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The Visiting Academic’s Guide to London: How to Get the Most Out of the City

Are you an early career academic with a love of travel? A visiting or guest lecturer looking to make the most of a new city? A researcher with a thirst for knowledge?
If you’re looking ahead to the next few months of the academic calendar and it includes a trip to London, then Stay Central are here to help.

London Skyline view
If you’re looking ahead to the next few months of the academic calendar and it includes a trip to London, then Stay Central are here to help.

We provide affordable, comfortable and flexible accommodation in the University district perfect for visiting academics like you. Depending on what suits you the best, we offer either self-catered or bed and breakfast serviced rooms all just a stone’s throw from the West End and Oxford Street as well as a number of fantastic attractions.
To help you make the most of your visit, we’ve prepared this handy guide specifically for academics visiting London.

1. Explore the collection of free museums in London

This is a great way to get to know a new city and even help out with your work or research. London has some of the best museums and galleries in the world. And even better news - they’re nearly all free! If you’re looking at complementing your research, take yourself down to the British museum to see remarkable cultural treasures as well as seasonal exhibitions. We would also recommend checking out the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury, if you want some light relief during your stay. This hidden gem holds British comic and cartoon art from the 18th century to today.

2.    Browse a great selection of independent bookshops in Bloomsbury

Need to get your hands on that all-important book? Do you enjoy exploring a bookshop for inspiration? Or if it’s simply for the pure love of a good book, then London is the right place. Bloomsbury in particular has strong literary associations, being home to the Bloomsbury Group in the 1920’s, led by renowned writer, Virginia Woolf. Near to Stay Central and an iconic part of the University of London, is the beautiful Senate House. It houses its very own library which is available for public access for a small fee. insert image of Senate House Library here) If it’s second hand books that you’re after then the delightful Skoob Books is close by too.

3.    Downtime locations

The nearby Brunswick Centre is the perfect place to sit down with a coffee and your newly acquired tome, to unwind and relax, or get stuck into a new piece of research. It’s also home to an art house cinema, so you can always enjoy a good film if you run out of things to do. It’s also packed full of shops, making it the ideal spot to spend your leisure time and meet up with old friends or new colleagues alike.

4.    Make the most of the many free London attractions

Of course, with all of this downtime your bank balance is likely to take an unwelcome dip. But it doesn’t have to mean that your London visit takes a turn for the worse. We are experts at experiencing London on a budget. Keep a close eye on Skint London for some free and discounted meals, events and days out. We love London On The Inside too for a Londoner’s take on activities in the capital, with some great freebies on offer.

5.    Where to find cafes

Life as a travelling academic is still very much about hard work. For your day-to-day studying, research and planning you’ll need a fast, reliable Wi-Fi connection and a quiet, yet relaxed space to spread out books and notes. At Stay Central, the newest accommodation in our suite of venues, Garden Hall, houses trendy yet practical breakout spaces and meeting rooms, perfect for hard study or peer collaboration. There are also multiple cafes nearby, for a change of scene and some people watching too. Try the Bloomsbury Coffee House in Tavistock Place or Café in the Gardens on Russell Square for a secluded oasis in the middle of the city. At Stay Central, you’re always close to University of London colleges, schools and libraries in the very heart of the university district.

6.    Be a tourist

Take a break from work and visit one of London’s world heritage sites, such as the Cutty Sark, or the Royal Botanic Gardens. For an alternative, try a festival, such as the ‘Tete-a-tete’ festival of opera taking place at locations around London. Or if running is your thing, then don’t miss the annual London Marathon in the Spring, whether you’re pounding the tarmac or cheering someone on. Check out Time Out London’s month by month events calendar for up to date listings to match your schedule.

7.    Academia in Bloomsbury

If you need to surround yourself with academia, then a trip to Senate House is a good idea. As the academic hub of Bloomsbury, you’ll find conferences, festivals and events galore here. Many events are associated with the University of London and other universities. Designed as the central headquarters of the University of London by Charles Holden in 1936, this iconic art deco building oozes history and grandeur.

8.    Academic services

Bloomsbury is well-equipped to meet all your practical study needs. Student Central provides a place to photocopy, laminate, print and even have your thesis bound. This is also a great community hub which you can use to get in touch with other academics.

9. Local supermarkets

Head to the Brunswick Centre for some last-minute groceries if you’re self-catered, or there’s the People’s Supermarket, not too far from Russell Square tube station. This is a community run shop, which sources food locally, as well as being healthy and affordable. There are several other supermarket chains in the vicinity too.

10. Try out the bars and restaurants in Bloomsbury

Find the perfect way to round off your stay with a few cocktails at the Bloomsbury Club Bar, inspired by the Bloomsbury group (as mentioned above), famous in the first half of the 20th century for their influence on the arts.

Wind down to live music at the renowned Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Bar in Soho, which has been a London institution since the 1960s. At Stay Central you’re never too far from fantastic pubs such as the Lamb to meet up with peers for a drink or enjoy a tasty roast.

Exploring London With Stay Central 

We hope this list, though not exhaustive by any means, will set you in the right direction for making the most out of your next visit to capital, and inspire you to explore undiscovered parts of the city.

When visiting London, make sure you stay somewhere that allows you to get around easily and to places quickly with minimal hassle. At Stay Central, the majority of our accommodation is situated in the heart of Bloomsbury and is close to Kings Cross station, Soho, the West End and Oxford Street as well as the British Library. Two of our Bed and Breakfast venues are a stone’s throw from Paddington and Hyde Park.

If you need help with accommodation for your stay, get in touch with the friendly accommodation team at Stay Central by calling them on 020 7862 8881 or emailing them at

If you know what sort of accommodation you’re looking for, why not browse our selection of bed and breakfast or self-catered options. Looking for a specific Institution near to Stay Central accommodation? Find a shortlist here:

•    UCL (University College London)
•    UCL Institute of Education
•    SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies)
•    Senate House Library
•    The School of Pharmacy
•    RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art)



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