Whether you’re traveling to London for work or leisure, get the inside scoop from Dal alumni who live there on what to do and see.
Two thousand years have shaped London, England into a global hub that’s both steeped in history and on top of the latest trends. Today, Greater London could be described as 33 cities in one—each of its vibrant boroughs offering a distinct experience. For travellers, it can be hard to know where to start.
Work “The city attracts talent, so you get to work with the best and brightest,” says Kaylyn Fraser (BA’09), who works for an impact investing company in London that invests exclusively in commercial agribusinesses in sub-Saharan Africa.
While she describes working in London as having its challenges, Kaylyn recognizes that it’s chockablock with career possibility. “The best part of working in London is that the city offers loads of professional opportunities,” she explains. “My job is very niche and there might only be a small handful of people in Canada that do similar work, versus multiple companies in London.”
Victor Bomers (BSc’09) works in the London office of an American financial services company. He says working in London has its benefits including the convenience of overlapping hours with both Asia and the US, and the opportunity to work on interesting problems that span multiple currencies and countries. There are some drawbacks, of course, such as longer hours. “Most people don’t realize that the markets here are open two hours a day longer than in North America,” Victor says. “That means earlier mornings, and if you’re dealing with head office in the US, longer evenings.”
Where the jobs are
Top business sectors: Information and communication; financial and insurance; professional, scientific and technical services
Fastest growing sectors: Digital technology; design and creative industries
City sectors: Inner London—large entertainment and hospitality industry; boroughs— health care, education and retail services; outer reaches—more industrial
Play Though it sounds like work might have the upper hand, life in London is not all work and no play. In a city with some of the world’s most memorable art, entertainment, shopping, dining and history, there are endless new places to discover or rediscover. Both Victor and Kaylyn mentioned enjoying the variety of tastes on offer at weekend markets such as Broadway Market, Borough Market and Camden Market.
“On the weekends I love exploring and keeping up with the different neighbourhoods of the city,” Victor says. “I’ve been here for nine years and it’s incredible how things have changed since I arrived.”
Though London’s incredible array of cultural activities means there’s never a dull moment, Kaylyn admits it can be difficult to unwind amidst the hustle and bustle. So, she heads off the beaten track to the Peckham, Camberwell and Herne Hill neighbourhoods in South London. “They collectively offer such a rich food and culture scene.”
Stay If you’re just in for a visit, Victor recommends planning for late spring. “June is my favourite time to be in London because the weather is great, it’s not too crowded and there are lots of events going on.” He suggests a bus tour to “hit the major sights and to get acquainted with the layout of the city,” and recommends at least a day in a museum or gallery.
Kaylyn agrees. “I would check out Tate Modern and Tate Britain—both excellent galleries.” Another idea is taking the boat from Westminster Pier to Greenwich to get a look at the city from an interesting vantage point. “I would also take the time to walk the Royal Parks, which include St James Park, Green Park and Hyde Park,” Kaylyn adds. “They take you through most of the touristy spots and tend to be beautiful all year round, though especially so in the summer.”
One thing you won’t have to worry about is where to eat. As Kaylyn says, “London has an amazing food and drink scene across the whole of the city. My personal favourites are Ceviche and Andina in Soho, Kimchee in Holborn, Barrafina in King’s Cross’ Coal Drops Yard, Kudu in Peckham, Lleweyln’s in Herne Hill, and Sambol Shiok in Highbury Corner.”
As it’s top of mind, it’s worth mentioning that the uk brexit plan doesn’t impact the requirements for Canadians travelling to London—though it might mean you get more pints for your pence.
- If you want to stay centrally, get better value for money in a hotel in Clerkenwell or Southbak/Bankside neighbourhoods where there are loads of character-rich hotels. (Kaylyn really likes Native Bankside.)
- Contact the High Commission to help with access to things like the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot and the garden parties at Buckingham Palace.
- Use an app like Citymapper to navigate London’s very good but sometimes poorly signed public transportation and consider taking overground trains such as the Thameslink.
Make a connection with Dal alumni in your area at alumni.dal.ca/chapters