How to Save on London Museum Visits

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Although visiting London can leave quite the dent in the bank account, one of the major perks about this incredible city is the plethora of free museums! The city clearly places value on the arts, which as a performing arts major, I greatly appreciate (I wish we had more access to free museums in the States, but oh well I’ll just have to keep dreaming.) I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite spots to visit whilst in the city to get exposed to the diverse range of galleries and exhibits London has to offer without adding an extra cost to your visit! I’ve divided them up by location in the city to hopefully make travel plans a bit easier, so here they are….

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1. The National Gallery

Located in Trafalgar Square, is a must see for anyone visiting London. It offers an array of paintings from as early as the thirteenth century! It is here that you’ll find the famous Arnolfini Portrait (gracing the pages of many history textbooks) as well as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. The free admission makes it a staple for both art enthusiasts as well as anyone looking to gain some insight into the classical works of Western Europe, or even a peaceful afternoon stroll away from the hustle and bustle of city life. During my time in London, I found myself wandering in here to gain some culture, and view a portion of the museum that I may have overlooked during previous visits. I even stumbled across the Joseph Wright painting “An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump” which served as inspiration for the Shelagh Stephenson play of a similar title! The museum is open daily from 10am-6pm with extended hours on Friday till 9pm.

Tube Stop: Charing Cross (Served by the Bakerloo and Northern Lines)


2. The National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is just around the corner from its relative, and just like the name implies, houses the  portraits of several important and famous people throughout history. This museum displays the collection of Tudor portraits, as well as paintings of the current Royal Family. If time isn’t a luxury on your visit, this is a perfect museum to pop into because it doesn’t take long to see the free exhibits! The museum is open to the public from 10am-6pm which is plenty of time to make it through the entire building.

Tube Stop: Charing Cross (Served by the Bakerloo and Northern Lines)


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3. Somerset House Exhibits

Somerset House offers a lovely area to simply grab a cup of coffee or tea at one of it’s cafes, and in addition to the permanent galleries that cost money for admission, often houses rotating free exhibitions. On my past visit to London, they had a fabulous photography display examining waste around the world. Currently on display for free admission are the AOI Illustration Awards Exhibition located in the Terrace Rooms until November 1st and the Marc Quinn Sculptures gracing the Fountain Court.

Tube Stop: Charing Cross (Served by the Bakerloo and Northern Lines) Temple (Served by the Circle and District Line) or Covent Garden (Served by the Piccadilly Line)


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4. The Hunterian Museum

This gem is hidden in a quaint square surrounding Lincoln’s Inn Fields and is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm. It took me until my second visit to London to make it over here, and I’m so glad that I did because it contains so much interesting information about the development and advancement of modern day surgery as well as anatomy displays from the collection of John Hunter. I would highly recommend this museum if you are fascinated by science, or are considering entering the medical field. The exhibit is located inside the the Royal College of Surgeons (When you see the sign in the photograph above, you’ll know you are in the right place), just check in at the reception desk and they will give you a visitor’s pass to access the museum.

Tube Stop: Holborn (Served by the Piccadilly and Central Lines)


5. The British Museum

The British Museum is probably most known for being the home to the Rosetta Stone, however, this museum not only offers incredible statues and artifacts from all over the world, the building architecture is breathtaking. Make sure to look up at the beautiful glass ceiling which allows natural light to beam through (and for instagrammers to get a perfect photo.) The museum is open daily from 10am-5:30pm with extended hours on Friday till 8:30pm.

Tube Stop: Holborn (Served by the Piccadilly and Central Lines)


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6. Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is home to a collection of many exhibits ranging from natural geological formations to prehistoric specimens. Sure, it may be similar to other Natural History museums out there, but the architecture alone makes this museum a must see. Plus, it is just a short walk from the V&A making it convenient to visit two very different museums in one day! The museum is open daily from 10am-5:30pm and if you stay late enough, you might just see the exhibit come to life….

Tube Stop: South Kensington (Served by the Piccadilly and Circle and District Lines)


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7. Victoria and Albert Museum

Traveling in a group? The V&A is one of the best museums to visit in London because it’s both free and offers a variety of exhibits to satisfy everyone’s interests. Unique to the V&A from the other museums mentioned, it contains an extensive fashion collection ranging from the 18th century to contemporary designs. The museum also has a lovely courtyard perfect for a visit on a sunny afternoon. The gift shop at the Victoria and Albert museum is one of my absolute favorites, so for those of you in the market for a souvenir or postcard to send to a loved one back home, I would take a stroll through here upon your visit! The V&A is open to the public daily from 10am-5:45pm, and on the last Friday of every month, the museum opens it’s doors for special late night events lasting till 10pm. While studying abroad, I attended a late night fashion event (read about it here) with a group of friends and we all had a lot of fun getting to participate in the festivities and explore the museum exhibits.

Tube Stop: South Kensington (Served by the Piccadilly Line)


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8. Tate Modern

The Tate Modern is a fabulous museum to visit for the modern art fanatic, or even to get a gorgeous view of Central London overlooking the Thames. With rotating exhibits, the Tate Modern keeps each visit fresh, and the interactive art center makes it fun for all ages! Here you’ll find the works of Picasso and Jackson Pollock along with several other contemporary works using different design mediums. Grab a cup of tea or coffee from the cafe and relax out on the balcony to get some prime photographs of the city, or settle down on a computer to create a modern work of your own and walk away from your trip as a modern artist! If modern art isn’t your thing, the free admission and proximity to both the Globe and the National Theatre along the South Bank make this museum a perfect place to pop into during your stay. The museum is open to the public Sunday through Thursday from 10am-6pm and Friday through Saturday from 10am-10pm.

Tube Stop: Southwark (Served by the Jubilee Line) Blackfriars (Served by the District and Circle Lines) or if you fancy a nice walk along South Bank take the tube to London Bridge (Served by the Jubilee and Northern Lines), pass through the market, and follow the Thames to the Gallery.

Well there are my top museum recommendations for visiting London! While there are so many amazing museums to see in this city, I hope that this helps narrow down and provide some suggestions for places to see during your travels. If you have any questions or travel recommendations, let me know in the comments! Keep an eye out for future posts about my advice and experiences studying abroad.

Until next time,New blog signature 2

5 Things to Do in Camden

Camden Town

So you’ve found yourself in Camden eh? Now what…Well, I’m no Camden town connoisseur, but I do have a few recommedations for visiting this famous area in London. Camden is a quirky mix of public art on buildings, aromas of vendor food filling the streets and of course the locks. For all of you Seattlites reading this blog, it reminded me of Fremont, especially during the flea market on the weekends. Sure there are plenty of different markets you can frequent whist in the U.K. but a visit to London just wouldn’t be complete without seeing what all the fuss over Camden is about. It’s an easy ride on the tube or bus and you can honestly spend all day wandering around deciding what to eat and looking at the antique shops. Tube Stop: Camden Town on the Northern Line (TFL journey planner)

1. I think my number one piece of advice, at least the one I find important, is to visit on a sunny day if you can. It doesn’t get much better than getting to see the locks on a lovely afternoon. Of course if it’s the middle of autumn, the weather may be a bit fickle and in this case you can always seek warmth inside the covered part of the market, but make the most of the sunshine and take the tube or bus over to Camden!IMG_1573

2. Skip a formal meal in the city and grab lunch at the market! This is a great place to indulge in some good inexpensive food if you are on a budget like I was when I visited. There are lots of different options so if you are traveling in a group of people, everyone can pick and choose what they’re in the mood for. Be warned, if you’re as indecisive as I am you might be here for ages trying to settle on something though haha! A lot of people also like Poppies fish and chips if your craving some classic British food.

IMG_1558My travel buddy Emma on one of the many bike seats.

3. Take a ride on a motor bike! After grabbing some food, make your way over to the motorcycle seats to eat along the water. And while you’re enjoying your time on the bike feeling like a bad ass, maybe even turn on some Bound 2, you’ll feel like your right out of the music video.

4. Visit the antique shops. There are loads of neat little trinkets, clothes, old advert posters, and much more that are fun to look at. Plus, what better souvenir to bring back home with you than a unique vintage piece of London!

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5. Visit the locks. Take a little stroll along the locks, especially on a sunny day. There are a few little cafes along the walkway and the walk is pretty peaceful to just enjoy the weather and have a nice chat with your friends. It also is nice after stuffing yourself full of the delicious food.

Well thats all for today everyone, but hope to see you back soon when I talk about my University experience! If you’ve visited the area before feel free to comment down below with your tips and advice.IMG_1567

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5 Things I Learned in Rome

Things I learned in RomeA Photograph of the roundabout near our hostel in Rome at the top of Via Nazionale.

After reflecting on my trip to Rome, I thought I’d compile a unique list of things that  I learned or wished I’d known before touring around Rome. So here they are . . .

1. Ahhh Choo!-Always have some allergy medication on hand. When it’s nice outside, the pollen in the air is crazy in Rome (at least when we visited) and you don’t want to be sneezing so much that you can’t enjoy what the city has to offer. I wish I would have thought about this before traveling here because my hay fever was off the charts!

2. Sizzling in the Sun-Suncreen is really expensive in Rome! Maybe it’s because people skip the SPF or maybe it’s because it’s so sunny that the shops are sure people will come to purchase some I don’t know, but this stuff will cost you a pretty penny compared to what you’d pay in the States. I’d recommend packing some if you don’t wanna look like a tomato by the end of your trip.

3. Be Careful Where You Look-Whatever you do, don’t even glance at the vendors wandering throughout the city, and it will be difficult because they can be quite persistent when trying to make a sale. It’s like they have a radar or something that thinks you always want to buy something, even if you already have it. When I visited the Colosseum they must have come around about 5 times to ask if I wanted to buy sunglasses when I already was wearing a pair. Gentleman BEWARE-if you are traveling with Ladies, keep away from the rose sellers, they will try and put them in your hand and then afterwards make you purchase them.

4. Bring on the Bubbly-No I’m not talking about Prosecco, although that’s nice too…I’m talking about the San Pellegrino. A whole big bottle of the Aranciata will cost you a little over a Euro. If you’re like me and like a refreshing beverage every once in a while, you’ll know that a can of these in the States is nearly 4 dollars! Make good use of your money and invest in some local treats!

5. Dining in Despar-A trip to the local supermarket will save you some money and get you out of the sun for a little while to cool off. I know Despar isn’t unique to Rome or Italy for that matter, but it’s a great place to pop in for a fresh made salad if you need a little pick me up throughout the day of touring the city. (The Despar right by the Pantheon is our favorite!)

* Bonus! Sight Seeing-The colosseum alone is quite a magnificent sight, but it’s even better with an audio guide. There are lots of free audio guides available through apps if you have a smartphone. Our personal guide of choice on this trip was the Rick Steves’ Europe audio tour which offers tours of lots of popular destinations around Europe for free!

I hope some of these were helpful, if they weren’t at least it only took a few minutes out of your day right? Let me know some of your travel tips for the city in the comments!

Until next time,New blog signature 2

5 Things I Learned in Italy

Things I learned in ItalyPhoto of the ruins in Rome, Italy.

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you’ll know that I spent Spring holiday traveling around Europe with my best friend from back in the States. It was definitely a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity for the two of us, and we tried to make the most of it by visiting as many sights as possible as well as strolling around to see where the side roads would take us. Here are a few of the things that I took away from our adventures in Florence and Rome that I thought may be helpful to remember in the future!

1. Street Crossing-You know those little zebra crossings located in busy parts of the city? Become best friends with them! Unless you are super bold and are willing to risk your life crossing the street you might want to seek out a proper cross walk. Especially when trying to cross the road near a roundabout, and chances are you’ll encounter many of these. If you are feeling daring, you kind of just have to go for it and hope that the cars will stop, but please please be safe and just opt for the marked walkway.

2. Directions Please?-The cities we visited in Italy are not on a grid system like streets in the U.S. are, and often times the signs are tricky to find. For two girls who struggle with directions, you can only imagine all of the wandering around we did looking like complete idiots. If you have an idea where you are going beforehand this will save quite a bit of time, but just remember streets change into other streets and soon enough the city will have you walking in circles!

3. Food Glorious Food-Don’t be too quick to judge a place based on the prices, some of the best food we had was not the most expensive out there. Our Belgian friend we met in Prague advised us to find places far away from tourist attractions for the cheaper, most authentic options. As for the gelato, just because it looks beautiful doesn’t mean it’s the best. Try out a few places and see what you like! (But honestly, can you ever really go wrong with gelato?)

4.Tickets Anyone?-If you want to spend less time in line to see the sights of Italy, reserve tickets way in advance! We made the mistake of not doing this and I’ll just say that next time the minute I know about a trip I’ll be popping on my  computer ASAP.

5.Relax-Because there are so many tourists and people seem more relaxed, life moves a bit slower in Italy. Chill out and take a leisurely stroll to each venue. In the U.S and even in London, things seem more fast-paced, but sometimes it’s good to take some time to soak in all that a new city has to offer. When in Rome right?

Let me know what you’ve learned from your travels in the comments and any tips you have!

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Bath Spa Travel Tips

Bath Spa TipsOver reading week, while my Brother and Dad were visiting me, we took a side trip to Bath, Somerset which is about an hour and a half away from London by train. Here are a few suggestions I thought I’d give for those of you who are interested in paying this area a brief visit!

1. When purchasing train tickets, I would recommend going to the ticket booth in person. This way you will have the opportunity to speak with a ticket agent in person who can provide you with the best available deal, especially when traveling in a group!

2. This may seem like a silly tip, but when on the train, try to avoid sleeping and take a minute to appreciate the scenery on the short journey to Bath. I’m a bit weird, but I always like to find a nice piece of music to pair with the trip as I observe my surroundings. After all, the ride is not long at all and it will keep you from waking up tired from the trip.

3. When visiting Bath, going to the Roman Baths is a MUST! Although you do have to purchase tickets for this tourist attraction, it is not only a beautiful sight to see but also provides a tangible look into history!

4. If you are interested in fashion I would highly recommend paying the Fashion Museum a visit. Not only is is very informational, but often times you can get a deal when visiting both the Roman Baths and this Museum.

5. When purchasing any tickets, always ask if they have student discounts. Most places do, and even if they don’t it doesn’t hurt to ask!

6. Take a free walking tour around the city! I enjoy exploring different cities on my own as much as the next person, but volunteers conduct free walking tours leaving from the bath pump rooms in the city center throughout the day and they are very educated about the history and secrets of the city. I walked away not only with a lovely tour around Bath, but also with information that I probably wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t taken this opportunity!

I hope that some of these suggestions helped and have a lovely time exploring the city!

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5 Tips I Discovered From Traveling by Bus

Bus Tips 2Reflecting on my trip to Amsterdam, I decided to come up with a list of five of my top tips I gained from traveling on an overnight bus for thirteen hours. These are some of the things that I thought would be helpful to keep in mind for the next time I embark on a long journey on the open road.

1. Make sure to leave enough time to get to the bus station. Okay, this may seem obvious, but it is definitely important to plan for any bumps in the road while trying to get to the station in the first place. (Here’s my story about that in case you missed it). Also, the sooner you get in line, the better chance you have to select a seat of your choice!

2. Know the luggage requirements/restrictions and have all of your travel documents both secure and easily accessible. This will be helpful when going across any country borders.

3. Bring a snack. Most of the time there won’t be any chances to get a quality snack during your journey, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll most likely want something to eat during the trip. Also, make sure to have a bottle of water to stay hydrated, the recirculated air on buses can be quite drying!

4. Bring a pack of tissues. This tip might seem a bit odd, but trust me when you need to go to the bathroom and you realize that all of the toilet paper is gone, you’ll be thanking yourself that you brought them! (Napkins work in a pinch too).

5. Bring something to keep you entertained if you have difficulty sleeping while traveling. Maybe a good read, something to write in, or music to listen to. I love music, so I created a playlist on my phone to enjoy during the long journey. (Don’t forget to turn your smart phone on airplane mode if it serves as your i-pod. This will conserve battery life and prevent you from racking up massive phone bills once you enter a new country).

I hope some of these helped! Let me know some of your travel tips in the comments.

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Tea, Tips and Tidbits

tea timeI’ve been thinking a lot lately about the advice that I could give future travelers and students interested in studying abroad. Of course take everything I say here with a grain of salt because everyone’s experience is going to be quite different and I think that one of the best ways to learn is really to explore things for yourself (cliche, I know but apparently I like using sayings like this according to my friends back home ha ha).  For my first installment of tea, tips and tidbits, I would like to give you all my favorite piece of advice to myself that has helped me a ton during my adventures arriving in London, as well as during my exploration of the city!

Tip #1: Be comfortable asking questions! I cannot stress how important this has been for me whist studying abroad. Even though sometimes it might be a bit nerve wracking, especially in a foreign country, people are generally more than happy to point you in the right direction or answer any questions you might have. Honestly, people are not out to see you fail or laugh at your confusion. Plus in the long run, you will most likely save some time figuring out things by yourself and avoid getting lost!