Moving to London
London is the city where dreams are made. In the UK, it’s the largest and most exciting melting pot of people, cultures and lifestyles. A move to the capital city will open up new possibilities and adventures at every turn. Here’s what to expect:
It’s likely that you’ll be moving to London either with a new job secured, or ready to start the search when you arrive. There are six main sectors that provide employment to London dwellers and commuters: head offices for professional, real estate, scientific and technical activities; retail; administrative and support services; education; health and social work; and information and communication. Only 19% of jobs in London pay less than the living wage, the lowest rate in the country (on par with the South East and Scotland).
We can’t deny that moving to London requires a lot of number-crunching and some strict budgeting, but the majority of employers now appreciate that even for entry-level jobs, a fair salary can be paid to all their workers. The average weekly wage in London is a whopping £697, far more than Cardiff and Edinburgh, which both sit within the £500-600 level. Even with these impressive figures, most Londoners will tell you that their disposable income can be stretched once payments for rent, travel and groceries have left their bank accounts.
For those who choose to make the move to London, the higher cost of living is worth it when the city offers so much not just in terms of job opportunities, but in how to spend time outside of work.
Schools & Universities
If beautiful examples of art and craft have you inspired, there’s no better place than London to try your hand at a new skill. Private companies and public institutions offer courses, workshops and masterclasses for every type of professional and personal development - so maybe it’s time for that career change you’ve always dreamed of! Over 400,000 students study in London every year, and with Imperial, London School of Economics and University College London all in the top 10 of UK universities, it’s not hard to see why.
Preparing your children to have the best chance of getting into one of these top universities is something all London parents will think about. The capital and surrounding counties have some of the best public and state schools in the UK at primary and secondary level - Ofsted has awarded Holland Park School ‘outstanding’ achievement in all areas, for example.
Some might say you can’t get any better than a royal seal of approval when it comes to education, so with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge deciding to enroll Prince George in Battersea’s Thomas’ School, parents and children alike know that London is the place to be.
Cycling is a popular way for Londoners to keep fit around the city, and hundreds of thousands commute this way every day. The roads can be busy and polluted however, so it’s not for everyone, most choose public transport for the daily commute to the office. The Tube began operation in 1863 and has been a cornerstone of London life ever since. The most recent development is the long-awaited opening of the Night Tube, connecting party-goers and shift workers with their beds in the further out zones. There are also plans to bring areas of South London into the network with the proposed Bakerloo line extension, and adding new developments like Nine Elms into the Northern line route.
Crossrail will also make a big change to the lives of many commuters coming to London every day from places further afield like Reading and Essex. The first phase of the project (to be completed in December 2018) will connect East and West London with parts of the Central Line, cutting journey times and updating some of the city’s more tired transport hubs.
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Food & drink
Eating out is an essential part of London life and keeping up with the hottest trends and the longest queues is big business here. London boasts an impressive 65 Michelin starred restaurants - great for a one-off treat, but many also offer very reasonable set lunch menus, giving you the chance to sample the best dishes without breaking the bank. For more everyday dining, Upper Street in Islington, Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia and the streets of Soho, all offer hundreds of options, no forward planning needed, just take a stroll and see what takes your fancy.
Street food is a more recent trend that has built up in London and really taken off. Other UK cities like Birmingham and Edinburgh have seen the successes of London’s street food markets and festivals, it’s a growing industry for foodie businesspeople. The best places to get your fix in London are the Maltby Street market - for street food with a side of antiquing, Camden’s KERB market with its cool canalside location, and the famous Borough market - worth it if you can avoid the hordes of tourists.
London is a world city, with immigrants from every continent. It’s the fact that you can travel all over the capital and explore what traditions and tastes these communities have to offer that makes it such a great city. There are too many places to mention, but to start, why not sample a traditional Bangladeshi curry in Brick Lane, a Middle Eastern falafel wrap in Shepherds Bush, and a Vietnamese bánh mì in Dalston - delicious!
You’re never far from a pint in London, and there’s no better way to round off an evening than at any of the lovely pubs and bars. Shoreditch is firmly established in young Londoners’ lexicon as the place to be for a night out, while Peckham is where you’ll find the most on-trend Londoners these days. The neighbourhood is not completely gentrified and hip themed bars like the Four Quarters sit happily alongside the everyday shops of the area’s older generation.
If you’re looking for somewhere to dance until the small hours, Peckham’s beloved Bussey Building has popular club nights and DJs for the younger crowd. To really feel part of London’s clubbing culture, you shouldn’t miss a trip to fabric in Farringdon, saved from closure thanks to a groundswell of support from locals - it’s truly iconic as well as being a fantastic night out.
Finally, if knowing you’re getting the best of the best is your thing, one of the finest bars in the world is found on the South Bank in the swanky Mondrian Hotel - Dandelyan has the top cocktails in town. The setting is glamorous and inviting, sitting at the green marble bar will have you feeling like a superstar.
Like all top UK cities, shopping is at London’s heart. While Bristol may be known for independent retailers, or Manchester for its plethora of high street staples, London has it all. Oxford Street is the epicentre of shopping in the capital - a stroll along the mile of shops and departments stores has everything you need.
For something a little different, Colombia Road Flower Market in East London is a wonderful way to spend your Sunday morning - why not pick up some blooms to brighten up your new abode!
Sports & outdoors
Flower markets aren’t the only place to see some greenery in the big city. London has plenty of parks and commons in every borough for relaxing and exercising. Of course, the Royal Parks are the most well-known; each with their different characteristics, they are all worth exploring. Hyde Park has the Serpentine Lake, Richmond Park is the biggest enclosed space in London where you can even spot herds of deer, and Primrose Hill and Greenwich Park both have great views over the city where you can really get the scale of your new hometown.
You don’t even have to leave London to clock up the miles with a hike. Hampstead Heath has hilly walking routes and impressive views over North London, while Epping Forest feels like it’s a world away from the busy East London neighbourhoods nearby.
Since the London Olympics in 2012, East London has seen a boost in family-friendly outdoor spaces and sporting activities. At the Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford you can try out badminton, basketball, climbing and swimming amongst others. Taking part in sports is a fun way to meet people in a new city, like a friendly 5-a-side football team - there’s clubs out there for every sport you can imagine.
If you’re more interested in watching than doing, London is a stage for national and international sporting events throughout the year. There’s always a chance to catch a game at some of the biggest and best stadiums in the country with 13 Premier League football teams in the capital. Or for a change of pace and a different crowd, you could catch a rowing event on the Thames like the big Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race every spring.
Travelling on the tube and buses is the best way to see the sights as well. At ground level, the Royal palaces are the most popular sights, then you can survey the whole city from up high on the London Eye or one of the newer skyscrapers like the Shard in London Bridge.
If you’re interested in going a little more in depth in learning about the capital, the Museum of London is well worth a visit for some fascinating displays of historical artefacts from Roman times to the present day.
London’s museums and galleries are some of the best in the world. The Design Museum has relocated to Kensington and the building’s beautiful curved roof covers a host of stunning pieces. The British Museum can be explored over several visits, while smaller museums such as the Fashion & Textiles Museum or the Sir John Soane Museum are great for day trips. The Royal Academy of Art is a grand building with world renowned displays, but it’s the Summer Exhibition with amateurs’ and academicians’ work hanging side-by-side that is the must-see ticket every year.