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Christmas in London

Alya Omar Out and about

London might seem likes miles away when you consult the map, but it’s actually closer than you think! Of course, it’s not the kind of place you’d be able to visit for a day trip like Durham or York, but it’s a place that’s worth checking out whenever there’s a long break.

Usually, I’ll take the train (not a big fan of long bus rides), which takes around 3 hours to get to King’s Cross. I suggest booking your tickets well in advance, because train fares tend to get more expensive the closer you get to your intended date of departure.

London itself has various transportation options to commute with. The most convenient way to get anywhere in London is via the famous London Underground. Don’t feel intimidated by its web of the different colours associated with different tube lines; it’s actually simple to navigate once you get used to it! There are bus services as well, which is an alternative when tube services are down (or if you want to save some cash, as bus fares run on a flat rate of £1.50). Also, since the bus services are completely cashless, I recommend getting an Oyster card, which you can also use to travel on the London Underground. You can find out more about getting a temporary one here. Alternatively, you can apply for a proper one if you think you’ll be going down to London often! If you want to keep fit while exploring the town, then Santader Cycles are what you’re looking for.

Then, of course, there are the cabs. I’ve only used them twice in my entire life, so I can’t really say much about them, but all I know is that they can get pretty expensive, so be prepared to pay a little more than what you might be used to! I also recommend getting the CityMapper app, which is really useful if you want to get around London (and other major cities) easily. Trust me, it’s worth checking out!

Where activities are concerned, there are many things to see and do in London and yes, that includes shopping. With a majority of the big names are located in Central London (including departmental stores), you’ll definitely be spoiled for choices. If shopping isn’t your thing, then you can always visit places like the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery (which is right next door, and yes… it’s a different place), the British Library… yup, you get the idea. The best part? Entries are free to most places (for special exhibitions, booking is required)! For theatre and musical lovers, I’m sure I don’t need to emphasize on the amount of big-time productions London offers, ranging from Shakespeare plays to all-time classics like The Lion King. Pretty Wicked, huh?

Of course, with Christmas looming around the corner, there’s even more fun to be had. Besides having the town covered up with various, shiny Christmas decorations, there’s also many things you can do during ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. For example, you could ice-skate at Somerset House, or head across the river to Southbank, where they have an array of activities and food stalls for you to enjoy. They even have a roller disco arena there! How cool is that?

There’s also the ever-so-popular Winter Wonderland located at the lovely Hyde Park. I haven’t actually been there, but from what I’ve seen on the outside, let me tell you now: the place is HUGE. That said, Christmas usually means one thing: the last few weeks of the year, which also means: fireworks! If you’re looking to see the fireworks near the riverside, then it’s important to note that you’ll need to get tickets in advance! HINT: Primrose Hill is a good spot to get a good view of the fireworks, thanks to its awesome panoramic view of South London! Or, you can also simply tune in to BBC One at the stroke of midnight…

If you’re looking for food outlets, then I have good news for you: you’ll be spoilt for choices without having to actually bust your wallet. One of the places I’d recommend is Borough Market, which is a short walk from London Bridge station. Besides being a place steeped in history (going as far back as the 11th century!), there are various food stalls for you to choose from, as well as a wide selection of fresh produce! If you're on-the-go, or don't feel like sitting-in to eat, then there are loads of places that offer take-out such as the familiar Pret-A-Manger and Wasabi. And if you're feeling a little homesick, there's even a Greggs to fulfil your desire. A place I'd like to personally recommend is Shake Shack, located in Covent Garden. Their burgers and milkshakes are to die for (seriously, they are so good I think I'm about to shed a tear writing this sentence), and it’s always a must-have for me whenever I visit London, always.

London comes across as either a place you love, or hate. Yet, it’s still a place you should visit during your time as a student. There are so many different things to discover, and honestly, there’s still so many things I have yet to do there! At the end of the day though, I have to admit that nothing beats the nice, comfy bed of my own back home in Newcastle. Hey, there’s no place like home, right?

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