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Live & study in London

Big Ben
London is one of Europe's leading cultural capitals. A city of remarkable heritage, cutting-edge development and vibrant social activity, it has something for everyone. Whatever your interests, as a Royal College of Music student London's countless opportunities will be available right on your doorstep.

Home to a truly international community, from across Europe and beyond, London offers an eclectic mix of food, shopping, arts and entertainment. The city regularly hosts leading orchestras and musicians from around the world at acclaimed venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Southbank Centre, Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre and Royal Opera House. There is also world-class theatre, dance and art on offer.

London is home to iconic historical monuments and respected cultural institutions. Whether you're looking for artistic masterpieces, ancient treasures, a slice of British history, or a tranquil rest in the park, there's always something to keep you captivated. Many of the city's museums and galleries are free and several attractions offer discounted tickets for students.

The Royal College of Music is located in one of the city's most vibrant cultural areas and lies within easy reach of the bustling centre. However, London has much to offer across its 600 square miles. With an excellent choice of places to live and discounted travel available, many of our students venture far beyond South Kensington, embracing adventures, curiosities and opportunities throughout the city. With so much to explore, studying in London can be the experience of a lifetime.

Things to see and do

Music

Home to some of the world's most renowned performers, venues and recording studios, London is a thriving centre for classical music. Specialists in early and contemporary repertoire expand the range on offer. Festivals of all sizes draw audiences from around the world. The largest classical festival, the BBC Proms, is based across the road from the RCM at the Royal Albert Hall, with additional performances across the city.

London's musical credentials span all genres. Venues such as the O2 Arena, Camden Roundhouse, Shepherd's Bush Empire, Brixton Academy and Ronnie Scott's attract big names in pop, rock, folk, jazz, dance and urban music. Quirkier venues such as Café Oto and Bold Tendencies (a former multi-storey car park) offer less mainstream fare, but attract dedicated followings and the musically curious in equal measure. Thanks to London's diverse cosmopolitan population, traditional music from across the world is well-represented too.

For students, London can be a particularly inspiring and resourceful place. The city boasts a wide selection of music shops, instrument specialists and music publishers, as well as respected artist management agencies and other valuable professional contacts. London's impressive roster of session musicians, which includes RCM graduates, benefits from varied and regular work, including engagements in the burgeoning industry of media music.

It's true to say that London offers a rich musical life for practitioners and audiences alike. For centuries the world's finest musicians have chosen to live, study and work here. In concert halls, music colleges, museums and ordinary neighbourhoods you can find traces of this great legacy in every corner of London.

Tickets for concerts are regularly discounted for students and some venues host free events. In addition to opportunities at the RCM, calls for works and calls for performers are commonplace, as are competitions. Small venues and local festivals often present chances to perform and help organise events.

Whether you want to soak up this diverse musical culture or you're itching to roll up your sleeves and take part, London is a truly musical city, rich with opportunities.

The O2 Arena seen from the River Thames at night

The O2 Arena is one of London's biggest venues and an instantly recognisable landmark

Culture & the arts

London plays a vital role in UK cultural activity and has long been a major destination on the international art scene. The city is home to excellent training schools, renowned production teams and a panoply of famous stages. In particular, the UK has a revered literary history and a long tradition of the finest dramatic coaching.

The city's generous display of visual arts, at venues including the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and Saatchi Gallery, includes some of the most breathtaking collections anywhere on the planet. As the centre of the UK's film and television industry, London boasts regular film festivals, pop-up cinemas and film collectives. Major blockbusters have red-carpet openings here too. For example, a number of James Bond films have premiered at the Royal Albert Hall, right outside the RCM's front door.

From the Theatre Royal to the National Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe to the Old Vic, you can enjoy stage musicals, modern theatrical masterpieces and timeless classics at a huge range of venues. West End productions are recognised as the best of English language theatre, equalled only by Broadway in New York. Local dance companies, such as the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet, perform throughout the year, while touring troupes, such as the Bolshoi Ballet and Cirque de Soliel, visit frequently.

In all the arts, London's reputation for mounting traditional shows is matched by a thriving contemporary scene, providing audiences and collaborators with real choice. Artistic culture thrives at all levels, in all fields, in every corner of the city.

The new Switch House at the Tate Modern - one of the world's finest modern art galleries

The new Switch House at the Tate Modern - one of the world's finest modern art galleries

Museums, parks & other attractions

London enjoys a broad selection of monuments, museums and visitor attractions. The Royal Palaces, Tower of London and Houses of Parliament are popular destinations, offering a fascinating glimpse of history. More modern attractions include the London Eye and The Shard, which contains bars, restaurants and the highest viewing platform in the city.

London's parks and open spaces, both large and small, can be tranquil oases amid the fast pace of urban life. Some offer fantastic views of the skyline, while others have become well known for the attractions they contain. Hype Park is home to the Serpentine Galleries, plus it often hosts large-scale events. The adjoining Kensington Gardens surround Kensington Palace, an official Royal residence. Elsewhere, St James's Park provides spectacular views of Buckingham Palace, Regent's Park contains London Zoo and Richmond Park in south London is famed for its resident herd of deer.

For those interested in museums, London has many to offer. Perhaps the most famous are those near the RCM in South Kensington: the Science Museum, V&A and Natural History Museum. Other examples include the British Museum, National Maritime Museum, Design Museum, London Transport Musuem and Imperial War Museum. Several of London's most important historical buildings have their own museums too, such as Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge.

The spectacular entrance hall of the Natural History Museum

The spectacular entrance hall of the Natural History Museum

Shopping, sports & lifestyle

London is a celebrated shopping and fashion destination, home to famous designers and lifestyle brands. However, shopping doesn't have to be expensive. London's diverse population has brought with it goods and skills from all over the world with retailers to match every pocket. In the city's thousands of markets and shops you can find almost anything from anywhere on earth. The food scene is equally infused with an international flavour. Whether you have a taste for high-end restaurants or simple street vendors, London has cuisine for you.

For those who like healthy eating, it's possible to buy fresh ingredients every day of the week. Most cafés and restaurants offer healthy menu options and can cater for special dietary requirements. London is also home to a huge number of gyms, sports centres and fitness groups. Joggers and cyclists are a common sight, and many of the parks include fitness equipment.

London is a fantastic destination for sports fans. World famous stadiums such as Twickenham, Wembley, Wimbledon and Lords host major tournaments in rugby, football, tennis and cricket. Other events are well represented too, with a sporting fixture of some kind available to see every week of the year. 

London's bars and clubs offer a wide variety of music, entertainment and nightlife. The range of drinks on offer, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, is wide and often exotic. The city has countless pubs, many of which show televised sports, host live music and comedy, or run regular pub quizzes. More traditional pubs maintain a quieter atmosphere and many have beer gardens. Some London museums run late-night exhibitions and a number of venues across the city host late cinema screenings. Whatever your destination, London's network of Night Buses, fleet of taxis and the 24-hour Tube service on Fridays and Saturdays means you can always get home safely. 

Hyde Park is a popular spot for relaxing and keeping healthy

Hyde Park is a popular spot for relaxing and keeping healthy

Areas to explore and places to live

South Kensington

Home to the RCM, South Kensington is one of London's most important cultural quarters. A centre for learning and tourism, it attracts a wide variety of people and businesses. Small shops, restaurants and cafés are in abundance. The lush greenery of Hyde Park is a only stone's throw away, as are Kensington Palace and Gardens. South Kensington station provides quick access to many parts of London. Clustered around the station you will find plenty of local amenities, including several banks and other useful services. 

Nearby neighbourhoods are within easy walking distance and provide yet more choice for shopping, food and entertainment. Kensington High Street is home to a number of popular retailers as well as the Design Museum. In the other direction lies Knightsbridge with its more lavish facilities, including top restaurants and the famous luxury department store Harrods.

The appeal of South Kensington lies in the variety of its attractions and its proximity to other notable areas of west London, including Chelsea, Hammersmith and Notting Hill.

The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, with the Royal Albert Hall behind

The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, with the Royal Albert Hall behind

The West End

The West End is London's premier destination for tourism and leisure. Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown and Leicester Square are all located here. The West End is synonymous with stage productions. The Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Royal Ballet and English National Ballet all have their performing homes in the area, not to mention the huge selection of theatre and stage musicals available every day.

Buzzing Soho is full of places to eat and drink. Famous for its nightlife and its LGBT-friendly venues, Soho's atmosphere is just as characterful during the day, with coffee shops, market stalls and an excellent selection of places for daytime meals.

The West End also boasts world-renowned shopping locations. Oxford Street, Regent Street, Carnaby Street, Piccadilly and Bond Street are home to flagship stores of major brands, luxury boutiques and budget retailers.

Interspersed among these attractions are some of London's best loved museums, galleries and landmarks. Towards the edges of the West End you'll find Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham and St James's Palaces, several Royal Parks and, just across the river, the Southbank Centre. For many people, the West End is the heart of London life.

The hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Circus in the heart of the West End

The hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Circus in the heart of the West End

Southbank & Bankside

Together, the Southbank and Bankside form one of the most culturally rich parts of London. Stretching from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge, they bring together the London Eye, National Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe, Tate Modern, numerous pop-up markets and food vendors, an array of other museums and attractions, as well as a huge selection of places to eat and drink. The Southbank Centre – Europe's largest centre for the arts – acts as centrepiece, housing the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Rooms and the Hayward Gallery.

The Southbank is particularly popular at night, when the riverside location provides unbeatable views of the London skyline. The lights of tall modern buildings and historical monuments reflect in the water, punctuated by iconic bridges stretching across the Thames. During the day, particularly at weekends, the area is extremely lively. Street performers are a regular sight, a famous skate park teems with life in the undercroft of the Southbank Centre and temporary stages are periodically erected for festivals and special events.

Crowds on the Southbank outside the Royal Festival Hall

Crowds on the Southbank outside the Royal Festival Hall

Shepherd's Bush

Shepherd's Bush lies between Hammersmith and Notting Hill, benefiting from the amenities of both, but also enjoying its own range of leisure facilities and a growing student population. The area is served by more than 15 bus routes, while local Overground and Underground stations offer fast, convenient rail travel in all directions. Prince Consort Village is only a short bus ride or 10 minute walk along Goldhawk Road.

Local attractions are conveniently clustered around Shepherd's Bush Green. The Bush Theatre is one of west London's most notable, championing work by new writers to repeated critical acclaim. The neighbourhood is well known for live music venues too. The Shepherd's Bush Empire regularly attracts some of the world's most recognised rock, pop and dance performers, while the independently owned Bush Hall offers a more intimate alternative, attracting less well-known acts as well as big name artists.

There are several cinemas in the area, including one inside the sizeable Westfield shopping centre. Here you'll find a selection of retailers large enough to rival shopping in the West End. Shepherd's Bush also has a vibrant market scene and a large number of local restaurants serving international cuisine at affordable prices.

Westfield Shepherd's Bush

Westfield Shepherd's Bush is a major destination for shopping, dining and entertainment

Hammersmith

Hammersmith is a major west London hub on the banks of the River Thames with excellent local amenities and leisure facilities. Major high street retailers are surrounded by eating and drinking establishments of all kinds. Hammersmith boasts important entertainment venues too. The Apollo is famed for large comedy shows and major live music events, while The Lyric Hammersmith is regularly lauded as one of the UK's leading producing theatres.

A large bus and London Underground station lies at the heart of Hammersmith, making travel particularly convenient. Bus services run across west London, including directly to Prince Consort Village and the RCM. Four Underground lines run through the neighbourhood providing convenient access to central London, South Kensington and other destinations, including Heathrow Airport.

One of Hammersmith's greatest assets is its riverside location. Picturesque pathways line the Thames, dotted with places to relax with friends on a balmy summer evening. Along with the historic Hammersmith Bridge, they're also fantastic places to watch the annual Boat Race, in which rowing teams from Oxford and Cambridge universities speed along the river to huge cheering crowds.

RCM alumnus Gustav Holst taught at St Paul's School in Hammersmith, where he wrote a number of his most famous works, including The Planets and St Paul's suites.

Hammersmith Bridge at dusk, stretching over the Thames

Hammersmith Bridge at dusk, stretching over the Thames

Notting Hill

Notting Hill is best recognised for the 1999 Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant film, which was set in the area, and for the Notting Hill Carnival. The neighbourhood is both eclectic and fashionable, known for its alternative and artistic culture, and home to an extremely diverse assortment of people.

The Notting Hill Carnival is second in size only to the Rio Carnival in Brazil and is the biggest street festival in Europe. Every August bank holiday weekend, the streets are transformed into a two-day celebration of Caribbean culture, which attracts upwards of 2.5 million visitors from all over the world. With its flamboyant parade, aromatic street food, loud music and ecstatic dancing, the carnival is a kaleidoscopic experience not to be missed.

The area is quieter for the rest of the year, but no less interesting. Portobello Road is a popular destination, partly for its quaintly painted buildings and fashionable residents, but also for its market. During the week you can buy fresh produce here. On a Friday and Saturday the range expands significantly, with antique stalls, emerging fashion designers and second-hand merchants joining the long procession of traders. At its fullest, the market extends along a significant stretch of Portobello Road, surrounded by independent boutiques, which remain open during the week. Many people come here not to shop, but simply to soak up the atmosphere.

The London Underground's Central, Circle, District and Hammersmith & City lines skirt the edges of Notting Hill, with a number of stations around the perimeter of the neighbourhood. From Notting Hill Gate you can catch direct buses to Prince Consort Village and the RCM, as well as Central line trains to the centre of town.

A saxophonist plays to weekend shoppers in fashionable Notting Hill

A saxophonist plays to weekend shoppers in fashionable Notting Hill