Our local area
Conceived in the 1850s by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, South Kensington was planned as a major cultural centre. Bringing together institutions of learning, artistic excellence, scientific endevour and cultural celebration, 'Albertopolis' was for everyone. Today the area attracts tens of millions of visitors every year from across the globe.
For 140 years, the RCM has stood proudly opposite the iconic Royal Albert Hall and backed on to some of the finest centres of scientific excellence, now combined to form Imperial College London. The RCM's unique position has fostered remarkable partnerships and is testament to Prince Albert's original vision. As South Kensington has continued to grow it has remained a shining example of the arts and sciences working shoulder-to-shoulder for the common good.
Exhibition Road is home to South Kensington's world-class museums
The Royal Albert Hall, directly opposite the RCM
RCM students opening the Science Museum's Maths Gallery © Jody Kingzett
Hyde Park, one of London's largest and most popular green spaces
The spectacular entrance hall of the Natural History Museum
Imperial College is a world-renowned centre for scientific research and a close partner of the RCM's
RCM students performing at the V&A
There are lots of places to eat and drink in South Kensington, plus local amenities like banks and a post office
South Kensington is well connected to the rest of London by excellent transport links
The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, and the Royal Albert Hall behind, both celebrate Prince Albert's vision
Our local museums have played a huge role in South Kensington's success and are now internationally renowned tourist attractions. The Science Museum, Natural History Museum and V&A are home to breathtaking historic collections, dynamic exhibits and impressive learning programmes. Other local institutions include the Royal College of Art, Goethe-Institut, Austrian Cultural Forum, Institut Français and Ismaili Centre, all of whom contribute to the incredible diversity of the area.
As a counterpoint to South Kensington's cultural buzz and extraordinary architecture, the relaxing expanse of Hyde Park is less than five minutes’ walk away.
South Kensington's eclectic range of activities and diverse mix of people has allowed it to thrive as one of London's most exciting quarters. A wide selection of pubs, cafés, restaurants and shops are all available nearby, as are essential services such as banks and post offices.
To find out more about our local area and our neighbours, visit the Discover South Kensington website.
Working in London
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.
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.
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 range 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 Cirque de Soleil, visit frequently.
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. Hyde 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.
Shopping, sports & lifestyle
London is a celebrated shopping and fashion destination, home to famous designers and lifestyle brands. Additionally, 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 city has many 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.
The London skyline at night, with St Paul's Cathedral on the left and the Southbank on the right
Shoppers on and around Regent Street in the West End
Produce on display at Borough Market, one of London's many traditional markets
The London Eye is one of London's most distinctive landmarks
Deer in Richmond Park, south London
The Shard, London's tallest building, rises into the sky on a misty day
Spring blossom in Greenwich Park
London has a wide range of travel options, including an excellent public transport network. London’s streets are well signposted and many people choose to make shorter journeys by foot or by bike.
Transport for London (TfL) is responsible for the local transport system. TfL controls the London Underground, which is also known as ‘the Tube’, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), the London Overground, London Buses and several other transport options. TfL operates a contactless pay-as-you-go scheme, which is cheaper than buying paper tickets on most services, and students on full-time courses lasting more than 14 weeks can apply for an 18+ Student Oystercard. The scheme works with contactless bank cards or mobile payment and Oyster Cards.
Cash is no longer accepted on London buses. Only contactless forms of payment can be used to make journeys by bus.
Fares for travel by rail, Underground, DLR and Overground are split into zones. Zone 1 is in central London with higher numbered zones spreading out from the centre. The Royal College of Music is in Zone 1.