Life in London

The unspoken etiquette of the London transports

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I am writing this post because of sheer frustration with some of the commuters I meet on a daily basis hence the angry tone of this post. I actually wrote most of this on a number of frustrating train journeys. After getting annoyed with others on the tube, I express it all by noting how courteous people need to be. Mastering the art of London transports needs time, practice and care for your fellow Londoners. 

The London transport system can be very confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it then your understanding of the city gets much better. This little guide will give you few pointers that you should be reading before you even get to London. I am hoping this guide will make you a pro London commuter. 


Nine Unspoken Etiquette of the London Transports

1- Know your route

Before you set off to use the public transports, make sure to actually know the route you will be travelling through as in check Google Maps or City Mapper and TFL. Get a clear idea and go. It might help taking a screen shot of the route or right down the stop names if you get easily confused and you probably will be if it’s your first few times. I think it took me a month to understand the system. I still make mistakes and get lost, but it’s only the odd time every few months when I am distracted. 

2- Scan & get a green light

Make sure you have money on your Oyster card and have it in a separate sleeve away from any other magnetic cards so you get a green light when you scan it and Wizz through the barriers. If you get a red light, the army of people behind you won’t be happy. Sometimes even when you get it all right, you still get a red light but these errors are beyond our control. 

3- Stand on the right, walk on the left

I don’t know how many times do people need to hear the poor automated message getting replayed over and over before they fully understand this. To be fair most people adhere to this, but you still get the odd people who do it anyway. I don’t mean the  tourists who might not get it yet, but I am talking about some locals who like to challenge the little rules that ease life. 

4- Don’t cause traffic

Using your phone while you walk isn’t a reason to slow down, but if that happens please stand on the side. Finish your text or whatever then carry on walking. The path is for serious walkers and if you want to stroll and have a chat the underground is not the place for you. Being slow because you are on your phone is super annoying to the people behind you who might miss their next train. Thoese little seconds here and there add up!

5- People can’t pass through you

Ok. I am sure you all learnt about body mass in physics class back in school, so if you stand in the middle of the door, people won’t be able to go pass through your body. You aren’t a gosht so stop acting like one. If you want to get in, stand on either side of the door to let people out of the tube FIRST then you can get in. It won’t leave without you. Pushing everyone to get on first before people get off is just bad manners. 

6- Just sit down or get out of the way

This is not a fun bus ride from school days. It’s a transportation system and everyone getting on it is probably tired and grumpy. Under no circumstances would anyone wait for you to reserve a seat for your bestie who is riding with you. Just grow up and let everyone sit in the available place and if your friend is quick enough she will get her seat too. I got the death stair for sitting when another girl was trying to hold the seat for her friend. The tube isn’t the place to bond & as girls they should understand that I might have been on my period and not able to entrain their behaviour physically or emotionally. 

Booking.com

7- Move along the carriage

This is another message that every train driver has to announce about 50 times a minute. Just do it. When it’s busy people want to pack themselves in like sardines & you just standing in the middle and not moving along the carriage is inconsiderate. I sometimes have to jump over people who aren’t willing to move so I get some space. 

8- it’s probably safe not to smile

Ok, I am joking. You can smile if you want, but everyone just looks awkward if you even catch their eye. I like to always have a book with me and just read it to avoid awkward moments. I do politely smile sometimes because I think my London commuting face is a bit scary lol. 

9- Everyone wants to get somewhere

No one rides the tube just for the sake of it and everyone one is in a hurry to get home for dinner or whatever commitments that people have, so, please be nice to your fellow commuters. There is no reason to be rude. You can make the journey pleasant for yourself and others by being considerate and polite. 

Happy tube-ing everyone and God help us during rush hour in this heat. 

Over to you: Do you have any more advice to make the London commute more pleasant? 

Interesting Books about the London underground: 


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How can students live a cheap life in London?

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Although London is a very expensive city, being a student in London gives you a lot of perks that can make your time in this city really pleasant and even more affordable. Any full time student can take advantage of all the ideas listed below including mature students who are over 25. This applies for international students too. Most of these tips and ideas have changed the way I live in London for the better. It’s actually tempting to be a student as long as possible! 

 


Get London transports for cheaper in London

Before we mention anything, let’s talk about transportation and how you can actually get to places for cheaper while living in London. As soon as you enrol for your full time course in London, fill your student oyster form, have a personal photo ready and get it verified with your university or institution. Having your ID oyster will give you a third off of weekly, monthly & annual travel cards, which makes getting around so much more affordable. 

Travel by rail for a third less than everyone else

The transport discount isn’t only limited to London, you can also apply for a rail card if you are 16 to 25 years of age or if you are a full time student even if you are over 25. This process can be done online and you will have to pay £30 per year. This gives you great national train discounts so you can explore so much of the UK for reasonable prices. For example, my open return ticket to Manchester is £54 unlike the regular £84 ticket that adults have to pay. My Cambridge ticket with a same day return is £16.50 instead of the £30 adults pay. I really love this discount. I usually use this card for the train mostly, but having this card also gives you other offers on popular attractions such as: 

Shop until you drop with student discounts

When you enrol in your full time course, make sure you get a confirmation letter from your university because you will need it as prof to apply for the NUS card, which gives you lots of discounts on selected stores in person and online. You have to pay an annual fee of £28. This card is also handy as a proof if your student ID doesn’t have an end date. Another account you need in your life as a student is Uni Days and it’s similar, but completely free and only requires a university email to get started and approved. It’s really handy.

Pay less for food as a student in London 

A lot of the main stream restaurant chains like pizza express, Zizzi, GBK offer student discounts either through via uni days and the NUS card or via their own apps. You can also get 10% off your groceries at the co ops with the NUS card. 

Restaurant Discount Card for Students
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Always ask about student discounts! 

I went to get my hair cut in Rush and randomly asked about student discounts and they had one!! This actually happened a few times. Sometimes places don't advertise or have a clear sign. Doesn't hurt to ask! 

Enjoy London museums and galleries as a student

Yes most London museum and art galleries are free in London, but even the free ones have changing temporary exhibitions and those always require a ticket. As a student you get it cheaper than adult tickets. So unleash your inner art critique because there is so much you can see and enjoy! 

 Victoria and Albert Museum 

Victoria and Albert Museum 

London Reads:

Over to you: What other advice do you have for students to live cheaply in London?


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How to survive the heat in London?

How to survive the heat in London?

I don’t think people realise how hot London gets in the summer when we have a heatwave without rain. The first few days are glorious. Everyone is happy, all the summer outfits are out and ice creams are everywhere. Fast forward three weeks, people get grumpy, their skin is mostly red and burnt with very random tan lines and the moral gets a little low. All the misery happen because this city isn’t equipped to deal with a hot summer so it's a constant feeling of heat. Being Saudi, people are surprised that I even mention the heat because the Saudi summers reach to 55 C -131 F-, but in Saudi 98% of places are completely air conditioned and we don't feel the heat, but in London you feel it everywhere. I still enjoy the London sunshine though and I follow the tips included in this post to stay cool. 

How hot does London get in the summer? 

The average so far has been 26 C -78 F- and the hottest it got was 32 C -90 F-


Six Tips to Survive the Heat in London: 

1- Avoid the tube

Honestly getting the tube in the summer during rush hour (17:00-19:30) is disgusting. Just try to rearrange your routes to involve more walking and overground trains. If you have complete control over your schedule I would avoid any mode of transport at rush hour. It’s hot during freezing winter days let alone in the summer. The Central Line and Bank station are the absolute worst! There is no such thing as air conditioned underground *yet*. 

2- Stay Hydrated

Have your bottle water with you at all times. Get at least the one Litre bottle because you will drink it all without even realising. You can cool your water in the fridge then pour it in a thermostat to keep it cold! 

Another great thing that will keep you hydrated is fruits or vegetable with high water content like cucumbers and melons. They will keep you hydrated for longer as well. 

3- Plan Cooling Stops

Some big grocery stores or luxury stores are air conditioned, so if gets too hot, plan a mini cooling stop to the big Sainsbury’s near you and get cool again! I know this might sound silly but it works for me when I am walking long distance from one place to another! 

Some Londoners were even trying to compile a list of air conditioned spots on Reddit! Their list didn't go very far, but it might be entertaining to read.  

4- Cool yourself from the inside

This is the best time of the year to drink all the iced teas and to eat all the ice creams in this city. I love making my own iced teas since the cafe bought ones are usually very sweet. If you want to make your own, these recipes from Eating Well might help you. 

When it comes to ice cream there are so many yummy places to choose from. My usual ice creams stops are Chin Chin LabsSnowflake gelatoGelupo and Amorino. If I am not around those spots, I go to any local corner shop for ice cream. I am also developing a love for vegan ice creams! The Alpro vegan ice creams are so good! Especially the coconut *DROOL*

5- Shade is what you need

Seriously, being in the shade makes all the difference. So, when it gets too hot, go to the very shaded part of the park or better yet take a woods or forest country walk. I know most people want to hit the beach when it's hot (including me), but going to places like Epping Forest or Ashridge Estate is actually a good idea to stay cool. It might help to wear a sun hat or carry an umbrella to create your own little shade. 

6- Get a fan

I know summer is short and it’s not worth investing a lot in it, but you need to get a basic fan or the heat will keep you up all night. I only use my fan two months a year, but it’s so worth it!! Having a hand carried paper or electrical one might also be good at times. 

Although, there were moments where I completely melted in London and it’s only the beginning of July, I am very grateful for all the sunshine! I am able to wear all my summer clothes now and enjoy the many beautiful parks around. I hope you found these tips useful and please comment below if you have any more tips to stay cool this summer! :) 

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10 Islamic Art Activities in London 

10 Islamic Art Activities in London 

You might not associate London with Islamic art, but surprisingly there is a booming Islamic art scene in London. I love the art community in this city and there is always an event happening related to this art (and other types of art). If you are new in London you might not know some of these. I only knew about these places and activities a year after I moved London! That is why I am sharing

10 Islamic Art Related Activities in London that you might enjoy! 

Ps. This post is NOT sponsored! I just love these places, organisations and people! :D 

1- Visit the Jameel Gallery in the Victoria and Albert Museum

This is one of the most remarkable collections in London and no visit to London is complete without going into the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Islamic collection in the Jameel gallery space is my highlight. Additionally, it's free to go in, so don't miss the chance! 

2- Immerse yourself in patterns in Leighton House Museum

The Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896) had a huge interest in Islamic art, very much so that he made an Arabian hall decorated with Islamic ceramics and calligraphy in his house that is now a museum that is open to the Public for an £8 entry fee. It's a small museum and will take you an hour maximum, but it's worth visiting. I would advice to go there during on of their free tour times or late Jazz nights just to make the most of your visit. 

Jameel Gallery in the Victoria and Albert Museum

3- Illuminate your trip with an Islamic Illumination Workshop

Islamic illumination is a specific type of Islamic art and usually means the use of gold in painting a traditional patterns. Illumination was used for Qurans and Islamic manuscripts. There are a few people around London that teaches this skill, but you can attend some of the regular Islamic Illumination workshops or organise a private session with Islamic Illumination that fits in with your London trip. 

4- Learn the secretes of Islamic Geometry

Just like the suggestion of the Islamic illumination workshop, you can learn more about the art and get close and personal with Islamic geometry that is the basis of most Islamic arts. You can do that by attending one of Samira Mian's regular and short geometry workshops or by booking a longer session with the Art of Islamic Pattern.    

Islamic Art Workshops

5- Bid on Islamic treasures in one of the Sotheby's open auctions

An Islamic art auction at Sotheby is not a usual occurrence, but it happened a few time since I moved to London. Usually the auctioned pieces are true treasures and are not really for the everyday user, but looking at them while they are getting auctioned can be a real treat. Sotheby is a famous art auction house, so there is always something going on. If you miss one about Islamic art you can try their other ones. 

6- Get as close as possible to Islamic manuscripts at the British Library

The British Library is the house to a big number of Persian, Turkish, Indian and Arabic manuscripts. If you make an appointment, you are welcome to go see a few and that is basically the closest you can be to such heritage. If you are a university student or doing research in the area, you get a quicker permission, but tweet them or email them for exact details on the process.  

Islamic Art in London

7- Awaken your mind with an Islamic art lecture

Many Islamic traditional artists have learnt their craft at the Prince's School of Traditional Art. It's a great institution. One of the amazing thing they do is their monthly lecture series about various art subjects and a lot of them are about Islamic art. By the way, the lectures are only during term times. SOAS university also has a lecture series related to Islamic art referred to as Islamic Art Circle Lectures

8- Explore Islamic art beyond the visuals

Although a lot of Islamic art is seen and appreciated visually, there are other types of Islamic art that speak to your other senses such the traditional music and theatre performances. They are not referred to as Islamic, but it comes from the same geographical regions, where Islamic art originated. It might be fun to attend some events that organised by Rich Mix Bagri Foundation and the Arab British Centre

contemporary art by Muslims in London

9- Get to know the contemporary art by Muslims

London does not only exhibit Islamic traditional art brilliantly, but it has contemporary art exhibition by Muslim and Arab artists. Stay up to date with Reconnecting Arts, Art Canteen and Shubbak Festival. They all have annual art events full of activities from art exhibitions to discussions and even concerts. 

10- Shop Islamic art in London

Since London is a city booming of all types of art, you can certainly buy Islamic art to take home with you. You can find Islamic items from Turkey and Morocco in the Camden market. Or you can buy from independent Islamic artists who are based in the UK such as Islamic Illumination,  Anita Chowdry, Jeea Mirza, and Islamic Art Gallery plus so many others that you can find on Instagram. 

Explore Islamic art beyond the visuals in London
1- Visit the Jameel Gallery in the Victoria and Albert Museum 2- Immerse yourself in patterns in Leighton House Museum 3- Illuminate your trip with an Islamic Illumination Workshop 4- Learn the secretes of Islamic Geometry 5- Bid on some Islamic treasures in one of the Sotheby's open auctions 6- Get as close as possible to Islamic manuscripts at the British Library 7- Awaken your mind with an Islamic art lecture 8- Explore Islamic art beyond the visuals 9- Get to know the contemporary art by Muslims 10- Shop Islamic art in London

Related Books: 

Arts & Crafts of the Islamic Lands: Principles Materials Practice
By Khaled Azzam, The Prince's School of Traditional Arts
Lonely Planet Pocket London (Travel Guide)
By Lonely Planet, Emilie Filou

Over to you: Which of these activities are you looking forward to the most?

Ps.Feel free to comment more Islamic art activities in London if you know any! 


Read More About London: 

Gifts Guide to London (What to buy from London?)

10 unique Gifts From London

If you are going to London for a visit, I am sure you are going to do a little bit of shopping either for yourself or someone you love. There are the trinket and souvenirs shops that have London on them that are probably made in China everywhere especially around touristy areas like Big Ben, Westminster and the British Museum. BUT if you want something different that is very London, but doesn't scream London then this gift guide is for you. If you already visited London and didn't get a chance to get anything for whatever reason most of these brands deliver internationally! 

1- Gifts from London: Umbrellas

The number one thing in London that you should be aware of is rain, so umbrellas are always a good reminder of London. You can find them everywhere, but if you want a very special one. There is not a better place to get it from like James Smith & Sons shop that has been in London since 1830! They have sun umbrellas as well if you want to take one to friends in the Middle East. They are also known for their walking sticks. I din't think you would want that, but maybe your grandpa does? 

Hand crafted umbrellas James and Sons

2- Gifts from London: Tea

Tea in London Tea Gifts

As you know London is big on afternoon teas (aka high tea), so getting tea as a present is PERFECT! They even sell some at the airport, but!!! if you want a special tea then here are my suggestions for you and I do love my tea! 

Yumchaa Tea. It's good quality tea with a big range of flavours. You can pop down to one of their cafes to sample the tea yourself or order it online. Since I know which ones I like (read caramel Tea), I just order it online. 

For another selection of yummy teas that are a bit more high end then try Good and Proper Tea. They started in a tea van around London until they opened two cafes in two different locations. The prices of their tea increased a bit with all the demand, so I only get it as a treat for myself. They are simple and not flavoured, but so spot on! 

If you want pretty packaging for tea then you would want some tea from Liberty! They have really pretty, floral packaging and they only have one store in the world and that's in London. There is also Whittards, which you will see in so many corners around London, but I don't actually like their tea. It disappointed me a few times. If you really want to get something from there then try their hot chocolate. 

If you don't care as long as you get some British tea then pop down any grocery store and grab some Yorkshire Gold Tea or Tea Pigs. Reliable teas and the staple of many English households (I sound like a Tesco advert lol) 

3- Gift from London: Biscuits and Jam 

I mean you do need something to have with your tea and London got you covered! When I go back home to visit the family in Saudi, I always get them a box of biscuits from Walkers, M&S or whatever is usually on my way. It's usually nice to get the British shortbread. I added a few options for you on here just to help you get an idea of what they look like. 

4- Gifts from London: Art Supplies

So this might not be an obvious choice for you, but if you are an artist or buying a gift for an artist then you must go to London's gorgeous old art shop: L. Cornelissen & Son that opened its doors in 1861. It's located near the British Museum and it's full of colour and fantastic tools. You or your artist friends would love this! 

Cornelissen-And-Son.jpg
Cornelissen-And-Son

5- Gifts from London: Stationary

I am really into stationary and it's something I usually buy when I am travelling. Paper chase has some great stuff and it's easy to find. Most train stations have a little one. If you want something more unique, head to il Papiro for really stunning handmade Italian marbled paper. You can also try to find stationary with some of the William Morris floral patterns since he is an important figure of the arts and crafts movement that happened back in the day in the UK.  

6- Gifts from London: Products from Neal's Yard

The first time I saw Neal's yard was when I went for some pizza IN (wait for it) NEAL'S YARD (the actual court yard space). I only went there to look and smell the lavender. I didn't use their products till a friend of mine got me their bath oil. I loved it so much and decided to get their face hydrating cream that was created in 1983! I felt like £30 was a bit much, but it lasted me for nearly a year now and I use it every day before my makeup. The brand is found internationally as well, but it all started in the UK. Kind of near London (Oxford..) 

7- Gifts from London: London Watches

I first saw the Olivia Burton brand in the huge TopShop in Oxford Street and I really loved how simple and chic they looked. Then I noticed the word London in there as well. That moment I thought to myself. What a good gift this would be! They are not cheap, but not too expensive either. The one I liked was £80 and I think that is decent for a watch. I still didn't get one, but possibly in the future!   

8- Gifts from London: Harrods Bags

I don't know about you, but in Saudi everyone knows that if you visit London, you have to go to Harrods to pay your respect! The first time I visited London, I had to go and get those cute plastic Harrods bags. After I moved to London I realised that I will never be using this bag ever especially that hardly any Londoners use it! It's a good gift though and the bags and wallets last for about a year. They start deterring afterwards. Plus, the Harrods brand is the only affordable thing in that whole store! 

9- Gifts from London: Perfume from Jo Malone

This might be a little mainstream since Jo Malone is sold in a few airports around the world, but their scents are lovely! AND their candles last for ages. Not the cheapest, but might be a good option. The body oil is the cheapest thing you sell and I sometimes I use it as a perfume and get so many compliments! 

10. Gifts from London: Something Quirky from the market

There a few crafty markets that happen in London around the year. If you are here Christmas time, then the markets are countless. Don't fret if you aren't though because there are lots of crafty markets that happen at different times of the year. There are the daily markets in Greenwich, Old Spitafield and Camden. There are also special craft ones such as the The London Artisan Market,  Crafty Fox Market and the Etsy made local events

Handmade London Market

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I hope you enjoyed this line up of London gifts and I wish you an awesome time in London. 

Over to you: Which gift would you be getting for yourself or your loved ones? :D

Ps. this post is not sponsored, but it does include some affiliate links, that if you use, will give me a little commission with no extra cost to you. 

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Local Guide to London - Four Day Itinerary to London

London is the capital of England and it is considered one of the most important tourism destinations in Europe. Now that I have been in London for four years exploring all aspects of the city, I feel like a Londoner. I am glad that I got to know this interesting and vibrant city. It's a city with a lot to offer and I have to agree with Samuel Johnson's famous saying: "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." 

Visiting London is a goal for so many travellers, but it can be slightly overwhelming. When I came to London as a tourist I was very overwhelmed and I was so confused on what to do and what to see. Living here has shown me a whole different side to the city that I want to share with you in this post just to give back and share the love I have for this multi layered city. 

Most tourists go to well-known places such as Big Ben, The Queen's Palace and London Eye. There is nothing wrong with that. They are iconic sights of the city. This post however is going to be about more than the usual. It is going to be about what the places I enjoy and actually go to a few times a year. I am sure every Londoner sees London differently and this is just my take. There are many other websites that will tell you about other points of interest and I would advice you to look at everything and see what is best for you in terms of location and interest. Happy Planning! 

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Travel time + best times to visit London

There are several things to consider when planning a trip to London, such as the time of year and the season, as well as British holidays. One of my favourite times is winter especially during the Christmas period. It is one of the most crowded times, but the city is full of life and activities that are only happening during that time of year like the Christmas lights, Christmas markets and ice skating. This period is from 20 November to 24 December. On December 25th most things will be closed. December 26th, known as Boxing Day, is a day of shopping and discounts. Some sales are good but all shops are very crowded, so it's not always worth it. 

Another time I enjoy is the summer time, where the days are long and the sunset is between 9 and 10 pm. There are many summer activities that only happen in the summer period like outdoor cinemas, roof top restaurants and so on

Autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons, especially between September and November, where the colours of the trees change and the gardens are coloured in wonderful autumn shades. 

The weather of the trip + the best weather to visit London

The weather in London and the UK as a whole is very unpredictable. The day may start with a warm sun and end with cold wind and heavy rain. When I leave my flat, I take my umbrella with me whatever the season is. I wear my leather shoes for three seasons so that my feet would not get wet when it randomly rain. Some days I take my sunglasses too. Usually the summer is rainy and the rain ranges from light to heavy. Winter is relatively less rainy, but it gets much colder. The best seasons to visit London weather wise are Summer and Autumn, but whatever season you choose, be aware that it might rain. In addition, London gets very warm in the summer at times and it could reach to 30 degrees without air conditioning in most places. 

Walking around London (Muslim Friendly guide to London)

Booking a flight + Best airlines to London

London is one of the most famous cities and most airlines stop here. London has four well-known airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, London City and Stansted. The last two airports do not go directly to the Middle East. There are fast trains connected to the airports to make the trip faster to central London. A good price if you are coming from the Middle East is 350 GBP and a decent one from North Africa is 150-250GB unless you are coming from Morocco, where RyanAir goes and that will give you a ticket for 20-60GB. If you are coming from Canada or the US, there are budget airlines like wow air that would cost you $400, so there are so many choices depending on your location in the world (Read: How to find cheap flights on Skyscanner?)

Places of interest and activities in London

One of the things to consider in London is the route of your daily program/schedule. London is a big city and some places are about an hour or an hour and a half away from each other. For example, my house is located a full hour from the famous Harrods shop, so I recommend buying a transport card, Oyster. There are offers for a weekly or monthly options that you could buy on your oyster or you can just pay as you go with your credit card if you have the contactless function. Many touristy spots are located in zone 1, but if you want to find places further you should buy Zone 1 to Zone 2 or 3. To check the route or to plan your day make sure to check: Google Maps and TFL: Transports For London.

When planning your day or itinerary for the day, I would recommend staying in one side of London instead of going in all directions and everywhere. For example, when you visit East London, spend the day exploring the whole area instead of going to North London for a meal because your time may be wasted on the tube. 

The most crowded times are from 8 am to 10 am and from 4:30 pm to 7 pm, especially in public transport. During these times it is very difficult to find a place to stand. 

Greenwich London London Red Phone Booth

I am sure that you know the very famous places and you will find information about them in most of the site this post is about the places I personally love and enjoy

Museums and art galleries in London

Victoria and Albert Museum Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the most famous museums, but some people still skip it!  The museum is very large and in the same area there is the Natural History Museum and other art spaces. My favourite places in this museum are the Abdullatif Jameel Islamic Art Gallery and the Tea Room, which was renovated a few years ago. Admission is free but temporary exhibitions have special tickets and usually last/change every few months. 

Saatchi Gallery

Saatchi Gallery is in the same area is the V&A. It is a large exhibition spaces. Sometimes they host free exhibitions, but temporary exhibitions require a tickets. Check their website before I head there. 

Queen's Gallery

Although the Queen's Gallery is located in the Queen's Palace (Buckingham Palace),it is not that known to people. I went to visit an exhibition about the Queen's jewellery and books and enjoyed it. Exhibitions change every few months. The exhibition is small in size, so it wouldn't take longer than an hour to see. 

Design Museum
The Design Museum is a three-story museum located in West London and has everything to do with design. The building is also beautiful and you can spend two hours there. Two floors of the museum are free but there is a floor for temporary shows. The free section is great and just outside the museum is Holland Park. You can see all the details in the video below. 

Leighton House Museum
This museum was the home of the artist Leighton. During his life life time, Leighton was very intrigued by Islamic art, so he has a lovely room known as the Arab hall. It is designed in the old Arabic style and contains pieces of art and ceramics decorated with calligraphy. The museum is small and an hour is enough to see it. The admission fee is Eight pounds. The museum holds monthly events at night, where jazz is played, dates can be found here.

Rich Mix Gallery
The Rich Mix Gallery is located in East London and has many art shows and activities. Many of them on Islamic art or other art from the Middle East and North Africa. I like their fun programs, which are sometimes comedies, plays and music.

William Morris Gallery
The artist William Morris is one of the oldest British artists who has left a big mark on British art in the UK and the world. Morris was not only an artist and a craftsman, he was one of the founders of the arts and crafts social and artistic movement. He was a social speaker, who respected the rights of artists and traditional art in particular. This museum is in a location far from the centre of London but worth a visit. You can spend two hours there reading information and enjoying detailed illustrations and textiles. 

Graffiti and Street Art in London

The Graffiti scene in London is great and I think my favourite areas are the ones with rich colours and art. If you are interested to find some cool street art. I have four areas for you:  

Waterloo Station - Leake Street - Graffiti Tunnel
Painting/writing there is legal as well if you want to leave your mark. Though, it's very changeable. 

Hackney Wicks
From the overground station you can walk around and see the cool art everywhere. It's such a shame that the area is turning to office blocks and getting gentrified, so catch it before it's gone.

Old Street and Brick Lane Graffiti

This particular area receives a lot of interest and there are regular street art tours that happen from Old Street Station . You can also just walk around if you want to do it on your own. I have noticed a lot near the Old Street station, Shoreditch High Street overground station, Brick lane market area and the Hoxton area. Just wander around and enjoy some art.

Camden Town

Camden also has a good amount of Street art though I am not a local to that area. I found two art Camden tours that you might like: Discover Camden with a Local Host and Camden Art Crawl Small Group Tour.

Theaters and performances

London is famous for its theatres and year-round performances. Some shows are only seasonal and come during the Christmas period and some performances last several years. Going to the theatre is very enjoyable and I usually reserve it for special occasions. The tickets are expensive at times, so plan in advance. You can buy them from the theatre site directly or from Amazon ticketsLast Minute or Love Theatre

During the past couple years I was able to go to some musical performances on occasions and this is a list of the shows that I went to and loved. 

Aladdin the musical

Aladdin is the same Disney cartoon. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen. The costumes and set designs were fantastic. My inner child couldn't stop dancing! The set was very impressive. It was very stylish and luxurious. Genie was very funny too. 

The Lion King Musical

The Lion King is also a play based on the story of the famous Disney's cartoon, but the execution of it was very impressive. The way the animals were depicted with wooden figures and sculptures were very creative. The dances were beautiful too. This play is also suitable for children because Simba and Lana were represented by two children.

The Phantom of the Opera Musical

The Phantom of the Opera musical was beautiful and imaginative. It is also based on the film with the same title. The way they acted and sung was very moving. 

An American in Paris

An American in Paris play is a nice mix of singing and dancing. The vibe is old fashioned. The main dance is Ballet. The story is a traditional love story but I loved watching it all unfold on stage. It is a nice one to go to with the girls. 

The rest of the plays

There are lots of theatrical performances and you can read about them before going and booking online.
Note: Photography and recording is prohibited during theatre performances, so don't be that person they flash!

Markets

London has distinct open markets in every area of the city. Here is a list of the ones I regularly visit. 

Borough Market

Borough Market is located in central London just outside of London Bridge station. It is distinguished by the multi-food shops there that have a lot of various international foods and products. If you want to explore it fully you can check out this Made in London Tour: Borough Market to St Pauls Cathedral .

Old Spitalfields Market

Old Spitafield Market has restaurants and food carts as well as a little market with a selection of clothing and accessories stalls. It is a good-sized market close to the centre of London and Liverpool Street Station. 

Greenwich Market

If you decide to visit this market, I recommend that you go to Greenwich University, Greenwich Park and walk near the river there. You can go all out and try a Greenwich Highlights Half Day Tour . It's really easy to do it on your own with the help of Google maps though! On Sundays, they have the vintage/antique market. (Video about Greenwich below!)

Camden Market

Camden Market is a little strange and very crowded with things that are different from the rest of London. There you can see a huge dragon and a shoe above the shops. There are two markets there the Stables and Camden Lock. You can start from the station and walk around to the markets. There is so much food there too! You can try the Discover Camden with a Local Host as well . (Video about Camden below!)

Parks and Gardens

The best seasons to visit parks and gardens are summer and spring. The fall is also good to visit to see the different colours in the park but the weather starts getting colder. The winter is very cold to enjoy the parks. I enjoy visiting a few parks such as the Greenwich Park in South London, Victoria Park in East London, Holland Park near the Design Museum and the Regent's Park, where the big Regent's Mosque is located. There are so many parks in London and each offers something new. Check the map and see what's close to you and go for a walk. 

London neighbourhoods and choosing a hotel in London

To choose a good hotel you should look at the map and see the places you would like to visit just to get an understanding of how much you will travel. London is very big and has so many choices. My main way of searching is to go to the map on websites like booking or Airbnb. One of the most important things is to find a hotel near the station. Search in Google Maps from the place you want to stay in to the attraction to really get an idea of how far you will be travelling. I have a few suggestions for you below and all are based on the stations around them. I haven't stayed in them, but from my search for other family members and friends who visit, I think they will be good options. 
Baker Street Station

Holborn

Old Street

Paddington

Southwark

You can also try finding other hotels by looking at more options on booking

Booking.com

Muslims in London

London is a very diverse city and you will find many people from all religions and backgrounds. I am very thankful that I did not face any harassment about my headscarf (Read: Travel Blogger in a Headscarf Q&A). London is a safe place to wear a headscarf and I pray that it remains an accepting and loving city because diversity is truly beautiful. You should take the usual precautions, such as not going too late at night (Read: How to stay safe when travelling). By the way, there are many mosques in London, but for a specific list please check the directory. 

Halal Food in London

Halal meat is widely available in London and in all types of restaurants such as Indian, Asian, Arabic, etc. Even big chains would at least have halal chicken on offer. There are two halal food sites that I use frequently for the latest food recommendations in the city halal girl about town and Halal Gems. They both have a map, photos and reviews of all kinds of Halal restaurants and many of them are very tasty. I wrote about my favourite restaurants that I always go to as well; My Ultimate Favourite Food Guide for London (Including Halal)

 Dishoom 

Dishoom 

Other cities to visit and combine with your London trip

London is a full on city and can keep you busy for weeks. There are also a lot of country walks from London that I really enjoy going onto. You can see my country walk outings on the Youtube playlist below:

If you want to go to other cities to explore the UK further, I recommend visiting the two university cities: Cambridge and Oxford. They are both near by and can be seen in a day or a weekend. The are is also Bath, a city full of architecture, but you have to pay to enter its museums. You can pair it with Stonehenge or Bristol. There are day-trip options such as Stonehenge, Windsor, and Bath: Day Trip from London or Stonehenge, Bath & West Country: Day Trip from London . I would advice to stay over night in Bath though because half a day there is not enough.

There is also the oceanfront city of Brighton. I haven't been yet, but once I do I will share a full video. I am waiting for the weather to be good first. There lots of tour there as well like the Brighton: Lanes & Backstreets Small Group Tour with a Local .

The second main city in England is Manchester, which is two hours from London by the express train. I lived there for three years and I would recommend it for a weekend. It might be fun to walk around with a local, Welcome to Manchester: Private Tour .


 Local Guide to London - Four Day Itinerary to London

Local Guide to London - Four Day Itinerary to London

I really hope that you enjoyed this detailed London post. I can't wait for you to come to London and experience all the things that it has to offer.

You might enjoy these London posts too:

Over to you: What else would you like to see in London? 


More London Posts: 

Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter (Christmas in London)

Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter

The amazing thing about living in London is all the possibilities and the changing plans every season. I feel truly blessed to live here. A good source of inspiration for great London activities is Timeout London,  Le Cool London and the Nudge.  Living in London for the past four years has given me an inside knowledge of what type of events are likely to happen and when. 

Read: How Can You Afford Living in London? 

In this post, I am going to give you a few ideas of things to do in the autumn and winter, which is basically the Christmas period. Although Christmas festivity don't start till mid November. 

One. Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter: Ice Skating

This has been on my list since I moved to London. Every time I pass by an ice rink I get the urge to go, but I change my mind last minute, but this year I am going! There are a few options . The two most popular -over crowded- ones are the Winter wonderland one in Hyde Park and the one outside of the Natural History Museum. There is also the very cool ice rink at the Somerset House. A slightly less crowded one is the Canary Wharf Ice Rink since it is located in the business area of London. Canary Wharf is usually very quiet during the weekend when all the business men and women are in their homes, but who knows about this year.  Full list: Ice skating in London

Two. Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter: Christmas Markets

I know this is very christmasy, but I love markets. Markets are great when it's not raining and you want to just walk around and chat. Many of them popup close to Christmas time to entice people to buy even more gifts. 

There is the usual Winter wonderland market, but I just avoid Hyde Park at all costs. Too many people! A little one in central London is the Southbank market. There is also a high end market in the Design Museum for a weekend in Dec. I personally love the Renegade Craft Fair (second weekend in December in East London)There are many handmade and Etsy sellers there that have unique gifts. 

Three. Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter:Kew Gardens

I know it's a bit too cold for parks, BUT the colours of autumn are too gorgeous to miss! Get those winter boots out and warm coat and go. On my list is Kew gardens for all the beautiful shades of autumn. Some more park ideas: Hidden gardens and green spaces in London

Read: How to find cool events and things to do in London

Four. Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter: International Films

Going to the cinema all together is a very winter activity for me. I am not going to waste a good sunny day indoors. I haven't been to the cinema to watch a normal American or British movies in months. I only watch them on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I go to cinemas now just for international movies that I can't get a hold of otherwise. During October (until the 15th) there is the British film festival with really cool films. End of October is the UK Iranian film festival as well and I try to go to at least two of them. It's worth looking up independent cinemas in London to see more intriguing options of films that you might have not seen before. I usually go to the Curzon Cinema for that and they have a few branches. There is also Greenwich Picturehouse, which can be a good option if you are based in South London. For more quirky options you can go to the Prince Charles Cinema

Five. Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter: Chase up the lights

Winter nights are very long, but thankfully in some parts of London, night is as bright as day! There are a few lit up spots around London. Most lights start popping from end of November in preparation for Christmas. The most obvious lights that you will eventually see without even trying are the light at Oxford Street, Regent Street and a few other street in Central London. Basically keep on walking in central London and you will see lights all over. If you want more street lights then the winter Canary Wharf lights might be fun to see as well. 

There are three gardens that will have lights as well: 

 Photo from  Kew Gardens

Photo from Kew Gardens

Six. Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter: Country Walks

If you are done with all the city activities, you can head outside of London and go on one of the possible country walks. It will be worth it especially if you go in October or November where you get to see all the beautiful coloured autumn leaves. I think it's a magical time of the year. If you need ideas of country walks near London then check out the books below, or check some of the walks I have gone on previously! 

Over to you: Are there any events or activities happening in London in the autumn and winter that you are planning on doing? Share away in the comments below! 

Nine Things to do this Summer in London (Ideas for Summer activities in London)

This is my second London summer and I am loving it. It's surprising all the beautiful sunny days that we have had so far! Obviously, there was rain here and there, but it is still a beautiful season in London. It actually got really hot two weeks ago (30 degree) and I had to order a cooling fan! It arrived after the weather cooled down, but I am hoping it will get a little hot during July and August! 

Summer in London

Things to do in London this summer

Every summer, I make a list of things I want to do before the season ends. My list has lots of things and I thought it will be fun to share with you all! Hope you get to try some of these idea!  

Summer in London Activity 1: Park Picnics

I know this is the most obvious one, but it's so much fun! I would recommend that you go to a few this season and make most of your summer outdoors! By the way, forget Hyde Park. I seriously don't go there unless I am forced or there is something extra special happening there! I like: Regent Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park. Regent is the most central one of the three, but the other two are out of the way and can be great for a more peaceful park time away. The added benefit of Richmond is the deer you can spot there! There are also gardens that allow picnic like Kew Gardens.   

Find more London parks on: 

The best parks in London

24 quiet London parks and secret gardens to escape to

Ps. You can see some of the Greenwich Park in my Greenwich video below!

Summer in London - Park Picnic

Summer in London Activity 2: Art Festivals

The first one that comes to mind is Shubak Festival and it's an Arab art festival with lots of art related activities happening across two weeks. It only started three days ago, so you have time to checkout the rest of the activities they have on offer! I am planning to go to the art exhibitions they have arranged. 

Summer in London Activity 3: Music Gigs and Festivals

I have to admit. I got this idea slightly late! Most tickets are sold out at this point, but there are still few going! There is a great lineup happening in Somerset House. I am slightly sad I am not spending most of July in London because there is just SO MUCH to see and attend. There are also few music and art events to check in the Barbican Centre.   

More Music gigs and festivals from other websites: 

Music Festivals in London during 2017

Summer in London Activity 4: Rooftop Crawl

I haven't done much of this *yet* but I went to a few spots last. The only rooftop garden I have been to was the Canary Wharf: The Crossrail Place Roof Garden. It's small, but it's nice to chill after grabbing some food from one of the restaurants downstairs!

I have four more places to try this season on evenings with nice weather: 

I would also like to go to the fancy Sky Garden one of those days.

A full list of the best Roof spots can be found (here). 

Summer in London - Golden Tattoo

Summer in London Activity 5: Outdoor Cinema

This is very weather dependent. Although it is technically summer, but with the unpredictable British weather, this could be taken over by rain. It's still worth doing and luckily there are few venues that do that! 

The Luna Cinema has a list of movies that are shown in a number of London venues.

The Nomad Cinema does cinema pop ups at various venue around London too!  

Summer in London Activity 6: Stuffing face with Ice Cream! 

Like seriously this is my favourite thing to do the second I see sunshine! There are lots of great locations to get yummy ice cream from such Chin Chin Labs, Snowflake gelato, Gelupo or even your local supermarket. Doesn't matter where from just stuff your face with as much as ice cream as possible! 

Chin Chin Lab ice cream - Summer in London

Summer in London Activity 7: Lavender Fields

I don't know if you noticed all the instagramers last year posting beautiful photos in lavender fields. My instagram was seriously flooded with those photos and I just had to get one there too! I went to the Hitchin Lavender Fields (45mins from London by train). I still have my full bag of lavenders from last year, so I am not sure if I am doing it again this summer, but it was so much fun! They have a really nice cafe too that is worth chilling in! 

Summer in London Activity 8: Fruit Picking

This is basically the same idea as the lavender field above. I haven't done this yet, but I am planning on going next month! There are a few strawberry and berries farms that are very close to London such as

Stan Hill Farm

Hewitts Farm

Copas Farms

Here are more choices from other websites: 

Ps. I suggest checking google maps for the nearest locations to you! London is huge, but since I am closer to the South I have only focused on that area. There are plenty scattered around.  

Summer in London Activity 9: Day Trips!

Yes this is not technically in London, but very accessible from one of the Central London train stations. Few weeks ago, I went on a country forest walk to Ashridge. Being under the shade, walking and eating ice cream was one of the best things I have done! There are many possible walks all around London. There are beach walks too! Last summer, I went on a beach one to Hayling Island. This summer I want to go to Portsmouth and Brighton!  

For even more ideas here is a list of activities for July and August from the London Time Out website:

Over to you: What's on your summer activities list? 

How Can You Afford Living in London?

How Can You Afford Living in London?

This is the million dollar question that I get at least once a week or whenever I meet new people. Let me start by saying when I say I live in London, I am no where near Big Ben, London Eye, Harrods or anything in Central London really. I live an hour away and that's still considered London. This city is expensive no doubt, but here is how I can afford living in London

  • Being a Full Time Student in London is GOLD

I think being a student in London gives you so many possibilities and DISCOUNTS! I have a discounted Oyster card, which means I pay 125GBP a month for a travel card from zone 1 to 4 and that includes all forms of transportation in London (Bus, DLR, Tube, Trains and the Overground). I also get a student train card (Rail Card) to travel in the UK  for a significantly cheaper prices. Plus, I get 10% off in most stores with MyUniDays or you can get the NUS card

As a full time student, you don't pay council tax too, which makes rent cheaper as well. 

  • Give up Central London for Zone three or four

As I said in the introduction, I don't live in Central London. I live between zone three and four, which happens to be on the other side of the River Thames that you probably would not have visited. It basically takes me an HOUR to get ANYWHERE. That's a sacrifice you have to make if you want to stay in an affordable place that is slightly bigger than a shoe box. With my discounted Oyster card mentioned above, it makes sense to live further.

  • Meal Planning and Home Cooked Meals is a great method to SAVE MONEY!! 

This saves so much you have no idea! Those supermarket sandwiches and crisps you buy at lunch for 3-5 pounds add up and become crazy! Think of this: A whole loaf of bread is 80p and humous is 1 pound and a bag of spinach for another 1 pound you can even treat yourself with 6 small bags of crisps for 2 pounds max. There you just made 5 lunches for 5 days for the cost of one! You see what I mean. Another thing, plan your meals before you get groceries, so you don't waste. Each meal I cook has two portions, so I have it for two dinners. Try a few vegan meals a week and that saves loads if you are using one type of vegetable, a can of chopped tomatoes and rice that's like 3 pounds for a filling meal. You can get very creative here and there are like a bazillion pages on instagram and pintrest to help you with that!    

  • Meet Your Friends At Art Galleries or do other free activities

The wonderful thing about is London is the amount of free activities! (Read: How to find cool events and things to do in London). Big museums and art galleries are my default meeting point now. It gives you something to do and it is a fun. If the weather is good, you can also go to parks for picnics and catch ups. 

  • Only Go out to Cafes    

I am a social butterfly and I love hanging out with my London pals. As a Muslim, we can't meet at Pubs, so I used to meet my friends for restaurant meals (Read: My Ultimate Favourite Food Guide in London). That started costing me so much!! Now, I try to meet at cafes in the afternoon for tea or a just desserts. We sometimes only get tap water and stay there for two hours or more. Even buying a cup of tea or coffee is much more affordable than a main course.

Neal's Yard London
Vegan Dessert in Wild Food Cafe London

Over to you:

How Can You Afford Living in London? Are there any other things you are doing I haven't mentioned above? Please Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

More Posts from London: 

My Ultimate Favourite Food Guide for London (Including Halal)

You will probably find me in one of these! These are the places I choose from when I go out for food in London. These are purely based on my taste and what I like to eat. Thankfully, my friends love them as much as I do. I surly need to expand the list. I tried loads more, but I only put the ones I really enjoyed here. 

For Arabic food: you are really spoiled for choice. There are so many options in Edgware Road and I only tried a few. I like Beirut Express for breakfast. I love the Green Valley to get some fresh or frozen Arabic special food. Maroush and Abu Zaad are also yummy! 

For Burgers: Stax, Burgista Bros and Guanabana for chicken burgers: GBK

Indian Food in London

For Indian: Hands down Dishoom. It's just so so good! There is also Roti Chai. It's in a similar goodness range. 

For Turkish: Iskele (Barbican area) and Babaji Pide

For Mexican: I still haven't found the prefect Mexican place in London, but Wahaca is nice. It's not halal, but I get their veggie or fish tacos.

Pan Asian: Busaba and Pho

For Pizza: Homeslice and Zizzi

For Noodles: Shoryu Ramen (be careful though. About 95% of their menu is pork. I go for the one vegetarian noodles that they have. It is so good!)

For Sushi: Sticks n Sushi (beware! It's really pricey, but so yummy!)

For Persian: There are so many amazing Persian restaurants in London. These are my favourite. I really enjoyed eating in all four: Behesht (Kensal Green),  Alounak (Bayswater), Kish (Maida Vale) and Kabab Mahdi (Hammersmith). 

Halal Stake in London

For Stake: Steak and Co (they have a special halal stake) I haven't found another good halal stake in London, but the search continues. 

For General/Please everyone classics: Jamie's Italian. It's not halal, but their prawns linguine and vegetarian dishes are nice.

More favourites on the London map: 

 

Over to you: what are your ultimate favourite halal spots in London? 

How to find cool events and things to do in London

London Events

I love being in London. It's an amazing city with so many things to do. You can even plan every night of the week to be out doing something entertaining. I keep getting asked how I find all the cool events I go to. I also get responses to my Snapchat story that say "oh wish I knew" "how did you even find that?" The answer is simple, I look for interesting things to do with my time because interesting events lead to interesting people. Sometimes I go alone and sometimes I take my friends. Either way, I make sure I go there and enjoy myself! Here are my go-to places to find events

Events at museums and galleries

The start of the month, I take a look at my favourite museums, art centres and venue just to check what's on. Some events are free, but others are paid. Usually they are reasonably price and under £20. The places I check are:

Barbican Centre, British Museum, National Gallery, Vitoria and Albert Museum, Leighton House Museum, Prince's School of Traditional Arts, Somerset House, Saatchi Gallery, Fashion and Textile Museum and The Design Museum.   

Live Music in London
Barbican Exhibition in London

Events at cool London venues

There are so many trendy venues around the city that host events. The ones I check are The Book Club in Shoreditch, The Forge in Camden and Soho Theatre

Events via Meetup groups

I mentioned meetup.com in a pervious post "Ten Ways to Make International Friends". It's not only good for meeting new people and making friends, but there are so many groups that are based in London that do all sort of events from drawing at galleries  to socialising at new London spots and etc. 

Events from event websites

There is always the dependable Timeout London. I also like Le Cool London and the Nudge. I am sure there are other cool ones, but these usually fill up my schedule and notify me with the major London events.   

Street art in London
The book club in London

I hope you find these locations and links useful. By the way, you should also ask your friends to share cool events that they might have heard of from work or other friends. This city has lots to offer and you will surly find something you enjoy. You can mix it up and go to events that you aren't sure about. It is fun to experiment! 

Over to you: How do you find cool events in London? Do you know any cool venues and websites that I didn't mention? Please feel free to share them in the comments below. 

 

London After Midnight

When my friend suggested to keep walking around the river in South Bank and cross the main footpath bridges in London at 11pm, I jumped at the opportunity! I always wanted to experience London at night, but I never felt comfortable doing it on my own. The weather has been warm and glorious. I haven't spent a July in London before. I am usually away during that time, but this year I came right when summer started. It was surprisingly busy, but when the weather is good in London people stay out longer. I only had my Canon G 7X mark 1 with me and I thought the photos turned out really well for a point and shoot. Here are some of the photos I took on the walk.