London has it all. That’s not cliché, it’s fact. You can watch, play and join any type of sport, spend an evening rocking out to a band, and the next enjoying a spot of classical or comedy at one of the many incredible venues, or travelling the world via your taste buds with all the different cuisines.
Over 47% of the city is green space, the BBC estimates 300 languages are spoken by its melting pot of people, and whatever you’re into to pass the time, you can guarantee there’ll be a team of people to share your passion with.
That’s not all. Here are 11 more reasons why London is probably the best, and most eye opening, place on earth to spend your gap year.
1. The gory British history
From bloodthirsty kings to old battlefields, Great Britain has an eventful past and many of its gruesome yet fascinating tales are told in the landmarks of London.
Hampton Court Palace was Henry VIII’s favourite home and the Tower of London imprisoned the likes of the Kray twins. A tour of Jack the Ripper’s killing scenes makes for an eerie experience and Churchill’s War Rooms and the secret bunker might just give you goose bumps.
2. The literary magic
Even if you’re not a bookworm, you’ll have heard of some of the great characters to have emerged from London town. Sherlock Holmes was based in Baker Street, Harry Potter was a regular at King’s Cross and Sweeney Todd fixed himself on Fleet Street.
You can see the places these legendary characters are said to have been or visit the spots that tell the writers’ stories. There’s the Charles Dickens Museum, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Virginia Woolf’s Hyde Park home, among others.
3. The entertainment
No matter where in London you find yourself living, there’ll always be an event to keep you entertained. If it’s music you’re into the Brixton Academy, Camden Roundhouse and Wembley feature a good range of artists, while elsewhere you’ll find pop up cinemas, quirky supper clubs, West End shows and treasure hunts to quickly fill your diary.
4. The Royal Family
Aw, little Prince George. He’s cute, isn’t he? Well, come to London and maybe you’ll see him… You probably won’t, but there’s always the possibility. And what about Prince Harry? Hang around the posh clubs of South Kensington for long enough and you could become besties.
If all that fails, you can visit Buckingham Palace as a tourist and watch the changing of the guard, see the crown jewels at the Tower of London and explore Westminster Abbey, aka Kate and Wills’ wedding venue.
5. The food
Britain has some good grub and some of the best of it is served in London. The Golden Hind has been frying up fish and chips for over a hundred years and The Ritz offers a delightful cream tea. But, if you want variety and a few more low-key options, the city serves that too.
Brick Lane is filled with Indian restaurants, Chelsea Farmer’s Market is brimming with the fresh stuff and Borough Market holds over 100 stalls of tasty treats.
6. The pubs and bars
Choosing the UK capital as your new home is the perfect choice for anyone partial to a cheeky guzzle and late night shooter sesh. The city itself is crawling with bars and clubs, but nothing beats an authentic British pub complete with cosy cubbies, a chatty barmaid and toasty fire. To start the night, anyway.
The Spaniards Inn in Hampstead, The Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden and The Princess Louise in Holborn are firm favourites for anyone looking for the perfect pint in the city responsible for the pub movement.
7. Festival season
British festivals are easily some of the best in the world and bring in top headline acts. A year over in Blighty means you get great access to them all, if you can nab the tickets. Glastonbury is a summer must (but tickets have to be bought nine months in advance), Download is the top choice for rock fans, while pop lovers go to V Fest.
In London it’s Field Day for the hipsters, Wireless Festival for the mainstreamers, and the Notting Hill Carnival is right around the corner from wherever you are thanks to the Tube.
8. The sport
The UK is renowned for its love of football – you can dive right into the action at White Hart Lane and the Emirates Stadium in London. Rugby is also huge: go to the Rugby Sevens at Twickenham for a brilliant day out in fancy dress, while cricket at Lord’s may be less of a dressed up affair, but the atmosphere is just as thrilling.
All three activities have sporting grounds you can tour, games you can get tickets to, teams to join and dedicated sports bars playing non-stop matches. Get involved!
9. The sea, sand and surf
Despite a fairly constant chill in the air, British beaches are still popular places and so are the white water waves that make up some of the best surf spots. The likes of Brighton West Pier, Eastbourne and Hayling Island can be reached from the capital city in less than two hours.
A little further out, Devon and Cornwall have amazing beach breaks and surf events year round. Kind of like a little Australia, in England.
10. The parks
Like any city, London comes complete with skyscrapers, moody commuters and honking taxis, but that’s not to say you can’t find a little solace in The Big Smoke. Parks like Greenwich, Battersea and Primrose Hill are pretty, peaceful and offer real nature too. Bushy Park and Richmond Park even have deer, roaming free.
Up at Hampstead Heath you can swim in ‘the ponds’, if you can brave the great British weather that is. Maybe an activity strictly for summer, that one.
11. Easy travel
London certainly has enough markets, fests and shows to keep even the most active of people scheduled for a year, but making London even more appealing is its easy access to other destinations.
You can catch a cheap Megabus or train to the likes of Cardiff and Manchester and the rest of Europe is also only a quick ride away. Budget flights, the Eurostar and ferry connections mean you can hop over to places like Paris for breakfast and be back in King’s Cross in time for dinner.
A year in London is the perfect opportunity to see England, as well as exploring the rest of Europe on your weekends. Do it!