May 25, 2012 by Bob Thomas
London is notoriously expensive, a fact reinforced by its regular appearance in ‘world’s most expensive cities to live in’ lists. Nevertheless, for those who know where to look and can resist the temptation of the many extravagant spending opportunities, the UK capital can be surprisingly cheap.
For students at an English school London is a great place to discover the context in which the language is used. The official residence of the Queen – and presumably where she practices her precise version of English – is Buckingham Palace.
For a more creative use of the language, students should try wandering through any of London’s bustling street markets. Some of the best include the Spitalfields Market, which has more than 200 stalls; the Petticoat Lane Market, which sells a wildly diverse range of clothes; the Portobello Road Market, which sells everything from books to exotic cooking ingredients; and the Camden Markets, which are great for finding items made by local designers.
As well as finding a bargain or two, visitors will hear the slang of the traders as well as the colourful variations of spoken English that the city’s multicultural population has developed.
Musing in a museum
Rainy afternoons are well spent exploring any of London’s major museums – all of which are free. The Museum of London – situated a few minutes’ walk north of St Paul’s Cathedral – charts the history of the city, from Prehistoric times to the present day.
The Horniman museum in South London is home to tens of thousands of weird and wonderful objects collected by Frederick John Horniman. For those with an interest in design, the Geffrye Museum on Kingsland Road specialises in the history of the English domestic interior.
Walk in the park
For those enrolled on English courses London is one of the best cities in the UK to practise newfound language skills – but only in certain situations. Trying to strike up a conversation with a busy commuter is unlikely to bear rewarding fruit. Better to catch Londoners when they’re in a more relaxed mood.
The best place to find these stress-free urbanites is in one of the city’s many parks. Some of the most frequented include Clapham Common, Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park, Holland Park and Kensington Gardens. St James’s Park is next to Buckingham Palace and popular with tourists and locals alike. Richmond Park is the largest of the Royal Parks, and home to hundreds of deer.
London is one of the best places in the world to enjoy free art. From large well-established permanent galleries to the small contemporary spaces that pop up here and there, art is one of the city’s great driving forces. Try the Ben Uri Gallery, Kenwood House, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts and Tate Britain.
Guide to London’s most interesting museums
Where to find London’s best markets
List of London’s most beautiful parks