Staff writer Charmaine Tan takes us through some of the best off-campus spaces for Strandies to study.
It’s that time of the year again. With the end of summer, lectures will be starting and KCL Freshers will move in. Some of these new arrivals will be very lost, coming to KCL being their first time in London, whilst others will have spent their entire lives in this city.
Whichever description applies to you, you’ll definitely be spending a significant amount of time studying. The KCL libraries (think Maughan) will usually be your first go-to, but when exam season rolls around, it’ll probably be full. Then what?
In this article, I have compiled a list of student-friendly, off-campus study spaces near Strand so that you’ll always have somewhere to work:
Free study spaces
1. Senate House Library
Located right behind the British Museum, Senate House is a favourite among University of London students. It is free for all KCL students, although you’ll need to register for membership if it’s your first time going. Similar to the Maughan library, you can also reserve group study spaces here, making it a productive space to work.
2. British Library
The British Library is also another popular option among students, given its location. It’s a good option if you have a deadline the next day or are cramming for an exam, although study spaces tend to get filled up really quickly. Otherwise, it’s a good substitute for KCL’s libraries. For access to the Reading Rooms, you’ll have to apply for the free British Library Reader Pass. Also do note that to enter the Reading Room, there are limits as to what you may bring (see point 4 on their website).
3. Wellcome Collection
Some KCL students also recommend the Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room, located on its second floor. You can also book study rooms here. Just to warn you before you go, sometimes there are events in the Reading Room, in which case the library may be a better alternative. Do note that, similar to the British Library, there are rules as to what one may bring when entering.
4. Barbican Centre
The Barbican Centre is a cultural centre which hosts many events ranging from themed exhibitions to film screenings. Despite this, the huge size of its venue means that there is always a free space to study, no matter the footfall. There are many spots for you to study all around the centre’s different floors, each with a different vibe. If you don’t like any of these spaces, the Barbican Library is also an option; located on the second floor of the building.
Cafés & Other Paid Spaces
A rather cheap option for a café, Waterstones also offers small student discounts on food and drink orders. It is also a bookshop chain, so there are multiple Waterstones all over London. There is a branch next to Trafalgar Square, not far away from Strand. In my experience, tourists tend to be the main customers in this branch. This means that there are always available seats as the customers come and go, but it can get noisy. On the other hand, the branch along Gower Street is a lot more peaceful but tends to be more full, with many (mainly UCL) students going there in the mornings and staying throughout the day to study.
Similar to Waterstones, the Foyles branch along Charing Cross Road is also a bookshop-cum-café. Its massive café area is perfect for studying. The only downside is that there are not many charging spaces if you need to work on your laptop. It also tends to get crowded later in the day, so do go early if you want a spot.
7. Pret a Manger
Even if it’s your first time in the UK, you’ll soon learn about the Pret subscription and the over-abundance of Pret’s around Strand. You’re also bound to realise that the Pret’s around Strand are either always full, do not have the full menu, or have bad internet connection. Therefore, if you want to study at a Pret, I recommend that you head to the one along Bernard Street (which stays open late), or you could go to the one along Camden High Street (a huge double-storey one) if you’re feeling adventurous.
8. The Hoxton, Holborn
I walked past this hotel to get to campus every single day but never dared to step foot inside until the last day. When I finally did, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people there working with their laptops and how cosy the vibe was. It may seem fancy, but the coffee here is great and unexpectedly cheap, given its setting. What I especially love about this place is that it is open till midnight.
9. SOHO Coffee
With its extensive drinks menu, some KCL students also frequent SOHO Coffee. There are two stores near Somerset House, making it a convenient alternative to Bush House and the Maughan Library should they be full. It is relatively spacious and also has a nice interior.
10. Ole & Steen
Ole & Steen has chains everywhere, although I personally prefer the one near Strand. The atmosphere is relatively calm, despite it having many customers. I really like that they also close only around 8/9pm, later than most other cafés. Most of the seats have access to charging sockets and there is also free wifi, making it ideal for studying.
11. Ambrose Cafe
Further up north along Tottenham Court Road, Ambrose Cafe is tucked away on the first floor of the furniture store Heal’s. It is a lesser-known spot for students to study in. While it is on the slightly pricier side, Ambrose Cafe has a very good environment for writing that essay or cramming for that exam: It is peaceful, has access to plug sockets, and is spacious and well-lit.
12. The Observatory
Last but not least, those living in the Russell Square or King’s Cross areas may be pleased to learn that The Observatory, while known as a photography gallery, is also a café over two floors. No laptops are allowed on the ground floor, but they are perfectly acceptable in the basement. In fact, the basement will likely be full of students studying, so do go early if you want a spot. It is the perfect space for productive work.
Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of some of the best off-campus study spots within thirty minutes of Strand, you’ll know just where to head to when exam season rolls around and everyone is fighting for a space in Maughan.