word scene is also thriving, there are talks daily across the capital on just about any subject you can imagine, and did you know that London presents more live comedy than any other city in the world?
7. LONDON HAS WORLD CLASS MUSEUMS
Three of the top 10 museums and galleries in the world are in London. There are over 192 museums total in the city, including 11 national museums, like the British Museum which houses the Rosetta Stone (from 196 BC).
Besides the Natural History Museum, which we mentioned above, CAPA is also just a five minute walk from the impressive Science Museum with its hands-on exhibits spanning seven floors, and the Victoria and Albert (V AND A) which has one of the greatest collections of decorative art, design, fashion and textiles in the world. If you’re interested in design, also check out the Design Museum near Holland Park.
If you’re heading further afield, and depending on your interests, others worth a visit are the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth, the Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, Sir John Soane’s Museum in Holborn.
We also love The Telegraph’s list of “50 of London’s Most Unusual (But Fascinating) Museums” if you’re looking for something a bit different!
And good news: Besides entry to some special exhibitions, most of London’s museums are completely free.
8. LONDON HAS ONE OF THE WORLD'S BEST ART SCENES.
With around 1,500 permanent exhibition spaces in city (most of them free to enter), you’ll only be able to scratch the surface of the art scene when you study abroad in London.
Some of our favorite heavy-hitters—not to miss if you love art—are the Saatchi Gallery (nor far from CAPA), Tate Modern (built in an re-purposed power station), Dulwich Picture Gallery (the oldest public art gallery in the UK), Hayward Gallery (recently reopened after a two year refurbishment), the National Gallery (where you’ll find Da Vinci and Van Gogh paintings), and Whitechapel (just down the street from Queen Mary University if you’re on our Direct Enroll program).
Many smaller galleries are dotted across the city, alongside pop-up art fairs like the Affordable Art Fair, Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair, and The Other Art Fair which happen at various times of the year.
Look beyond galleries too. Art is all around you, from Ben Wilson’s painted chewing gum masterpieces dotted along the ground over the Millennium Bridge, to the unofficial outdoor gallery walls that you’ll find in much of East London and beyond.
Fun fact: London dominates the UK’s visual arts sector, which, as of 2017 accounted for 30% of the global art market.
9. LONDON HAS LOTS OF GREEN SPACE.
Charles Dickens once said, “The parks be the lungs of London.”
London may be a busy city with its fair share of traffic, shops, and bustling sidewalks, but it also has its fair share of nature to enjoy. With 3,000 parks, big and tiny, dotted across the city at a total of 35,000 acres, 40% of London is made up of public green space.
From the untamed Hampstead Heath to the manicured Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park, there’s always somewhere new to walk, relax, or spread out a picnic. There are sprawling parks like Richmond with hundreds of free roaming deer, city parks like Hyde Park at the center and Battersea Park on the Thames, parks like Regent’s Park where you can rent row boats, and Brockwell Park where you can go for a swim in its popular Lido. There are parks with amazing views like Alexandra Park (or Ally Pally as the locals refer to it) and Greenwich Park with its Royal Observatory.
Also worth exploring are London’s cemeteries, especially the “Magnificent Seven” (which includes Brompton Cemetery a quick walk from CAPA), the Chelsea Physic Garden (where more than 5,000 different edible medicinal plants are grown), and nature reserves like the Wildlife Wetland Centre in southwest London.
10. LONDON IS THE WORLD'S BEST CITY FOR STUDENTS.
As we mentioned at the top of this post, studying abroad in London means living in a city that was ranked the best in the world for students the past two years in a row. This ranking takes into account many different factors, from quality of life to tolerance and diversity.
More than 100,000 international students from 200 different nations are studying in London and they’re supported by over 120 libraries, including the British Library which houses over 150 million books.
As the rankings stated, “The UK's capital is not just an academic hub—it’s an epicenter of international finance and business, culture and creativity, famed for its museums, arts scene, nightlife, and diversity. Anything you want to try, see, eat, learn, or experience: it’s here.”
Why study abroad in London, you ask? Why not, we answer!