Hello all! Long time no see! School has already been crazy and it is only the second week! After studying and living in London for a semester, I gained some useful knowledge that I wish I had known before moving there. So here are some helpful hints if you are studying abroad, moving, or visiting London! XO
There are four main grocery store chains that I used while in London. But remember that what would be considered the sketchy neighborhood grocery store in the US, probably has excellent options if you are in a fix. Keep in mind that you don’t have to spend the most money for the best food. Even in cheap gas stations, the fruit is fresh and the bread was probably delivered that morning.
Morrison’s- Morrison’s is the closest thing you will find to a Harris Teeter or Kroger. It’s big, has carts, and lots of options. This is great for your first weekend abroad so you can stock up on things like butter and milk. Remember to buy a reusable bag because you will be charged for plastic bags. Also remember that everything you buy you also have to carry home. You won’t realize until you are walking home from the grocery with ten cans of soup and your arms want to fall off how important this is.
Marks and Spencer- This is the equivalent of your high end, expensive grocery like Whole Food. This is a good option every once in a while, but isn’t practical for your weekly grocery store trip. They do have good prepared foods and meats here though. Also check out the bread/ pastry counter.
Tesco- From the outside, Tesco’s look like gas stations, however, they have excellent fruit and other options. Your selection is more limited here, but it is cheaper than Marks and Spencer and they are more convenient than Morrison’s. This is a great place to pick up something on your way home from class if you don’t want to go out of your way.
Budgens- Finally, my favorite grocery store while in London was Budgens. It is not as big as Morrison’s, but bigger than Tesco. It is similar to Fresh Market size wise and they always had everything I needed. The best part about Budgens is that they will deliver your groceries to your house for free. This was so handy whenever we had baking days or it was raining.
Even if farmer’s markets and flea markets aren’t your thing, try out these markets at least once to get a taste of London culture and to mingle with the locals! Make sure to bring cash and a reusable bag because most people won’t take cards and having a bag will make your life infinitely easier.
Borough- I think the best day to go to Borough market is Friday because it isn’t as busy. However, it is open Wednesday-Saturday with hours on their website. This is basically a huge farmers market. There are fresh fruits, cheeses, meats, breads, pastries, pastas you name it. If you are looking for anything food related, they probably have it at Borough. There are also lots of restaurant stalls so you can go grocery shopping and pick up a sandwich when you are done. The market is huge and it is fun to explore and get to know vendors from week to week.
Portobello- Portobello market is a very popular market in London, most known for it’s antiques. Even if you aren’t a big antique lover, arrive around 9-10 to avoid crowds. This is another great place to hang out and get to know the locals!
Brick Lane- Brick Lane on a Sunday isn’t exactly a market, but a food stall explosion. There will be people in all directions and lots of amazing food options. I would recommend trying Frenchie’s- a duck burger place that is there every weekend. I almost had to go back for seconds after finishing my sandwich it was so good.
Columbia Road Flower Market- The Columbia Road Flower Market is known around the world and for good reason. You have never seen so many flowers in one area. Even if you aren’t buying flowers, this is another great place to hang out and enjoy the hustle and bustle of London life on Sundays. The Flower Market is open from 8-3 on Sundays.
If you aren’t from a big city, you probably know about public transportation, but don’t really understand it. That is ok, because I am here to help. In London, most people use public transportation or walk. If you are going somewhere within a mile radius of your house or apartment, people walk. Otherwise they use the tube or buses. For the tube and buses, all you need to do is buy an oyster card at the tube station and refill it regularly. I would recommend getting either a monthly or weekly plan instead of filling it up whenever you run out.
Once you have your oyster card, all you have to do is swipe it when entering and exiting the tube station or when you board the bus. The best way to get around London is to use citymapper.com. Put in your starting location and your final destination and it will tell you how to get there by car, on foot, by tube, and by bus. There are detailed directions and a map.
This way you can’t get lost. The most important things to remember when using public transportation are being away of yourself and your belongings- you aren’t in your car so stay in your own space, remember that for buses and the tube you need to know your stop, but also what stop you are heading towards so you are going in the right direction. Finally, remember to bring headphones on the tube because every one else will be listening to music so you might as well listen to some tunes as well!