This post is a guest post by Sara McCallum. She is the winner of no prizes or awards ever but has never really put the effort in, you know? So that’s fair enough. Sara is currently writing a novel which is fairly standard behaviour for late twenties. Find her on Twitter (@sar_balls) or read her website (worth it!)
Sara is also a friend.
1) First thing to do in London – get a Cineworld cinema pass
The first thing that I did when I moved to London was to get a Cineworld cinema pass. Ok, I also found employment and housing but definitely the next thing after that was the pass. If you like seeing the latest releases, then you will soon be shocked and appalled to find that London cinema tickets average between £11 and £15 a pop. The Cineworld pass gives you unlimited film watching privileges for just under £19 a month. It’s a 12-month contract but I’ve had it for almost two years now anyway. They also give you discounts on food and special film screenings. The best cinema in my opinion is the Haymarket Cineworld. It’s an old theatre which has retained much of it’s charm, and the main screen is massive enough that you are not crammed in trying to work out the subtext of the film whilst simultaneously arm wrestling the stranger next to you. The Shaftesbury Avenue/Trocadero cinema is also great in a kind of 90s way. It also screens more mainstream films, whereas Haymarket caters more to the indie contingent. The Chelsea and Wood Green Cineworlds are great if you live locally to them also.
2) Hampstead Heath
I don’t even feel like this one needs any explanation, but I spent the entirety of my summer in Hampstead Heath last year and it’s fair to say it stole my heart. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world (actual fact) and it is absolutely free. Go. Walk. Swim in the ponds. Have a subconscious lingering surprise that you are in fact in Central London as the mass of green surrounds you. Also if you want an alternative New Years Eve, climb up there just before midnight and as the mud seeps in to your ill-chosen shoes watch the fireworks jumping out of London Bridge and in to the New Year.
3) NUS Extra card
If you haven’t already, definitely get one of these. It gives you discounts off places to eat, but for a change it’s actually the places you want to go to. Like Giraffe. And Pizza Express.
4) The Friendly Society in Soho
This is a great little gay bar (I bet you’re singing gay bar in your head now, right?) buried underneath Ann Summers in Soho. I can only assume the reason that it is less well known is that it is so tucked away. It’s one of my favourite bars in London, and whilst drinks average about £7 for a spirit and mixer, the atmosphere more than makes up for the wallet damage. The design is incredibly eclectic – don’t be too unnerved by the Barbie dolls that hang from the ceiling. The blue lighting makes you feel like you’re somehow in the Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic. The music is pitch perfect, and the booths are great to pile in to on a Saturday night. Also, it’s great for an early week drink when it’s less busy.
5). New Bloomsbury Set
If you fancy something a bit less expensive and altogether more quiet, check out the New Bloomsbury Set in … Bloomsbury. It’s a small basement bar that does great deals on drinks (especially for somewhere so central) and has lovely little covens, which you can hide in after a long day studying (or whatever it is students do these days). It also has big Sherlock Holmes-esque chairs where you can sit, miming a pipe perhaps, and talking in riddles (if you so desire).
6) If you fancy venturing to Quite North London
The O’Neill’s pub in Muswell Hill is definitely worth a visit. A beautiful church that has been converted in to a drinking establishment, the architecture takes your breath away as soon as you walk through the door. Ignore your preconceptions about O’Neill’s and enjoy the cheapest drinks in London whilst sitting on a pew. Take the 134 bus from Tottenham Court Road or the 43 from London Bridge, and sit on the top deck so you can see the Shard as you pass under Archway Bridge.
7) Whilst karaoke is usually the type of activity that brings me out in hives,
I recently discovered Lucky Voice in Angel. You get a great private booth in which to sing, rap (I genuinely thought I was Eminem for a moment whilst reciting ‘Lose Yourself’), and drink 2-4-1 cocktails. If you book early it costs as little as £4 an hour, which given the comedic memories created is great value for money.
8) Southbank was my second favourite place of last summer
and in particular the Southbank Centre. There’s so much space there to sit and study (read: Facebook/Twitter/Instagram) and with free wifi and general cultural greatness in your surroundings, there’s really no reason not to exploit this undervalued resource.
9) I’m still not entirely convinced about the under-25’s drinking coffee,
but if you are so inclined, then grab a (free) Waitrose card, which entitles you to free coffee every day. The espresso will particularly help when you’re trying to convince yourself that your essay is ‘totally do-able’ in less than 2 hours.
Recently had some bad press when the Chancellor of the Exchequer tweeted a picture of himself eating one of their burgers. However don’t let that put you off; politicians do have to grab a bite to eat as they destroy society. Byron, and I can say this with some level of confidence given the level of research I have conducted, offers the best burgers in London. Top tip: order them cooked medium (this is the standard way they cook the burgers), order them well done or rare and you just won’t get the proper Byron experience. Also check out their coke floats for some classic 90s nostalgia, and their wine list which is categorised as ‘good’, ‘better’, ‘great’, and ‘best’. They have several restaurants across London, each with their own design. If you fancy ‘dilapidated hipster style’ check out the Islington branch, and if you want ‘shiny and new with high ceilings’, head to Shaftesbury Avenue.
11) UCL Main Library
If you are a student at UCL you will have already discovered (hopefully) the amazing UCL main library in the Wilkins Building. If you are a student at another university, you can see details of how to join the library here: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/joining.shtml. The library itself is just stunning, and you feel like you are in a film (in fact, the library does feature in several films!). Get there early on the weekend to get the best spots (I recommend the law room).
Comment or share below if you have any other to add to the list.