The first time I moved to London in 2013 I promised myself I would explore everything it has to offer. I’d go to as many exhibitions as I could, see all my favourite musicians if they came to town and attend talks on subjects I knew nothing about.
But I broke that promise.
I rarely ventured away from the place I lived or worked. I would tell myself I still had another month to see the exhibition at the Tate, but a month turned into a week, and a week turned into a few days. When the time finally came round to going, I’d act surprised that the exhibition was over.
The only aspect of London I fully embraced were the number of airports that made escaping the city so easy. I couldn’t tell you how to get from Soho to Brixton, but I could tell you the fastest route to any airport in London from Greenwich. It didn’t make any sense living in London if I wasn’t making the most of what it had to offer.
So I took a break from London in 2015 before moving back down at the beginning of 2016 to live with my brother and his girlfriend. This time round, I’ve been so much better at immersing myself in all the offerings this incredible city has to offer and I feel much better off. When I was a child I thought London was the epicentre of the world and my opinion still hasn’t changed to this day. I don’t think it ever will.
Whether you’re already living in London or just visiting for a few days, here are a few ways to make the most out of this city and perhaps meet a few people along the way.
Whether you’re looking for a cosy pub to listen to local musicians or want to see the world’s biggest names perform on stage, there is something every night of the week. I usually check out SongKick to keep track of when my favourite artists will be performing in London. This photo was taken by Tim Easton of The XX, a gig I went to see at the Brixton Academy earlier this year.
Keep track of gigs near you: Songkick.com
I truly feel spoilt living in London every time I walk into a building and get instantly inspired. If you have the chance to see a concert at either the Barbican, Southbank Centre or the Royal Albert Hall, you’ll be in for a treat. The photo taken above was from this year’s Proms at the Albert Hall, I went to see Anoushka Shankar perform music composed by her father and Philip Glass.
If you’re looking specifically for dance, look no further than Sadler’s Wells for world-class choreography. However, my personal favourite is the Barbican. I would describe it as a cultural hub comprising of several buildings where you can see exhibitions and dance performances, watch films, get lost in music, join an architecture tour or listen to interesting talks. I try and go there once a month by myself or with friends.
For inspiration: Visitlondon.com
London has all kinds of festivals to cater for an array of interests. Anything from film, music, food, science, literature and fashion to specific interests that showcase the work of ethnic minority groups such as the Iranian film festival and the Nordic food festival. This is where you’ll get the chance to explore your interests in great detail and mix with like-minded people.
Be in the know: Timeout.com
Do you want to know more about a certain subject? You can learn straight from the expert. Talks happen all over London, it’s just about making sure you find out about them. Often you’ll be able to listen to guest talks at universities so take a look at their websites. The Guardian hosts some pretty interesting talks, often leaning towards politics but also a good mixture of literature, arts and contemporary culture.
I’ve been to quite a few talks this year but listening to Kasparov talk about Deep Blue and AI was my favourite, as well as an interesting discussion on Brexit and the EU by economist Yanis Varoufakis and Turkish writer, Elif Shafak.
Joining Clubs/ Meet Ups
Always wanted to learn a new language? Cook Chinese food like a chef? Go rock climbing? Join a Book Club? There’s no shortage of clubs in London to develop your passion and meet others who share it too.
Most people are really surprised when I tell them I go to chess club. The one I go to is London Casual Chess Club at Tottenham court. If you’re interesting in Chess this is a super fun and extremely inclusive club for people of all levels and backgrounds. I stopped going over the summer, instead opting to meet friends over dinner for a game of chess, but I’ve got back into the swing of things since September and realise joining a club is the fastest way to improve my performance and meet some of the most awesome people in London (yes, I’m probably biased there!)
Find the club for you: Meetup.com
I’ve been single for almost two years now, and only this year did I join Tinder after my friends were nagging me to give it a go. To my surprise, dating apps are better than I imagined! Providing you’re selective about the people you swipe yes to, there’s a decent chance of matching with some interesting people you’d never probably cross paths with in real life.
I’ve just gone back to Uni so I don’t really have too much time to date anymore, but over the summer it was quite fun to arrange dates with people from completely different backgrounds to me. I generally just think getting out there and meeting new people is good for personal growth. The main advice I’d give myself and others is: listen to your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t feel obliged to stay and don’t drag it out.
Funnily enough, I’ve also made a few chess friends through Tinder because I include it in my profile. Win-win, eh?!
Interesting article: Online Dating Changing the Nature of Society
There are so many museums in London that I ought to write a separate post outlining the ones worth knowing. As well as most museums being free to enter, they rank among the best in the world. Generally most people will head to the Natural History Museum, V&A, British Museum and the National Gallery, but there are loads of lesser known museums that are worth-while visting.
Useful website: Thelondonist.com
How do you make the most of London?