London is usually the first thing an overseas teacher thinks of when they imagine England. As one of the most popular and vibrant cities in the world, it boasts an extraordinary array of culture, fashion, style, nightlife and history. Its population has now swelled to over 8.5 million people – the highest level since 1939.
London is a city made up of 33 boroughs, each with their own local government and sense of identity. The quality of school education varies greatly throughout London from historical private and independent schools to tough inner city schools with challenging behaviour.
Although London is a fabulous city to live in, it’s certainly not suited to everyone looking to teach in England. The fast paced, congested environment and high cost of living can make it a little disorientating, particularly for those who’ve never lived in a city before.
The main areas of London are best understood by simply dividing up into Central, North, South, East and West.
This region incorporates many famous areas and is the heartbeat of London’s tourist attractions and landmarks. It includes boroughs such as the City of London, Westminster, Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth and Kensington & Chelsea.
Some of the more famous attractions within Central London are Madame Tussauds, London Dungeon, London Eye, Tower of London, National Gallery, Natural History Museum, London Zoo and British Museum to name but a few. The London Theatre scene is matched only by Broadway in New York.
Great nightlife in central London consists of Soho, Covent Garden and the South Bank, all which have a glittering array of bars, pubs and restaurants. Shopping around Oxford Circus, Bond Street and Mayfair are ever popular and there are beautiful parks such as Regents Park, Green Park and Hyde Park which leads into Kensington Palace.
This region is an extremely popular part of the city including some of the fashionable boroughs like Camden and Islington which are famous for their shopping, restaurants, nightlife and culture.
Notable attractions include the unique Camden Market which provides the ultimate fashionable shopping experience for both Londoners and tourists alike.
Just a short distance from the buzz of Camden is the wonderful Hampstead Heath, a vast open space of ancient parkland which also provides one of the best viewing points of London. Hampstead is home to celebrity’s such as comedian Ricky Gervais, footballer Thierry Henry, ex One Direction member Harry Styles and director Sir Ridley Scott.
Football teams such as Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are based in North London as well as England’s home football stadium Wembley.
As a general rule the region of South London is the area south of the Thames River. Where this region was once considered in parts a little run down and in need of restoration, it has recently undergone extensive regeneration to now make it one of the most energetic and dynamic regions of London.
There has been incredible investment into the public transport network system connecting south London to the rest of the city. London Gatwick airport is within a short train ride of the region
Notable attractions within south London are Brixton and Clapham which are extremely popular places to live for overseas teachers because of the nightlife, high street shops and diversity in cuisine they provide.
The region of East London is well known for its incredibly diverse culture and traditional values. Vibrant and historical markets like Spitalfields, Billingsgate and Brick Lane are a must see for their true sense and spirit to being a Londoner.
Amazing nightlife exists around boroughs like Hackney with Hoxton, Shoreditch and Dalston providing an incredible array of bars, restaurants and culture.
East London is also home to the heartbeat of Britain’s financial and economic powerhouse, Canary Wharf.
The region of west London covers famous areas like Notting Hill, Shepherd’s Bush and Kensington. Although parts of west London like Chelsea, Wimbledon and Richmond are extremely expensive and somewhat unaffordable, there are many parts to West London like Ealing and West Kensington that provide teachers with a more competitive cost of living.
West London is extremely well connected by public transport and there are so many attractions to see. Heading a little further out of west London, you’ll find the beautiful Richmond Park and the All England Lawn Tennis Club which hosts the Wimbledon grand Slam event. Other notable sporting stadiums consist of England Rugby’s home fortress Twickenham and Chelsea Football club.
Europe’s busiest airport Heathrow is also located to the west of the city giving easy access for all overseas teachers looking to travel around Europe during the school holidays.
Getting around London
As with all densely populated cities London can be a something of a culture shock, especially when getting around on public transport. Thankfully London Underground is an extremely efficient and easy way of navigating around the city. The system operates a number of different train lines all with a different colour such as black for the Northern line, green for the District line and yellow for the Circle line. Many underground stations connect with different train lines and the underground map is clear and easy to follow.
Getting around on buses in London is also an extremely efficient way to navigate the city. Although they can take a little while longer when understanding routes, buses will reach areas that the underground or overground trains can’t get to.
London is split in to different zones 1-6. Typically zone 1 is considered central London and zone 6 is the outskirts of London. There have recently been two extras zones 7 & 8 in the north west of London that have been introduced.
When travelling around London the Oyster Card is a must have. It is a contactless payment card that can easily be topped up at all London stations and it can be used on all underground tubes, buses and overland trains throughout the city. It is by far the most effective and efficient way to get around London.